Hamlet: Or did you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia: I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet: That’s a fair thought, to lie between maid’s legs.
London—The Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press, to give the proceedings unfolding in the Royal Courts of Justice their full title, has rewarded its faithful followers with an ample supply of low farce and even, in the accounts of some of the victims of phone hacking, some moments of high tragedy. But this week’s testimony by Prime Minister David Cameron was the first time your correspondent felt impelled to brush up his Shakespeare.
Thursday’s grilling went on for five hours, none of which is likely to be remembered as one of Cameron’s finest. He gave an account of the 1,403 meetings he had with journalists as leader of the opposition. He claimed, with a straight face, that he hired Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who resigned over the phone hacking scandal and has since been arrested, because he was the only tabloid editor available at the time. He squirmed a bit when Robert Jay, the Inquiry counsel, read out an October 2009 text message from Rebekah Brooks, a former Sun and News of the World editor promoted by Rupert Murdoch to run the parent company News International. Even though we already knew that Cameron was wont to sign his own texts to Brooks “LOL”—until she informed him that wasn’t an abbreviation for “Lots of Love”—the cloying tone of this communiqué reached a crescendo with Brooks’s declaration that she would be “so rooting for you tomorrow [during Cameron’s speech at the Tory party conference] not just as a proud friend but because professionally we’re definitely in this together! Speech of your life? Yes he Cam.”
So that’s what he meant by “We’re all in this together”—the Conservative party campaign slogan. Still, as I watched Cameron give what my Tory journalist friend Andrew Gimson aptly termed “a masterclass in the mellifluous deflection of blame,” I couldn’t help worrying over an earlier part of Brooks’s text message, where she suggested that any froideur remaining between the Times and Cameron over his failure to appear at a News International party the previous evening could be dispelled “over country supper.”