Regarding the way that "Sarah’s law" issue had come out (exaggerated "chemical castration" headlines in the tabloids), David Cameron asked Tony Blair if he was at all surprised at the cynicism the media held for him. He used his next two questions to try to get Blair to admit that he hadn’t yet kept his promise of bringing in a new information sharing system recommended by the Bichard report.
In his second set of questions Cameron tried to use some of the statements made by the deputy leadership contenders against Blair. He said that the contenders were lurching to the left, made Prescott "look like a cross between
Ernie Bevan and Demosthenes", and that the contest was a cross between Big Brother and the Muppet Show. He asked if Blair agreed with them in their calls for higher taxes, more money and power for trade unions. Blair said he didn’t, but he took the opportunity to taunt Cameron by first quoting him saying "consistency in politics is vital", and then pointing out some inconsistent statements on grammar schools and the Married Couples Allowance.
He was shameless in going off the subject but did get people laughing at Cameron, particularly when he joked that he showed "the imprint of the last person that sat on him". Cameron rolled with the punches saying "Only two times left. I’m gonna miss him, gonna miss him".
Gerald Kaufman – a former political journalist and Labour press
officer – said the press was full of half-truths, exaggerations,
fiction, propaganda and gossip, and sarcastically asked why Blair had
pulled his punches in his speech about the media.
Sir Ming tried to find out details of Saudi middle-man payments
and why Blair hadn’t told investigators about them but as usual gave
him too much wiggle room with the simplicity of his question. Blair
robustly defended the arms deal citing the relationship with the Saudis
as having "fundamental importance to the security of this country and
the state of the Middle East". Ming followed up by asking "whatever
happened to Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy?", to which Blair made
a jibe about the LibDems being in cloud cuckoo land.
James Gray juxtaposed the contradictory statements on EU treaty discussion made by Sarkozy and Beckett (as Hague did last week). David Heathcoat-Amory asked if Blair would "repent the folly" of signing the EU constitution and reject its revival (a subject on which YourPlatform is currently focusing on), as it enshrined the primacy of the Charter of Fundamental Rights
– elements of which he had openly criticised. Blair said he would never
let the House be overidden by laws decided outside of it.
Cameron wasn’t bad, but Blair was better. Brown is going to
struggle with the contrast between his dour self and nothing-to-lose
6pm update: In response to Cameron’s questions on child offenders, Blair wrongly claimed that David Cameron voted against the Sexual Offences Bill – a claim repeated by John Reid afterwards. David Davis’ Office have sent this clarification:
"There was no division at the end of the Second Reading debate on the Bill – i.e. it had Conservative support (Hansard, 15 July 2003, Col.248). During the Second Reading Debate, David Cameron welcomed the Bill. He said:
"Like other hon. Members, I welcome the Bill. It is right to codify and bring together the law on sexual offences. It is right to update the law, as the Bill does in a range of ways. It is also right to introduce the new offences that many hon. Members have spoken about, not least to keep pace with technology" (Hansard, 15 July 2003, Col. 234).
There was no division at the end of the Third Reading debate – i.e. it had Conservative support (Hansard, 3 November 2003, Col. 637). In his speech during the Third Reading debate, the Conservative spokesman, Dominic Grieve, said:
"I am grateful to the Home Secretary for his words and the spirit in which the legislation has been introduced. The subject is not easy – I certainly did not find it so, and I am sure that that is true of all those who served in Committee. There was a common determination that we should not approach the Bill in a partisan way, and I hope and believe that we have created legislation that will stand the test of time… The good note that I can end on is that I think that we have done-I hope that we have done-a good job. I thank all those who have participated in the Bill for making that possible" (Hansard, 3 November 2003, Col.628-9).
NB: David Cameron was not a member of the Standing Committee that considered the Sexual Offences Bill, so could not have voted against aspects of it at that stage."