I’m a big fan of both Iain Dale and Paul Waugh, but this morning I read their immediate attacks on the PM for dithering – relying on a tweet by Eric Pickles as evidence – and realised I’d have to take issue.
Sky news report that “The committee questioning the leaders – the Speaker’s Conference – said it had “concluded that the most effective way to interview the three party leaders is to call them to the table individually”.
I’m more willing to believe their reporting than the Tory chairman tweeting that “PM has pulled out of first Leaders TV debate – now Party Leaders will speak separately to Speaker’s Conference on diversity in Parliament”
It’s also been reported that it was David Cameron most recently has raised issues with the leaders TV debate, not the PM. Given that one half of this tweet quite probably contains spin, surely it’s likely the other half might too?
Now the PM has made it particularly easy for himself to be attacked for dithering; Iain has written a tidy list of examples. But he also showed leadership by pressing for bank bailouts and part-nationalisation, an example swiftly followed by other world leaders. He has also called on President Obama to come to the Copenhagen Climate summit, which shows that occasionally he’s prepared to make things difficult for a close ally – and, unlike Lockerbie, for the right reasons.
I don’t expect bloggers to give Brown an easy ride, but inference alone shouldn’t be used to gladly relay a line straight from CCHQ. There’s no evidence that the PM made this call, especially as it’s reported that the Committee made the decision. Personally I can understand their decision too: rather than the meeting becoming a jostling match for position between the party leaders, MPs will be able to give each in turn a grilling.
Update 20 October: Mr Waugh has provided a “further update” on his blog, explaining that his source has given no explanation for the change of format. No explanation – no proof.