Donald Macintyre's Sketch: David Cameron delivers classic Tony Blair masterclass over the appointment of Andy Coulson

 

For a man who, as Ed Miliband put it, “will always be remembered as being the first ever occupant of his office who brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street”, David Cameron seemed almost cheerful as he left PM’s Questions.

Maybe it was the pat on the back he got from George Osborne (who originally recommended Andy Coulson’s appointment); or perhaps the unprecedented support of the rebellious continuity-Thatcherite wing of his party.

Normally the Prime Ministerial heart sinks when ultra-dissident Philip Davies catches the Speaker’s eye. Today Davies was so determined to turn the affair back on Labour by pointing out that an all party-Select Committee had in 2010 found “no evidence” of Coulson’s criminality, that a surprised Cameron replied: “I think my honourable friend put it rather better than I did. Thank you.” Rarely can the last two words can have been more heartfelt.

Or maybe Cameron was just pleased with his bullish deployment of Lord Leveson as his personal human shield. This was a classic from a Tony Blair masterclass: There’s been an inquiry. I got away with it. So you can’t get me, mate.

Miliband’s claim is, incidentally, debatable. Maundy Gregory, who sold honours for Lloyd George from 1918, admittedly worked from offices opposite – rather than inside – Downing Street but was surely at its spiritual “heart.”  This wasn’t Neil Kinnock fluffing the crucial Westland debate in January 1986. But nor did the Labour leader have a truly memorable soundbite like the one with which Harold Wilson summarised Harold Macmillan’s role in the  1956 Suez crisis: “First in, First Out”

Miliband did find a loose end, “the very important question,” of “whether Sir Gus O’Donnell [Cabinet Secretary at the time] or senior civil servants raised concerns about Coulson’s appointment.” But his claim that “the whole country will want an answer” to it is less convincing. Conversations in the proverbial Dog and Duck are hardly going: “Pint, please Bill. What really bothers me is the role of Gus O’Donnell. I know he told Leveson that he had nothing to do with the appointment, but can we be satisfied with that? And by the way Bill, do you think Miliband should have pressed him more on  Sir Jeremy Heywood? After all he was the Permanent Secretary at No 10.”

But most of the “the whole country” may not so easily forget that the PM made – in his words—a “wrong decision”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones