14 Jun 2012

Sam Cam’s diary produced to bail out hubby

Well, that warmed up. The high point for drama so far was Robert Jay asking David Cameron this morning if, before the election, he’d seen Rebekah Brooks every weekend he was at his country home. He had to think long and hard before saying it probably wasn’t every weekend.

Most? Again, a lot of uncomfortable shuffling. Probably not.

Someone from Downing Street watching all this must’ve fired up Sam Cam to check the diary pronto and Mr Cameron’s come straight back into the afternoon session attempting to kill off the excitement around that squirming moment.

The PM said Samantha’s recollection was that they weren’t in the country that much in those months – tot it all up and they probably wouldn’t have met Rebekah in the country more than every six weeks. From the earlier exchange you got the distinct impression that the PM and Rebekah were in and out of each other’s country kitchens.

The text from Ms Brooks to Mr Cameron that was published this morning (dating from the eve of his 2009 Conference speech) is pretty excruciating.

You get the impression that Mr Cameron is being ticked off for not attending a News International party. Then there’s Ms Brooks’ sign off: “I am so rooting for your tomorrow not just as a proud friend but because profesionally we’re definitely in this together! Speech of your life. Yes we Cam!” Urgh.

You could see Mr Cameron steeling himself not to show his embarrassment at that going up on the screen in the courtroom.

Then came his comment on it: “I think what it means was that we were, as she put it, … friends, but professionally we – as leader of the Conservative party and her in newspapers – we were going to be pushing the same political agenda.”

How much due dilligence did Mr Cameron do on Andy Coulson before bringing him into the Tory Party and then into No. 10? Did he ask him if he was involved in phone hacking when he was editor of the News of the World? The PM says he did ask Mr Coulson and thinks it might’ve been in a face to face meeting in March 2007. Mr Coulson thought it was later that Mr Cameron asked the question.

In fact, Mr Coulson’s evidence was that Mr Cameron asked the question on the phone to Mr Coulson while the latter was holidaying in Cornwall in May 2007, in what he considered to be the “confirmation” call that he’d got the job. These are very different versions of events: the PM’s one sounds like a serious eye-balling, Mr Coulson’s sounds like an off-hand line in a conversation late in the day, if not after the hiring has effectively been made.

Mr Cameron said that Ed Llewellyn, his Chief of Staff in opposition and in government, had told him he should get the assurance for himself, face to face with Mr Coulson.

Mr Cameron said in Parliament last year that he checked if there was any connection between Mr Coulson and phone hacking (on 13 July, 2011) “all the time”. He said: “All the time during Andy Coulson’s employment, when articles were appearing and there was a storm of allegations, I had that conversation with him many times, because I had employed him.”

In his evidence in court today, Mr Cameron hasn’t fully supported that. He said he spoke to Mr Coulson just before his appearance in front of the Select Committee inquiring into phone hacking – but his specific words make it sound like something less than a rigorous check: “I had a conversation with him about, well…presumably you will give the undertaking again that you gave to me.” Note not just the wording but the reference to one conversation.

So where are all these rigorous and proper checks on Mr Coulson which the PM told the Commons happened “all the time?” Mr Jay QC asked the PM if he spoke to Mr Coulson after the New York Times article kicked off more speculation about rampant phone hacking at the News of the World. Mr Cameron said there were “a number of conversations with him about his impending resignation.” Again, the words don’t suggest these were conversations about whether phone hacking was rampant at the News of the World and the timing suggests these chats were as Mr Coulson was on his way out.

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