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Boss (Bercow) gives Man (Cameron) bad day at the office. So Man kicks Cat (Miliband).

By Paul Goodman
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And that really is almost all there is to say about Ed Miliband's urgent Commons question on the Jeremy Hunt affair, granted by the Speaker, which David Cameron had to change his diary to answer.

The Prime Minister was clearly enraged by Bercow's decision (he made a point at the beginning of his statement of reiterating that both he and Mr Hunt had answered Commons questions only last week), but it isn't done to shout at the Speaker.  So he shouted at Mr Miliband instead.

The Leader of the Opposition's case was that the Culture Secretary is clearly in breach of the Ministerial code.  Mr Cameron's answer was...oh no, he isn't!  But if he is, the Leveson Enquiry will make that clear, won't it?  In which case, I'll act then!

So there's no point in duplicating Leveson - judge-led enquiry, witnesses on oath, cross-examinations, jolly serious business all round - with some other enquiry.  In any case, what about Charlie Whelan and Damian McBride, eh?

The Prime Minister got hot and red and very rude - accusing Chris Bryant of hypocrisy (not unreasonably in this case) and advising Dennis Skinner to draw his old age pension.  And at all times, he has consulted the Cabinet Secretary. Take that, Harriet Harman!

Mr Cameron's brutal manner has its critics - remember those Parliamentary put-downs of Nadine Dorries and, recently, Douglas Carswell - but the Commons is a kill-or-be-killed place during one of these set-piece statements, and he had little alternative but to deploy it today.

The Government front bench was packed with Conservative Cabinet Ministers who had doubtless been encouraged to support Mr Hunt: Eric Pickles, Justine Greening, Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove.

Every single Tory intervention was supportive of the Culture Secretary - even Peter Bone's.  (No sign today of Bernard Jenkin, who said last week that Prime Minister's independent adviser on the Ministerial Code, Sir Alex Allan, should conduct "swift preliminary enquiries".)

The Liberal Democrat benches were very quiet.  Duncan Hames was basically supportive, and Simon Hughes basically not.  (Hughes offered the Commons a to-be-expected holier-than-thou proclamation of Liberal Democrat virtue with regard to Rupert Murdoch.)

Perhaps the cleverest question came from Peter Lilley, who claimed that Sir Alex can only offer a verdict, not make an enquiry - in which case it is sensible to wait to see what happens when Mr Justice Leveson and Anthony Jay QC get their teeth into Mr Cameron and the Culture Secretary.

Leveson plainly believes that whether or not Mr Hunt broke the code is not a matter for him.  The Prime Minister knows this very well, and will hope that the matter now dies down.  But what happens if the paper trail (or rather e-mail and text trail) and oral evidence stir it up again?


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