POLITICS

David Cameron Accused Of Recalling Parliament To Appease 'Thatcher Worshippers' In Murdoch Press

11/04/2013 15:29 BST | Updated 11/04/2013 16:00 BST

Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has accused David Cameron of deliberately politicising the death of Margaret Thatcher for partisan gain.

Writing on his blog on Thursday, Campbell said he suspected the prime minister had recalled parliament from recess in order to associate himself closely with a strong leader and gain the support of his right-wing backbenchers.

"The Conservatives are supposed to believe in tradition and precedent. Yet Cameron decided to ditch both, tear up his own travel plans, and head back to London effectively to demand a recall of parliament," he said.

"Perhaps he thinks her presence back at the heart of national debate will help him with the difficult decisions ahead, on welfare for example."

"The break with tradition and precedent, the recall of parliament, and the nature of the funeral arrangements – effectively a State funeral by stealth, without full parliamentary approval – which have politicised the death in a way that was not necessary and risks becoming horribly divisive, that word so often associated with Mrs Thatcher’s style and policies," he said.

Campbell said it was impossible for Ed Miliband to do anything other than agree to the recall without being accused of "tribally disrespecting a huge national figure".

"Prime ministers are rightly powerful people. Cameron used that power to make sure that what he wanted happened," he said.

The former Downing Street communications director also suggests the prime minister feared retribution from Fleet Street including "Thatcher worshippers on the Murdoch papers" if he did not "bow down in worship" alongside them.

According to The Guardian Speaker John Bercow was taken aback by Cameron's request that parliament be recalled, as the plan had been for tributes to be paid on Monday when the Commons returned from recess.

Yesterday Tory MPs packed the Commons to pay tribute to their former leader. Ed Miliband's speech was warmly welcomed by many Conservatives, however several Labour MPs used the debate to highlight Thatcher's divisive legacy.

Cameron has also come under fire for moving to cancel prime minister's questions on Wednesday as it clashes with Thatcher's funeral.

The prime minister defended the recall of parliament, telling Sky News today it was a "fitting send off to our first ever woman prime minister".

Told about Campbell's accusations, Cameron responded: "Oh, well I think we can discount that."