Mon Nov 5th, 2012 at 09:24:38 AM EST
For the last two weeks Chris Bryant, one of the MPs who has been holding the government's feet to the fire over phone hacking, has stood up at Prime Minister's Questions and asked David Cameron to reveal 150 emails between himself and Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, the two Murdoch ex-editors who are facing trial for a variety of charges. Each time Dodgy Dave has waved the request off on the grounds that Bryant leaked some information that should have been held privately by the Leveson Inquiry, and hence he won't reveal anything till Bryant apologises. However Bryant has already formally apologised to the house, so at some point this will all come to a head.
It has been revealed this week that Cameron will be away for the next two Prime Minister's Questions, so Bryant will have to wait as there is little point in asking a deputy and there we thought it would all lay quiet for a couple of weeks, coming back to the boil at the point where Rebekah and Andy were back facing the courts for the next procedural step.
However on Sunday morning the Daily Mail spalshed across its front page a story about two text messages that had been handed to the Leveson Inquiry, which has been updated over the next 24 hours.
Is Cameron hiding 130 texts with Rebekah? PM accused of withholding intimate exchanges as Downing St insists it didn't possess a single one | Mail Online
In one, Mr Cameron thanked Mrs Brooks for letting him ride one of her family's horses, saying it was `fast, unpredictable and hard to control but fun'.
She is the wife of racehorse trainer Charlie Brooks, who was at Eton with the Prime Minister, and was a member of his exclusive circle of Oxfordshire friends known as the Chipping Norton set.
In another message, Mrs Brooks praised Mr Cameron's Tory Party conference speech in October 2009, saying: `Brilliant speech. I cried twice,' and pledged: `Will love "working together".'
Now the presentation of these emails are as if they've come straight from a Benny Hill episode by the media, or a 1970's Carry On style farce, treating both messages as if they are packed with euphemism, however the first one does look like its something straight from Horsey types keyboards. Although unless all of his friends call him CB it does seem a bit impersonal when talking about Dave's supposed best friend to his best friend's wife (another tick of evidence against the straightness of the police horse story). It could be that he's known as CB amongst friends (I know I am, which is where my username comes from) but it seems unlikely in talking to the guy's wife. But it just doesn't quite fit the image.
The second text set people's Euphemism Klaxon going with the emphasis placed around "working together" but it's all so much nothing. I haven't found anyone willing to go back and watch Dave's speech from 2009 to work out what were the two bits that made Rebekah break down and cry either.
Predictably the media has been going crazy today. There's an acknowledged cache of somewhere just over 40 SMS messages that come from Rebekah's Blackberry from May/June 2011, these are the ones she handed to the Leveson Inquiry, and one of which was read out during witnesses evidence. There is a second selection of her SMS messages that News International claims to have handed over to the Leveson Inquiry. The two emails in yesterday's Mail article are part of that cache, and there is a third set of around 130 emails between the three figures, which are said to be embarassing for Cameron. It may be that the Mail has confused the three stories to come up with the story of 130 SMS messages, or it may be that they do actually know the size of the store. Number 10's press office has denied the existence of 130 SMSs and the confusion between the two groups may be just enough to allow Downing Street an honest denial, because the Mail hasn't got it quite right.
So what does it all mean?
Well it was a non-story really, the most interesting bits were the bits you can work out from them, rather than the messages themselves.
There are only five sources for these emails, the first one we can almost certainly rule out, and that's David cameron and Number 10. You would think them being the source is something that there is a vanishingly small chance of happening. The second possibility is Rebekah herself, but according to her evidence given at the Leveson Inquiry she only has six weeks of messages and the time for that doesnt match with the content of the messages. The third option is that the police have been leaking to the Mail, but if that was the case, you would think that the re would be much more than just the two relatively innocuous text messages. The fourth source would be the Leveson Inquiry itself, and if someone from there was to do the leaking you'd think that similarly to the police, firstly they would leak more, and secondly it would be a risk that might damage the Inquiry's process.
This leaves one possibilty as being most likely, that News International is leaking its employees' emails to the Mail as part of the ongoing campaign against media regulation, a sort of "we know what is in the rest, and we're willing to leak them, you wouldn't want your premiership to get damaged" gangster style threat. If so this leaves News International once again in trouble. By passing on their employees' text messages, they are arguably in breach of the Data Protection Act once again, and there was their new management going to be all legal and straight from now on.
So I know which my choice would be, but your own personal measure of who holds the lead piping in the library may vary.
Why these two messages, well euphemism aside, the first appears all about the police horse. Let me suggest it runs this way: Dave is really not very good on a horse, but has a self-image of the horsey country squire. If both of these messages date from 2009 then that is before Rebekah lays her hands on the horse from the Met.
Perhaps Dave is a rider with delusions of competence, and with horses of the quality that Charlie had in his sable, Dave was at risk. So Rebekah rather than loose the guy who is going to give the Murdochs BskyB has to get a placid, unflappable nag for Dave to ride to fulfill his lord-and-squire fantasy, and who better to get something that doesn't frighten easily from than the Met.
The second, a "heavy handed regulate us and you could find yourself even more tightly attatched to criminals" threat. The papers having been taking shots at Dave since the Telegraph's evidence about a PR person pretending to be a cleaner in front of Leveson, which PrivateEye says is a direct reference to an incident earlier in Cameron's career.
So a vast scandal? No, but perhaps a hint at a couple of jigsaw pieces that maybe fit together in the story.