Consider that mysterious character, the government adviser. He encourages you act in a certain way, you reject most of his key recommendations, but are associated with them nevertheless. So much so, that you find yourself defending them in the Commons and losing your temper again.
And so it came to pass.
Any rational observer ought to have some sympathy for the government over the Beecroft report. Quick primer: jobbing venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft – whose ventures include payday loans firm Wonga – recommended radical reforms to employment law, which would have resulted in making it easier to sack people, and reducing family friendly policies. Number 10 didn’t really like it – “No one really has any idea what went on with this report,” a Downing Street source told the Daily Telegraph. “It was very much [former Tory policy guru] Steve Hilton’s project. The whole thing is a bit dodgy and we wish it had never happened.”
The business secretary Vince Cable described it the report “nonsense”.
So why then did David Cameron, having filleted most of the meat from the report, feel the need to defend it at PMQs? One could speculate that it was loyalty to Beecroft, a Conservative donor, or simply an attempt to save face. Instead, the Prime Minister lost it.
As Ed Miliband fired hard on Beecroft, the Prime Minister again became riled. In an ill-tempered exchange, he branded shadow chancellor Ed Balls a “muttering idiot” – and was later reprimanded for unparliamentary language. It’s just the latest. The Telegraph has published a handy guide to the PMQs gibes Cameron “may come to regret”. Featured among the list are gems such as attacking Tory rightwinger Nadine Dorries for being “frustrated”; telling Labour’s Angela Eagle to “calm down dear”; and mocking Labour stalwart Dennis Skinner’s advanced years.
I wrote a few weeks ago about Cameron’s problem of playing the man, not the ball. It continues. It’s mystifying as to why Cameron got himself here again. The Beecroft report may be unpopular, but it was advice, not policy – and it wasn’t of Cameron’s making. Why go to hell to defend it?