David Blackburn

Dave on the defensive

Dave on the defensive
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There is no sign of the heir to Blair at the Commons Liaison Committee this afternoon; in fact, David Cameron has been possessed by the ghost of Gordon. So far the Prime Minister’s answers have been cumbersome and statistic-heavy; and his delivery has had the dexterity of a three-legged elephant.

He will have expected cannons to the left of him, but to the right as well? If he imagined that Tory backbenchers would coo appreciatively he will have been sadly disabused. Andrew Tyrie, James Arbuthnot and Bernard Jenkin have eviscerated him over the conduct of the strategic defence review.

They deplored the culture of leaks and counter-briefing and probed Cameron for his role in the process. Cameron conceded, with a sharp intake of breath and grim frown, that there was ‘a bit of a problem with leaks in that department’. He tried to convince that Liam Fox’s infamous letter (a letter ‘written to be leaked’ according Lord Turnbull) did not alter the review’s outcome – the survival of the new carriers and Fox’s continued presence in the government suggests otherwise.

Then the triumvirate turned to the counter-briefing, and from where it originated. Jenkin and Tyrie were surprised that several service chiefs responded so passionately to Admiral Lord West’s criticism the SDSR. Had they done so at No.10’s behest? Cameron’s response was anything but masterful:

‘I don’t know; I wouldn’t be remotely surprised; but I don’t think so. No.’

Evasive? Nah, shit happens dun it.