Cameron defying European Court

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Cameron wanted good news,
but got unearthly silence
Tom Watson had command of a hushed House
and a shocked Prime Minister

Whatever else is happening, it was clear yesterday that
nothing grips a noisy House of Commons more completely
than the whiff of really toxic scandal, past or present.
Especially in the post-Savile climate.

A lot happened at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. First David
Cameron ended a boisterous series of exchanges with Ed Miliband on
energy policy and the West Coast main line by taunting Labour with a
bold claim in the wake of better figures on unemployment and
inflation that "Every bit of good news sends [Labour's] team into a
complete decline, but I can tell the right honourable gentleman that
the good news will keep coming."

This sparked an immediate and furious row over whether Cameron
was leaking the growth figures that will be published today. More
pertinent for the rest of us, however, may be whether the good news
really will "keep coming" after that? Or will he be forced, as his old
boss Norman Lamont once was, to tough out criticism for
prematurely detecting "the green shoots" of recovery?
Earlier Cameron had appeared to defy a ruling by the
European Court – and his own Attorney General – by promising to
deny prisoners the vote. The Attorney General had suggested a
European ruling against Britain's blanket ban on prisoners' voting
could have a degree of "flexibility". But what could this mean? That
Barlinnie inmates, for example, will be allowed to vote in the Scottish
independence referendum but not in the general election? One idea is
that judges would include the voting ban in sentences. But they would
surely insist on discretion, with barristers pleading: "My Lord, my
client is passionate about the political process. It will severely set
back his rehabilitation if he cannot vote in the coming election."

But none of this compared with Tom Watson's command of a hushed
House, including a clearly shocked Prime Minister. You could almost
hear MPs watches' ticking as the Labour MP said he wanted to ensure
that the Met re-examine the evidence in the Peter Righton paedophile
case and "investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful
paedophile network linked to Parliament and No. 10."

Cameron, who had leant forward intently as Watson was speaking,
said that "I am not entirely sure which former Prime Minister he is
referring to. What I would like to do is ... look carefully at what the
Government can do to help give him the assurances he seeks."

Partly, of course, the MPs are aware that the scourge of Rupert
Murdoch usually knows what he is talking about. The satisfaction of
making MPs laugh on both sides of the House is well known. But an
intervention that shuts them up is even rarer.

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