I’ve some sympathy with the difficult situation David Cameron now finds himself in. He didn’t make up the rules. And other leaders (Iain Martin proposes Bill Clinton and Tony Blair) seem to have got away with similarly close relations with the rich and powerful.
Cameron’s Tories may have known it would be tough after the last election. But as Alistair Campbell helpfully notes, “things people ignored in good mood times suddenly gain traction in bad mood times”.
Last night Tory estimates suggested they may lose 350 seats in the upcoming local elections. Possibly worse for the Cameroons, on Betfair 82.6% of punters think Boris will win. Yet, Only 29% are thinking of voting Tory (10% are thinking UKIP) in any forthcoming UK election.
The recession has clearly played a role in changing perspectives on politics and politicians. And the Telegraph’s big exposé on MPs expenses has also shifted the ground on which they must play to an even greater extent.
Shortly after, MPs expenses began to be displaced as scandal de jour by the Guardian’s #hackgate’s story. Around that time Slugger noted:
…just weeks after Mr Murdoch called on Mr Cameron to provide “less government and freer markets”, Mr Cameron responded by offering to remove the policy making powers of the communications regulator Ofcom when they recommended Sky TV (once a huge financial drain, now Murdoch’s only significant profit making venture in the UK) be forced to give up some of its premium sports channels as “most appropriate way of ensuring fair and effective competition”..
No doubt this built up huge sensibilities, even after the UK general election of May 2010. Iain Martin has a particularly revealing anecdote which demonstrates just how prickly people had become around this particular meme:
Shortly after the election, I witnessed Mr Hunt hide behind a tree on his way to a private dinner with James Murdoch in case he was seen by media correspondents as they peeled away from the pre-meal drinks party.
Which may indicate nothing more than the degree to which government ministers had been sensitised to any contact with the Murdochs. For now, Kiran Stacey circumscribes (£) the length and breadth of Camerons’s immediate problem in the FT:
Mr Cameron knows that if he sacks Mr Hunt, he will come under pressure to explain his own relationship with News Corp, having admitted on Sunday that he discussed the bid with James Murdoch in December.
Instead, the prime minister has extended the row by several months after saying Mr Hunt could face a fresh investigation if found by the Leveson inquiry into press standards to have misled parliament.
Last word to Simon Carr:
…would it be improper to take Hunt into a quiet room and ask him half a dozen pertinent questions? Never mind the forensic elaborations of nuanced ambiguities. Cameron and Hunt could establish the facts in a quarter of an hour, as gentlemen might do.
Because going into Leveson will really be a shambles. And let’s not forget what a shambles is. It’s an old word for an unregulated slaughterhouse. Butchery for beginners.
How much better to do the thing quickly, decently, proply.
Doesn’t Mr Carr know there’s a
war election on?
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty