When your back is against the wall and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place then you might as well dig deeper into the bag of cliches for another one that fits – step forward cross-party consensus. Thus did the Prime Minister take his first faltering step to get out of the mire he now finds himself in on the eve of the publication of the Leveson Inquiry into the iniquities of Fleet Street.
Any Wednesday is a bad day for Dave as he turns up in the Commons for his weekly thrashing at PMQs from Ed Miliband on the latest cock-ups in the running of the country.
But, today was worse than most because the PM knew that 12.30pm would not be the end of the torture but merely a taster for tomorrow when he has to turn up again to give his views on Leveson’s findings.
With Leveson to the forefront of the minds of MPs it was fitting that the subject should be mostly ignored at PMQs despite the excitement of hearing that copies of his report had been spotted being stuffed in the letter box at No 10.
Dave arrived looking suitably pale for a leader whose party is at least as split on regulation of the press as they are over Europe. He also had the added pleasure of the company of his deputy who normally sits the proceedings out but had let it be known earlier that on the subject of Leveson the Coalition may well not speak with one voice. Instead, Nick plans to make his own contribution in the Commons if Dave’s line is not acceptable.
With Labour apparently pledged to accept all Leveson’s recommendations Dave’s woes can surely only get worse. So, it was interesting that the first question at PMQs had No 10’s fingerprints all over it.
Asked if the “status quo” in Fleet Street needed “updating” Dave agreed and said he would meet the other party leaders to try to find a cross-party way forward. With the opportunity to nail Dave in advance now presented Ed, equally interestingly, welcomed the opportunity of a chat.
Surely all three can’t be panicked at taking on the Street of Shame.
But with tomorrow now parked, normal hostilities could resume and Ed happily turned his attention to the Government’s work, or in this case, out-of-work, programme. Attention to the Labour leader’s attack was slightly muted by the fact that all the opposition front bench had turned up wearing the red ribbons that mark International Aids Day this coming Saturday.
Far be it to accuse them of political opportunism but they did seem to have mugged who ever was handing out the ribbons leaving just a handful for a lucky few on the Government’s side.
But, once eyes had re-focused, attention turned to the absolute fun Ed was having recounting stories of clashes at yesterday’s cabinet over the work programme and charging the unemployed had more chance of finding a job if they weren’t on it.
With Dave turning a nice shade of red, Ed said Ministers had been at each other “like rats in a sack”, a thought which clearly cheered MPs on all side of the House. Having reminded the Labour leader that his PM and Chancellor could not bear to be in the same room Dave revealed his new slogan for the Opposition, “the party of something for nothing.” Expect to hear more of that one.
As PMQs finally released its grip on Dave he was heard heading off home to start reading Leveson.
Wonder now long that will take to leak.