David Cameron will miss an increasing number of Prime Minister’s Questions sessions, has excluded lobby journalists from his arms selling trip to the Middle East, and remains under pressure over secret texts to disgraced ex-News International exec Rebekah Brooks, as questions mount over just how transparent he and his administration really are.
Cameron is in the Gulf this week, ostensibly to sell weapons to the Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates regimes, with little or no discussion of human rights, the Arab Spring or democracy – and all done away from the gaze of journalists.
It is a trip, as the Telegraph’s James Kirkup points out, in which “the prime minister is selling weapons to undemocratic regimes with debatable records on human rights”, that “the purpose of the trip is to sell several billion pounds’ worth of stuff that can kill people to governments that don’t allow their people to vote”.
As today’s Times leader notes (£) of the unseemly opacity:
When the prime minister travels he usually takes with him a group of journalists. Except when he doesn’t. The ability of Downing Street to find a plane to allow correspondents to accompany him has deserted him.
And how inconvenient it is for him that this logistical challenge, easy enough to overcome when visiting President Obama for a festival of photographs, has proven insuperable just at the moment when he was off on a controversial visit to the Middle East to help sell military equipment.
It isn’t an excessively unkind conclusion to reach that David Cameron would prefer not to be watched over too closely when promoting arms sales.
It was recently revealed, meanwhile, that, as well as missing this week’s PMQs because of his Middle East arms selling escapade, David Cameron’s cynical timetabling of next year’s Parliamentary recess dates – four out of seven starting on a Tuesday – means he avoids being held to account by Ed Miliband and the House at Prime Minister’s Questions the following day.
And at the weekend, the content of some of the texts between himself and Brooks was revealed – messages he had sought to keep secret – understandable given the cringeworthy content of them, but, (both the messages and the secrecy) hardly prime ministerial.
One text from Cameron to Brooks read:
“The horse CB [Charlie Brooks] put me on. Fast unpredictable and hard to control but fun DC”
With a fawning Brooks to Cameron message saying:
Brilliant speech. I cried twice. Will love ‘working together’
Most transparent government ever? Lol…