Donald Macintyre's Sketch: David Cameron’s liaisons are so different to François Hollande’s
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Tuesday 14 January 2014
It’s fair to assume that David Cameron’s appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee was not the most watched public questioning of a European leader this afternoon. Or, for the man in question, the most gruelling.
Cameron, in the regulation shirtsleeves, is as good at these things – coming over spontaneous while avoiding traps, not committing news, calling even opposition MPs by their first names, – as Tony Blair, who invented these twice-yearly events. Which is saying something.
It’s not that difficult for a pro of course. The first subject was violence against women which not surprisingly the Prime Minister, like the committee, is against. Though pressed by the Lib Dem Sir Malcolm Bruce to agree that preventing it in Afghanistan was a priority, Cameron, while not denying its crucial importance, insisted in his best no-nonsense national interest way that the real test for the British presence had been whether “Afghanistan is capable of maintaining security and preventing the re-emergence of terrorist training camps without the presence of foreign troops”.
And we learned, in answer to Keith Vaz, that Cameron hadn’t yet seen 12 Years A Slave but it was “on my list.”
When it came to the other subject, energy, the discussion, as it often is in this country, became most animated on the issue of the weather. In particular the Tory Tim Yeo was glad that Cameron had said last week that he “suspects” the floods had been caused by climate change. And Cameron was glad that the scientists had said he had got it about right. No-one mentioned that his Environment Minister Owen Paterson didn’t seem to agree.
So pretty serious in all, as the PM warned me before the session started, it would be. After discussing fracking with Labour’s Andrew Miller he said – accurately – that he had so far avoided party politics, before denouncing Ed Miliband’s price freeze as swiftly as François Hollande dealt with his er… personal problems.
Since Hollande said his press conference was not “the place” to discuss his private life, maybe he should convene a meeting of senior MPs like this to do so. After all, it could still be called the Liaison Committee.
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