Landale online: Cameron's efforts to stay in touch

David Cameron and Desmond Tutu David Cameron was meeting Desmond Tutu when news broke of John Yates's resignation

Related Stories

When the allegations first emerged that murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler's phone had been hacked, David Cameron was in Afghanistan.

We had just had a sweaty few days visiting British troops and talking to President Karzai.

We were just about to begin the long flights home on an assorted array of military aircraft when the news came through.

The travelling team of officials and journalists learned the bare bones of the claims before we were trapped, effectively incommunicado for 12 hours.

The military are very nervous about the use of mobile phones and Blackberries on their aircraft; such devices tend to switch things on which should not be switched on at 20,000 feet.

We knew a huge story had been brewing while we flew but we arrived back in the UK at 10pm, having missed an entire news cycle.

It is little wonder that Downing Street was off the pace.

Cameron bullish

Twelve days on, as the phone hacking controversy continues to rage and destroy careers and reputations at quite astonishing speed, the prime minister is once again overseas, this time in South Africa, banging the drum for British business.

And once again we are rushing from flight-to-flight catching up with events back in London.

Instead of listening to the prime minister address local business leaders here, his officials can be seen huddling outside around an Ipad listening to BBC Radio 4's World at One or the News Channel.

Start Quote

However good the communications, it is always difficult for a politician to judge the mood of a crisis back home”

End Quote

Sir Paul resigns for this, John Yates resigns for that.

Just as Assistant Commissioner Yates was issuing his statement, Mr Cameron was sipping tea with Desmond Tutu in a leafy suburb of Johannesburg that was once a meeting place of the armed wing of the ANC.

But when asked, the prime minister is bullish about this trip to South Africa. He says it is right for a prime minister to be out there drumming up deals for British businesses.

But some Tory MPs are nervous.

They think Mr Cameron's trips have left him slow to respond to fast-paced developments as the crisis has evolved.

The prime minister is equally robust in response: "Just because I am in Africa doesn't mean I lose contact with my office."

Trip cut short

And he is right, up to a point.

On the flight out to Johannesburg, Mr Cameron repeatedly used the plane's secure satellite phone - and the less secure public one in his armrest - to stay in touch (I wonder whose credit card took the damage?).

But on the military flight back from Afghanistan, Mr Cameron was effectively incommunicado for nine hours.

And however good the communications, it is always difficult for a politician to judge the mood of a crisis back home.

So Mr Cameron has chosen to compromise.

He has already scaled back this trip from four days to just two - and is now expected to cut it back further.

He will still give a speech and a press conference in Nigeria on Tuesday but will return to the UK by the evening, missing a visit to a power station, in order to prepare for his Commons statement on Wednesday.

He had been planning to arrive back in the UK at 0600 Wednesday morning.

The balance he is trying to strike is to be in touch with the crisis but not distracted from other duties.

And not everyone thinks he getting the balance right.

Once again, the reality of government is getting in the way of the duck and dive of politics.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Was I the only 1 who seeing Chris Bryant saying 'officials at Buckingham Palace' warned the PM/PM's office about coulson getting the feeling this was,not to put too fine a point on it,muck raking of the lowest order?He seemed to struggle on detail when challenged by Jon Sopel and now the palace have issued a statement saying it had NOT issued any such warning.More Labour spin to muddy the waters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    BBC can we have a "have your say" comment to discuss the Hypocracy of Ed "yes I was at Rupert Murdoch's summer party" Milliband and the Labour party...oh sorry I forgot you'd never do that as that would go against your editorial bias!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    The problem for Cameron(as for any PM) is that this scandal is growing from phone hacking into one of corrupt practices between the Met and NI.
    His employment of Coulson is being perceived as condoning the misdeeds of NOTW and other Murdoch titles.
    His concern has be that this story will run all the way through the investigations and the court cases, which could take up to 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    102.G Thirde
    I also find it striking they haven't opened a 'comments' section on that story.If it was about Labour and millieband's take on this sordid affair you'd see a comments field open and those with an opposing view either moderated or constantly negatively rated.Bias? You bet,by the bucketful to the BBC's shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    91.Bob Matthews
    Bob I think Cameron has told the truth - yes his judgment may have been poor on appointing Coulson, however if he thought that Coulson was guilty I don't believe he would have employed him. I still don't understant the "outrage" that politicians closely courted the media - all politicians do it to get their message across - they would be stupid not to.


Comments 5 of 107


More Politics stories



  • A very clever little girlBrain gain

    Why are people getting better at intelligence tests?

  • BeefaloBeefalo hunt

    The hybrid animal causing havoc in the Grand Canyon

  • A British Rail signBringing back BR

    Would it be realistic to renationalise the railways?

  • Banksy image of girl letting go of heart-shaped balloonFrom the heart

    Fergal Keane on the relationship between love and politics

  • Don Roberto Placa Quiet Don

    The world's worst interview - with one of the loneliest men on Earth

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.