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UK Politics

Village People: The artful dodger

The Tory MP Michael Fallon demonstrated on Newsnight on Thursday evening why David Cameron appointed him deputy chairman of the Conservative Party.

Confronted with questions about the News of the World scandal, Fallon answered them all in the same vein, arguing that he could not possibly express a view while there is an unfinished police investigation under way. It is a classic technique that the professionals use to deflect awkward questions.

But there was an interesting moment when Fallon was reminded by his interviewer, Kirsty Wark, that Coulson had claimed under oath that he knew nothing about the News of the World paying police officers for tip-offs. "If you look at the transcript," said Fallon, "you'll see that he said he wasn't aware of payments to corrupt police officers." What is he implying? That the News of the World bribed only the incorruptible police officers?

A good story – but is it true?

Tony Blair looked relaxed during his question-and-answer session organised by the Progress think tank, and had everyone laughing when he told a story about how he did not own a mobile phone until he left Downing Street in 2007. He said he immediately texted a friend, forgetting the recipient would not recognise the number. Back came the message "Who are you?" Blair said: "I thought to myself, 'It has been 24 hours'" .

I hate to spoil a good story, but I happen to know it is not true, because in an old contacts book I still have the number of the mobile Blair used when he was Leader of the Opposition. It had 10 numerals starting 0850.