Yesterday, David Cameron repeatedly refused to answer whether he discussed the BSkyB bid with Rebekah Brooks on any of the multiple occasions he met with her since becoming Prime Minister. Instead he has relied on a rather precise formulation of words where he claims he had "no inappropriate conversations" with her and he also points out that he had been taken entirely out of the BSkyB bid process.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
It is true that the ultimate decision lay with Jeremy Hunt the Culture Secretary and that he is supposed to be following a quasi-judicial process.
But it still matters if (and I repeat if) Cameron did discuss the BSkyB bid with one of News International's most senior executives. The fact that the relationship between the Prime Minister and Brooks (and also Andy Coulson) was so close provided almost deafening mood music as a backdrop to the bid. Hunt would have to have a particularly tin ear not to have picked up on it. And of course Hunt is relying on Cameron for future promotion and preferment. I am not saying there is anything provable about how one may influence the other, there almost definitely will not be. The main protagonists may not be consciously aware of it even if there was; it could happen on a subconscious level. They are only human beings.
So Cameron should never have discussed the BSkyB bid with Brooks. At all. If she had started to go near it he should have cut her short and insisted it would be wrong to discuss it. If he had done this though I imagine he would have had no problem saying so in the Commons.
Cameron's attempt to draw a line under the affair yesterday with his statement to the House and the questioning he faced afterwards appears to have been partially successful. For the first time in two weeks the "hackgate" saga is not leading the bulletins. But his refusal to answer this properly yesterday has opened up more questions about precisely how close the relationship was and casts further doubt on his judgement.
After all, why would a Prime Minister put himself in a position where he is having to use terminological contortions to obfuscate on this question when he should just be able to say unequivocally that he never discussed the bid?