During the ongoing Commons debate on phone hacking David Cameron refused three times – pressed by Labour MP Dennis Skinner – to say whether he had had conversations with News International executives about the BSkyB while prime minister. He said only that he had had “no inappropriate conversations” with the company.
Separately he insisted that any meetings with NI during the period were not relevant because he had “asked to be excluded from the decision”.
Does that mean, therefore, that Cameron did have conversations with the company – but no “inappropriate” ones, his reasoning being that they were not inappropriate because he was disengaged from the process? It’s time he clarified the point.
If it turns out that Cameron did have such conversations it doesn’t look great. After all, today was meant to be the prime minister’s attempt to close down the political debate, not to raise fresh questions.
UPDATE: Cameron has now dodged the question six times now. He claimed (in relation to conversations with John Yates) that he would have to be “superhuman” to remember every conversation he has had.
FURTHER UPDATE at 1.45pm: Cameron was asked whether he ever mentioned the words BSkyB in front of Brooks.
Kiran, who is down in the chamber, says: “The prime minister stands up, approaches the despatch box, and sighs. Then sits down.”
LAST UPDATE: Aides to Cameron indicated there were indeed conversations between him and NI execs about the takeover – but the impression given is that they were not “inappropriate” for the reasons I outlined above. “It may have been raised by others, rather than discussed in detail,” one tells me. Awkward that this has had to be wrung out with such difficulty.
Kiran points out that Cameron was asked about his relations with Rebekah Brooks and their cosy friendship – as illuminated by the Jeremy Clarkson column in the last Sunday Times. He said: “I’ve never had a slumber party or seen her in her pyjamas”.
Ivan Lewis, shadow culture secretary – whose reputation has been burnished by Labour’s response to the scandal – has criticised Cameron for failing to give a “direct and full response to legitimate questions”.
“Despite claiming he was prepared to answer ‘any and all’ questions he still hasn’t given full details on these meetings, including when they took place and what exactly was discussed.”