Coffee House

The problem for Cameron is his proximity to the problem

26 March 2012

The happiest news for David Cameron this morning is that the
‘cash for access’ story hasn’t quite made it onto every front page. But that’s it,
really, so far as the glad tidings are concerned. All the rest is poison for No.10. The Prime Minister is now fighting off calls — including from his own MPs — to release the names of those donors who enjoyed dinner at his Downing Street flat. Labour are, of course, pressing for him
to go further than an internal party inquiry, and launch an independent investigation instead. Today’s furore is not going to simmer down after a few days, or even after a few weeks.

In several respects, all this is trickier for Cameron than, say, the expenses scandal. Not only does it reinforce the persistent idea that the Tories are a party of, for and by the rich (and only
days after they announced the demise of the 50p rate, too), but it also puts the Tory leader on the spot in way that he never has been before. Back when all of Parliament’s expenses were the
concern, Cameron managed to rise above it; imposing transparency on his frontbenchers and encouraging it from his backbenchers. Now, ‘rising above it’ will prove more difficult when
‘it’ revolves around dinners in the prime ministerial flat. Indeed, it will be worth keeping an eye on whether any disgruntled Tory backbenchers take this opportunity to put the boot
into their leader.

This is one reason why No.10 will be particularly eager to dilute this story. They have always regarded Cameron as perhaps their best electoral asset. If he is tarnished, goes the thinking, then so
are the Tories’ electoral chances. But what will they do? Complete and immediate transparency doesn’t appear to be their answer here, on the grounds of donor privacy. So I imagine they’ll try to
bring about a more general overhaul of party donations as soon as possible. And if that also exposes Labour and their union backers, then so be it.

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Show comments
  • Axstane

    4 dinners in 2 years and very small number of guests. Storm in a thimble.

  • wrinkled weasel

    Chris Lancashire: I did a bit of digging. The BBC coverage on Bernie Ecclestone was typically muted but comprehensive. The fact is, the affair was never seriously challenged and the official line from Blair was that it was “old news”.

    In relation to today’s story the BBC have helpfully given us a “history of funding”

    Since the BBC is fond of re-writing history to suit its agenda, it is not surprising that the Ecclestone affair is not included.

  • Sylva

    “They have always regarded Cameron as perhaps their best electoral asset.”

    Peter Hoskin again I feel embarrassed that you are a Journalist. What a waste? Look into the above extract and try to correct your foolishness.

    I am and will never support the Conservative Party in my life but I think they have better assets in the back bench that these Clown as PM.

    Just think about it , with an open goal fighting with the most unpopular PM in UK yet he could not secure an overall majority in the last GE. Then you have the audacity to call him an asset.

    If you do not know Cameron is a LIABILITY both to the Conservative Party and the Nation as a whole.

    He is an accident preparing to occur and this will be speed up by his dole comrade Osborne who is nothing but a Robin Hood in the Pensioners pockets.

    Cameron and Osborne are the most dodgy element in this Country and luck being on the nation side they have been exposed by their trusted Millionaire Co-Treasurer Cuddas.

    Cash for dinner PM and Chancellor. What a ridicule thing to do. With cheap cash you can influence government policy, this is an utter disgrace. They should be ashamed.

    Peter what do you think we are by the way?

    The fact that the scandal is not published on all mainstream Papers ( Just a fraction of the various media) does not mean there are no other means by which the populace get this information.

    You should think of another Job not this one. Being a praise singer will be best.

  • Maggie

    I hope the men who gave Cameron the benefit of their advice and experience were able to suggest ways in which they could expand their businesses, employ more people and increase their profits and therefore their contribution to the Treasury.
    I’d hate to think the Prime Minister was wasting his time entertaining anyone who wanted more benefits, larger handouts from the taxpayer and greater expenditure on quangoes.

  • Pettros

    The details of this will be disregarded rapidly but all that will remain is the underlying impression that “the Tories are poshies who only care about their rich mates”.
    I doubt there has been any actual wrong-doing but it hardly matters.

  • normanc

    Thought this was going to be an article about Cameron living next door to Osborne, but then who can be said to be living in proximity to the problem?

