It is evidence of just how badly David Cameron has handled the News International scandal that he is having to cut short a planned – and important – trip to Africa.
Indeed, amid all the talk of victims of phone hacking, the victims of the spreading famine can be added to the list. But for the scandal engulfing Murdoch, the Met and the government, our screens would be filled with pictures of the famine, and the country would be responding as we so often do.
As to why Cameron is in such a mess, we are back to the arrogance which means he thinks he can get away with whatever he decides to get away with at the time. Never mind the people now saying they warned him privately about hiring Andy Coulson, he was warned hundreds of times publicly, by friend and foe alike. I haven’t counted myself, but a twitter follower says I have written more than 30 blogs pointing out that Coulson was a disaster waiting to happen.
That sense of impending disaster -it was inevitable – should likewise have made him a little warier about some of Coulson’s former colleagues. Point to point with Rebekah indeed.
Cameron’s former press officer George Eustice, now a Tory MP, who for some time has shared my analysis of the way the media was changing for the worse, tried to get Cameron to pursue a strategy that freed him from any sense of being beholden to the media. For a while, Cameron went along with it. But then bit by bit he allowed himself to be ensnared.
It is now not beyond the realms of possibility that it will be his downfall. He really must, and soon, admit to errors of judgement and signal how he intends to learn from them. But the arrogance and peevishness that become all too apparent when he is under pressure prevent him from doing so.
It is hard to see who in the inner circle can get him to see sense on this. George Osborne is tainted because he brought in Coulson, and in any event is keeping his head down. Cameron will be suspicious of Nick Clegg right now, as his deputy is telling all and sundry that he told him so. And it is unclear to me whether any of Cameron’s staff, civil service and political, have the strength to tell him what needs to be said and done.
Meanwhile Boris is on the march, and the Met is in meltdown, and the words Cameron, character and judgement are all moving front of mind for supporters and detractors alike.
A few final points. Now that the Met Commissioner has gone, the position of Yates of the Yard becomes more difficult. It can only be a matter of time. (this was written as I waited to board the 11.50 flight from Nice. By the time we had landed, he was gone, and not before time.)
To MPs preparing for tomorrow’s select committee hearing, think forensic not headlines.
To Boris, keep at it, but don’t think we haven’t forgotten that you dismissed the whole phonehacking thing as leftwing twaddle.
And meanwhile greetings from your godson Archie Gilmour with whom I played the bagpipes at a charity gig in Golfe Juan last night. He and three fellow Etonians are doing a London to Lisbon bike ride for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, and I enjoyed our musical interlude.
I enjoyed too arguing with them that kids who go to comprehensive schools get a much more rounded education that those who go to Eton (Cameron and Boris), Westminster (Clegg) and St Paul’s (Osborne).
I can’t help thinking that if Cameron had gone to a proper school, he would not have made such an arse of things. He wouldn’t have hired Coulson, he wouldn’t have allowed himself to get ensnared socially and politically by News, and he would not have had a step by step handling strategy which can roughly be defined as ‘I was born to rule, therefore this will all go away when I tell it to’.
Now, for all his self confidence, he is beginning to wonder whether the seeds of his own downfall have been sewn … on the playing fields of Eton.