PMQs and the Hunting party on Cameron’s day from hell

Murdoch having his revenge on the Tories; Labour having their revenge on Murdoch; future leadership contenders being slaughtered in the crossfire. Meanwhile we’re back in recession, writes our UK Political Editor

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The hunt for Hunt
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Harry Cole
On 25 April 2012 11:12

Well this was it. The biggest bout in Ed Miliband’s career.

Would he be a Kinnock or a Blair? In a notorious series of events after the Westland Helicopter scandal in the 1980sKinnock famously fluffed it,  letting Maggie Thatcher off the hook.

After numerous sleaze scandals in the 1990s the then Leader of the Opposition Tony Blair pummeled the Tories week after week.

With the the Prime Minister having his toughest day in office yet, the open goals were there: The GDP slump taking us into a double-dip recession; Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, firmly on the ropes; and Rupert Murdoch strapped to Lord Leveson’s witness stand like an octogenarian hand grenade about to go off in the government’s face.

The Prime Minister lost his temper, Ed spluttered and Hunt slithered through a statement, buoyed by the fact that the judge-led inquiry that has caused him so much trouble in the last 24 hours this morning rose to his aid by suggesting all evidence should be heard before any decisions should be made.

A nice gesture for the Minister that chose him to lead this inquiry.

It was a smart move for Ed to go on the economy first rather that the obvious political open goal marked out by Rupert Murdoch releasing swathes of emails that could well end the career of one time Cameron successor and crucial Cameroon Jeremy Hunt.

On the dire GDP figures released this morning the Prime Minister said: “I don’t speak to excuse them, I don’t seek to explain them away.”

It  was about all that Cameron could say but it was important to note that as the markets tumbled he reaffirmed his commitment to Plan A and affirmed there will be no u-turn on the government's fiscal plans.

Ironically it was an inquiry set up at another lowest-ebb-moment for this government that today distracted from what would have no doubt been an insufferable day of crowing from the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls.

Though Miliband said the word “catastrophic” too much (given that there‘s a fag paper between the plan for cuts that he stood for at the last election under Alistair Darling‘s Chancellorship), he did win the first bout. It would have been hard not to.

Yesterday, I predicted that the PM would firstly try the strategy that no decision on what Jeremy Hunt had or had not done could be made until the Leveson Inquiry had reported, and then that the Special Adviser at the centre of this row would be thrown under a bus in order to try to save his master.

Today, both of these happened.

The government were fighting back, though with some much needed humility. "I think hand on heart, we all did a bit too much cosying up to Rupert Murdoch," is a line we are likely to hear again and again, especially as the Prime Minister has his own outing in front of the good Judge soon.

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