I suspect that when Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader, David Cameron assumed he would be a walkover. Admittedly, Miliband did have a shaky start, but he is now seriously beginning to rattle the Prime Minister.
For instance, whatever the merits or demerits are of Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices in the first 20 months of a Labour Government, it is certainly an attractive proposition to the average voter. Cameron is only too well aware of this, which is why, no doubt, he has denounced the proposal as a con and why he has twice described Miliband as ‘a conman’ – an insult he was lucky not to have been forced to withdraw.
The savage snarling that goes on between the two men at Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrates they are more than simply at political loggerheads, their contempt for one another has clearly assumed a personal aspect.
I suspect this will become more obvious as each day passes too.
It also goes some way to explaining why Cameron has agreed to pay the political strategist Lynton Crosby, the so-called Wizard of Oz, a stupendous £500,000 to help the Tories win the election.
I can envisage the Tory headlines already: “Would you trust a man who shopped his own brother?”
But Cameron – and Crosby too -–should beware. History has shown that a dirty campaign does not impress the voters – it tends to have a reverse effect.
l I trust that Britain will now cease lecturing other countries on the virtues of democracy in the wake of the royal charter which, shamefully, gives politicians control – if they choose to use it – over what until now was a free press.
It is unspeakable that our MPs, some of whom have scandalously shown they cannot conduct their own affairs with propriety, should be allowed responsibility for Britain’s newspapers.
It is the first dangerous step towards state control of the press – an outrage, whichever way you look at it.
Some would say, probably with justification, that this is politicians’ revenge for the disclosures about the expenses racket they’d been indulging in for years, at the expense of the poor British taxpayer. Only a handful of MPs paid the price for their dishonesty and were sent to prison. The vast majority claimed that they did not break the rules, and that was all right.
Some even had the temerity to wave cheques at television cameras proclaiming they had paid back what they had filched. But shoplifters, for instance, if caught, don’t get the opportunity to return the goods to make it all right. Nor did the politicians have a conscience about purchasing, for instance, plasma-screen televisions with money belonging to other people who could not dream of affording such a luxury.
But anyway, back to the issue at hand.
When, a few days ago, the press appealed against the proposition, the judges refused it. They returned to the court within just minutes of the case being made out with a 3,000-word statement saying why they’d rejected it. It is quite obvious, to the meanest intelligence, the statement had been prepared before the Fleet Street case had even been put forward. A scandal in itself.
And now we have a situation where if someone sues a newspaper for libel and loses the case, then the newspaper, outrageously, has to pay his costs. If that is Westminster’s idea of fairness and justice, it is a sad day for society.
The fact is, some newspapers are alleged to have broken the law and some journalists, too, are alleged to have broken the law. These cases should, therefore, be handled by the criminal law.
Instead, we have a situation where the whole industry is being punished for the alleged shortcomings of a few.