    A chicken and egg problem that one.

    But, yeah, politicians revealed as corrupt, lying scum is hardly news worthy to anyone with a slight grip on reality oustide ‘the bubble’. It’s impossible for them to be held in more contempt by ordinary folks.

  • Mac

    What David Cameron had to say 2 years ago on Labour’s Cash-For-Access scandal involving ex-ministers;

    “What we need is not just a parliamentary investigation, welcome though that is. What we need is a Government investigation into what these ex-ministers have done. Let’s be clear about what’s at stake here. These ministers, Hewitt and Byers, were claiming that they changed Government policy, they got people appointed, they cost the taxpayer money. They are making these claims and that goes to the heart of the issue of the integrity of the Government. We have written to Gus O’Donnell, the Permanent Secretary at Number 10, to get him to investigate, looking at all the departments mentioned to see what happened. It is a question of Government integrity. It can’t be left as it is.”

    Westminster is hopelessly corrupt. Everything is up for sale – Peerages, Politicians, Policies, Privileges, Prime Ministers, indeed a whole Parliament.

  • Radford NG

    So what else is new?M.P.s should should be cut back to the pay and conditions they had in 1944.What ever you think of any one of them they did the job without profesional saleries,expences and conditions.

  • ellis000

    Much as I dislike how Cameron has debased true conservatism in his arrangement with the odious Clegg, I fail to see the difference between this storm in a teacup and what happened under Blair and Brown. Milliband is in a glasshouse with a pocket full of stones all marked by Unison so he is no different. Anybody offended by this should stop looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. They are ALL at it in virtually every democracy in the world. Rich people, lobbyists, unions, NGOs all want access and pay in one way or another for it. I have seen it in action many times, when I worked for global US corporations, and the money flows to the left, the right and the centre without discrimination.

  • Matthew

    “They have always regarded Cameron as perhaps their best electoral asset”.
    No, this is quite wrong. The Tories’ best electoral asset in 2010 was Gordon Brown.

  • TomTom

    “”Cameron as perhaps their best electoral asset” “

    I like that theory – in 2010 he was NEW – in 2015 he will be EXPERIENCED…….and WE were there !

    Find a new “electoral asset” or go down in flames !

  • REPay

    Heirs to Blair indeed – though I doubt he can expect the latitude extended to Blair by a far more compliant media.I now wish Labour had won the 2010 election…even they would have been forced to confront an out of control public finances and might have been able to curb the costs which this government has failed to do, despite noises to the contrary about the non-existent
    “cuts”. The government has wasted two years, hardly reformed anything, not really explained the mess we are in, and is driving an NHS reform which, even if it may have some merit, will be blamed for anything that goes wrong. This latest scandal was so obviously going to happen that it is clear that they learned nothing from the expenses and Labour party scandal or thought that the rules don’t apply to us. The sad thing is this was so avoidable and while you can’t control public finances easily a change of style of government would have cost nothing! It could have been a point of differentiation with Labour but they have so blown it.

  • Vulture

    Well, what did you expect ? – Dave is, after all, the heir to Blair.

    The problem is, he can’t even do what Blair did. Everything he touches turns to turd and the people he picks as his familiars are either crooks or dolts or both.

    And for a former PR man, his PR skills are non-existent. The Tories under Dave and George are now universally seen for what they are – a bunch of spivs whose policies are dictated by their rich chums ( when they aren’t dictated by Brussels).

    They’re all in this together, as someone once said. We need a political purge.

  • Chris lancashire

    wrinkled weasel – spot on – and a fairly small tea cup too.
    Does anyone know what Labour actually did about the Ecclestone affair now that they are calling for a full (and no doubt expensive) inquiry on this?

    One more thing – any politician thinking about sticking their hands in the taxpayers’ pockets (aka “state political funding”)as a solution can think again.

  • ssleddon

    In2minds: spot on.

    With all parties devoid of ideas and principles, politics has become simply a branding exercise, an extension of marketing. With no money to spend and many statutory powers now conceded to Brussels, perhaps this is inevitable – they really haven’t anything better to do.

