Leading article: A question of competence

Mr Cameron seems to take too much on trust and fails to think things through

Related Topics

David Cameron is entering a dangerous phase of his premiership, as the Leveson inquiry starts to hear from witnesses close to him. This week, Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister's former head of communications, and Rebekah Brooks, another former Murdoch executive, will appear.

The Prime Minister had hoped that, having cut Mr Coulson loose in January 2011, the awkward questions about his closeness to the commercial interests of a foreign media magnate would recede. These were becoming more pointed, because the Government had to decide whether to allow Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation to take full control of BSkyB. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, ruled that the takeover could go ahead, although he required Sky News to be spun off.

Then the story broke that Milly Dowler's mobile phone had been hacked by News of the World journalists, and two things happened. A wounded Mr Murdoch abandoned his bid for BSkyB; and Mr Cameron's links with Mr Murdoch were subjected to renewed scrutiny.

Ed Miliband and, crucially, Nick Clegg forced him to appoint Lord Justice Leveson to inquire into the relationships between journalists, police and politicians. At first, the inquiry made life uncomfortable for police officers and Murdoch employees, including Rupert's son James. Now, however, things are getting difficult for Mr Cameron.

There are questions of propriety here, of course. But what is perhaps most striking is the question of competence. Cynically speaking, it is extraordinary that Mr Cameron did not appreciate the threat to him and his reputation. The Government's failure to prepare its defence to foreseeable allegations was exposed last week when its counsel, James Eadie, applied, long after the deadline, as Lord Justice Leveson drily noted, for "core participant" status. It looked as if Downing Street, surprised by the publication of damning emails suggesting bias in the handling of the BSkyB bid, had panicked.

Reasons for rising prime ministerial panic include the possibility that Ms Brooks's phone texts might be published. If it is true that Mr Cameron sometimes texted her 12 times a day, the probability that he said something at least embarrassing is high. The Independent on Sunday reveals today that Mr Coulson held shares in News Corp while he worked at No 10. We also report that Fred Michel, the supposedly "Walter Mitty" PR man for News Corp, arranged a meeting between Mr Cameron and a Spanish former prime minister who just happened to be on the Murdoch board.

Leveson now needs to find out how Mr Coulson was hired and retained. The suspicion lingers that Mr Cameron did not try hard enough to find out what Mr Coulson knew of illegal phone hacking or about his continuing financial relationship with his former employer.

Of course, Mr Cameron's opportunism in appeasing News Corp was not the most important subject in the minds of the voters as they went to the polls last week. But it provides an insight into the Prime Minister's character. He seems to take too much on trust, and he fails to think things through. Thus the consequences of the Budget, which matter more immediately to the electorate, continue to unravel and the coalition parties were punished for them on Thursday.

It is a measure of disarray at the centre that Tory MPs are agitating for George Osborne to be replaced as Mr Cameron's strategist by Boris Johnson's adviser, the Australian pollster Lynton Crosby.

As events turn against him, Mr Cameron should be alarmed that it is his own judgement that seems to have been found wanting.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager (District Heating)

£55000 Per Annum plus company car and bonus scheme: The Green Recruitment Comp...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The daily catch-up: knitting, why Ed wants to be PM and a colloquium of Indy-pedants

John Rentoul
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn