The Sketch: Whiter than white? More like one big grey area

If the PM gets any flatter they'll get him out under the door rather than through it SIMON CARR
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Normally the PM enters the room as if he's just had a line of cocaine. You have to wear sunglasses to protect yourself from his glamour.

But something terrible has happened. He looks chastened, deflated. He looks guilty, that's what he looks like. As if he had personally taken cash for peerages. There is none of the glad, confident certainty with which he faced the Hutton inquiry. That, if you remember, was the last time he took full responsibility for not having done anything wrong.

So, what about the famous claim (or ambition, or aspiration, or target) to be "whiter than white"?

"Well, I'll tell you how I answer that ...". Try this. Don't like that? Then try this.

The millions. The complex arrangements, the nominations. "Didn't any of it strike you as dodgy?" Newsnight asked. The answer must have been scripted by Jack Straw (it was unintelligible).

The PM emerged to say, "Leave aside loans or donations or whatever ...". But let's not.

The Guardian's Patrick Wintour, directly in front of me, made me want to crawl under the seats (I'm not used to confrontation). He has a depressed way of asking questions. It's a bit frightening.

"If you were responsible, as you say you were, why didn't you tell Jack Dromey [the treasurer of the Labour Party] about the loans? Why didn't you tell your party funding committee? Or the Appointments Committee?" The PM stammered a little. "Looking back on events, it yes, it's clear it would have ..." etc. He moved on, but Wintour gloomily called him back.

"But why didn't you tell them?" And then again, yet more dejectedly, after an even less adequate answer, "But you must know why you didn't tell them, so why didn't you tell them?" It's at the third question when you find yourself without a prepared answer.

The PM said: "It's not for me to say." "But you just said you were responsible." "I'm not evading responsibility," he said, evading it so obviously he failed to avoid it.

And then Mary Anne Sieghart on my right started in with a Follow The Money sequence of questions. Where actually was this money? What's happened to it? It's not in the Labour Party bank account, obviously. Who was the money paid to? Whose name was on the cheque?

There was no answer to any of this. "The idea that there's a secret bank account somewhere with this money in it is absurd," he said (not that anyone had mentioned a secret bank account, and the idea may be wrong but it certainly isn't absurd).

There must be more to come out (the total, for instance, of these loans).

That's why the PM was so flat. It was through fear, guilt, grief. If he gets any flatter they'll get him out under the door rather than through it.