  • Maggie

    So Gordon Brown can have his £50,000 a year “fund without a name” and his Smith Institute and his friendship with the Murdochs who he regularly entertained and hold seminars in No.11 for pharmaceutical lobbyists, government contractors, supermarket chains and other vested interests – and that’s all right.
    And in return for donations to the Labour Party foreigners can acquire British citizenship.
    And Peter Mandelson can suddenly, after numerous dodgy financial manoevres and without verifiable trace, become a £multi-millionaire and he’ll still be raised to the peerage and revered by BBC interviewers.
    And Stephen Byers can boast on camera about how he has influenced Labour Party policies on behalf of his clients.
    And Tony Blair’s financial sculduggery continues after politics with his dodgy off-shore tax affairs.
    And the vilest BBC Lobbyists for Labour are all tax avoiders through their private companies.

    But David Cameron cannot meet anyone, talk to anyone, communicate with anyone or have any friends without there being baseless allegations made against him. David Cameron must be an absolute paragon of virtue if the holders of the nations unelected sinecures, sleazy millionaire socialists and broadcasting propagandists are having to go to such extreme lengths to denigrate him.

  • statechaos

    It is interesting that it was a Labour lobbyist who assisted the Sunday Times in their sting. And has anybody noticed how the Murdoch press has turned avidly anti-Coalition at the moment, probably down to the Leveson inquiry. If you dig deep enough you will find dirt everywhere, but when the dust settles we will see the true agenda here.

  • Robert Christopher

    “The problem for Cameron is his proximity to the problem”

    You mean, he IS the problem!

  • lloydj

    Message from the Murdochs to ALL politician who are gloating at the recent News International problems:
    ‘So if you want to play hard ball we have a few moves of our own. We will start were it will hurt you most, in your pocket. The Leveson enquiry will cost you more than you think.’
    This is not just an attack on the Tories, there must be many examples of LD and particularly Lab/Union influence out there for all the media to find!

  • Percy

    I wouldn’t worry too much if I was Dave, just ask stratey genius George Osbourne for advice, what could possibly go wrong…..

  • Mac

    There should be no surprises that Westminster politics is corrupt.

    Everything has a price at Westminster. It has always been the biggest Cash & Carry in the UK, whether you are buying politicians, privileges or policies.

  • Moriarty

    Can we expect the development of a cosy cross-party consensus that more public funding is “the way forward”? let’s be clear about one thing: no political party has an automatic right to exist at the expense of the rest of us. If they cannot raise and manage their own finances then they deserve to cease to exist.

  • In2minds

    “Cameron as perhaps their best electoral asset”

    Any political party daft enough to adopt this strategy deserves to fail, this is childish and weak.

  • wrinkled weasel

    Storm in a tea-cup. So, number ten schmoozes high rolling donors? And in other news, dog bites man.

    What short memories some of us have. Tony Bliar, aka Teflon Tony got a £1 million donation from Bernie Ecclestone. Shortly after, and quite coincidentally, a concession was given to Formula One racing related to tobacco advertising.

    Does anybody remember it? Did it do Tony any harm?

    Can any journalist show us that these chicken dinners at Number Ten have had a direct effect on government policy?

  • strapworld

    Spot on Mr Hoskins.

    Your last paragraph is quite laughable. IF that supposition be the truth then pray tell this person why this saint did not achieve a victory over the worst prime minister in modern times, Brown?

    The backbenchers should really get a voice, this scandal cannot be dismissed as’ They all do it’ Just recall Cameron’s promise to deliver a whiter than white administration!
    The man goes from day to day promising this and that.
    Todays worrying promise to is to do something about dementia. My concern, now, is that he will want us all to suffer from it to forget all the broken promises!

  • Magnolia

    Face it, he’s finished.
    They may have all been doing it but it still stinks, just like his Wisteria pruning.
    We True Conservatives and Natural Tories just don’t love David Cameron and George Osborne enough and I for one wouldn’t follow them in to battle because I don’t trust their bravery or their ability.
    They formed a technocratic government for these failed democracy days and in the process lost the support and funds of their own followers.

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