Yesterday David Cameron and Ed Miliband met to try and reach a deal on the Leveson report. You have to wonder about the timing, given that they had been hurling virulent abuse at each other moments earlier at PM’s questions.
Did Nick Clegg, also at the meeting, have to keep them apart as they lunged menacingly at each other shouting: “I’m not taking lectures on press standards from someone who said I couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.” and “As far as I’m concerned you can stuff your precious Royal Charter after accusing me of being a champagne socialist when you knew I didn’t have any right of reply…. Anyway I didn’t say ‘piss-up’. I asked if there was anything you could organise in a brewery…..”?
Which indeed Miliband had, referring to the Cabinet disarray amid which Cameron’s plan for minimum alcohol prices appears to be collapsing. Labour MPs were delighted, especially as the Opposition leader, on form if somewhat spoilt for choice of open goals, then mentioned the Office for Budget Responsibility which last week issued a rebuke to the PM, saying austerity measures had reduced growth. There ensued a slanging match during which Miliband accused the PM of presiding over a government that was “falling apart”, and Cameron waved what he said was a copy of Miliband’s diary showing the various dinners he had with cheque-book brandishing trade union leaders: “Dinosaur after dinosaur, dinner after dinner, they pay the money, they get the policies, but the country would end up paying the price.”
This conjured an irresistible image of Miliband obediently sitting round a table with a group of the Jurassic vertebrates for a nourishing feast of dinosaur favourites like lizards and ginkgo leaves. But it wasn’t enough for Cameron, who waited until he was asked, yet again (this time by Labour’s Ian Murray) whether he would personally benefit from the reduced top rate of tax.
Borrrowing Miliband’s use last week of a cod letter from banker “John”, he produced one from “Ed of Camden” complaining that if he wanted to sell his £2m house, acquired through “a combination of inheritance and property speculation”, he would have to pay the 7 per cent stamp duty introduced by the “wicked Tories” and adding, “What should a champagne socialist like me do?”
It doesn’t get much more personal that this. But maybe when they meet to discuss issues like Leveson, they slap each other on the back with a “All is a day’s work, eh, Ed?” and an “Absolutely, Dave” before sitting down to shoot the breeze.
And maybe not.