The questions following David Cameron’s statement to the House of Commons have just finished. As Cameron answered 136 questions, it became increasingly clear that the immediate moment of political danger appears to have passed for the Prime Minister. By the end of the session, Cameron was even joking about inviting Mrs Bone to Chequers for the weekend.
In his opening statement, Cameron placed far more distance between himself and Andy Coulson than he had before. For the first time, he expressed regret about the appointment. He told the House that, ‘With 20:20 hindsight – and all that has followed – I would not have offered him the job’. This recognition that the Coulson hire was a mistake has made it far easier for Cameron to move on from this story.
Cameron, though, faced Labour jeers when he repeatedly stonewalled on the question of whether he had ever discussed the News Corp’ bid for BSkyB with those who worked for the company.
The Prime Minister also denied that the New York Times article about phone hacking at the News of the World contained any new information. This was a surprising answer given that the article contained the first on the record allegation, which — we should stress — remains unproven, that Andy Coulson encouraged a journalist to hack phones.
But, overall, it was a performance that went some way to restoring Cameron’s grip on the situation. It was a reminder of the old adage that the safest place for a Prime Minister in a crisis is the despatch box of the House of Commons.