The Labour party took the extraordinary step of calling the Prime Minister to the House of Commons today to answer an emergency question about the Culture Secretary’s contacts with News International.
This might not seem extra-ordinary in that the Speaker has been granting emergency questions at an unprecedented rate since he took office (only 2 granted under his predecessor, over 100 since he took office!), but calling the PM to the despatch box is not something that happens every day and I hope it doesn’t become a regular occurrence because I feel it would water down the impact.
David Cameron is a good Commons performer and my impression was that he gave a good explanation of himself and of James Hunt today, so probably off the hook.
This was quite a clever move by the Labour Party though, because getting off the hook today is not the problem Cameron faces. He has now stood up in the House of Commons, in full view of the public and defended his Hunt’s behaviour. This is fine so long as Hunt is not found to have done anything seriously wrong, but if he is, and is forced to resign, the Prime Minister is in trouble and will be the next in line.
I think past experience (look up Stephen Byers, Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett, Beverley Hughes) shows that once the media scents blood, they don’t let go, so the Prime Minister might well have saved his (and Hunt’s) skin today, only to regret it in a few weeks or months.