I am standing in the courtyard of HMP Wormwood Scrubs with the Prime Minister. He’s there, or so I read, to convince the papers that his approach to law and order has moved from ‘hug a hoodie’ to ‘mug a hoodie’. I’m there to ask him not just about that but about why he let his Chief Whip stumble along wounded for so long; and to put to him suggestions from his own party that he and his ministers look, well, less than competent. Having batted away my questions with painful ease, the PM delivers a final blow as we film a couple of editing shots. With a mischievous smile he tells me he resisted the temptation to raise the subject of an organisation really facing a crisis. Ouch. These are not the easiest of days to be working at the BBC.
Being at the eye of a media storm should teach any journalist to pause and think when next tempted to deride this or that government department or G4S or, dare I say, News International, for their failure to ‘get a grip’. Having said that, only in the BBC would the full resources of the organisation — an hour of evening TV plus the power of the press office — be given to one group of journalists to say that their bosses had cocked up. I suggested to the PM that he might allow members of his Cabinet the same licence to analyse each other’s faults. The reason I can still smile during this crisis in the corporation is that nothing I have seen suggests that Auntie is guilty of either of the charges that really matter: knowingly covering up sexual abuse or halting a journalistic inquiry to put out a tribute programme to a cheesy and sleazy celebrity.