The Week in Politics: Big guns at Leveson failed to fire

Lots of firepower, but not much at Leveson after one week of excitement
Lots of firepower, but not much at Leveson after one week of excitement
Alex Stevenson By

This week was all about courtroom theatre at the Leveson inquiry. And like all good theatre, we didn't come away with anything other than a vague sense that not all is right with the world.

Despite an all-star cast which included two ex-PMs, the current incumbent AND Nick Clegg, very little has actually happened to develop the big political controversies surrounding Leveson. George Osborne and David Cameron were on the defensive, yes, but there were no new shock revelations to undermine their carefully pre-prepared explanations for their conduct. After this week, then, the case is not altered.

That just leaves the personalities. And here there was a lot of interest, for court room 73 is very good at bringing out people out of their political shells. Gordon Brown managed to be, at one and the same time, a man of integrity with bold ideas and a scrunched-up ball of bitterness. Sir John Major blinked diffidently as he remembered the battering he's received from the press, attracting some sympathetic bonding with Leveson. Ed Miliband revelled in the academic headaches of press regulation. David Cameron used a combination of bluster, 'Camnesia' and humour to get through his long, long day.

The prime minister seemed to be in 'get through the week' mode. That was his attitude in PMQs, when Miliband poured maximum pressure on the government over the Jeremy Hunt's BSkyB takeover bid row. Labour pressed a Commons vote calling for Hunt to face a probe by the independent adviser on ministerial interests - but it was the Lib Dems who attracted all the headlines by very pointedly choosing to abstain. Cameron shrugged his shoulders in the Commons: "It's politics!"

Away from Westminster, Britain has been on the defensive this week. The 30th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands has been one of intense international politicking by both London and Buenos Aires. Argentina has demanded talks over the future sovereignty of the archipelago. The Falklands, with Britain's backing, has announced it will hold a referendum. The battle for international opinion - and regional trading opportunities for the UK - continues. What would the 255 British soldiers who died 30 years ago make of all this?

Despite the fact that parliament returned this week the government has been keeping very quiet. Its hand was forced on child poverty, as stats confirmed the UK is way behind its targets, so Iain Duncan Smith indulged in some creative thinking to move the goalposts. It was forced to defend its NHS reforms once again after new numbers suggested the Tories in government had triggered a decline in satisfaction levels. And it faced trouble ahead over gay marriage, which the Church of England has well and truly dug in against.

This was a quiet week for serious political news. It could well end up being remembered as the one in which it emerged that Cameron had left his eight-year-old daughter at the pub. The prime minister's mistake left him "distraught", we discovered, but he ended up getting a lot of sympathy from the public - and from Leveson. "It was quite interesting of those in the newsrooms who reported them who said 'that happened to me or my child'," the judge observed. Cameron said his parliamentary colleagues had told him they'd been left in all sorts of places: motorway petrol stations, butcher's shops, etc. Prompting the biggest laugh at the Leveson inquiry all week, he added: "It helped me understand my colleagues a lot better."


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