Until late on Saturday evening, Peter Cruddas was an acceptable and even agreeable face of the modern Conservative Party. The son of a Smithfield meat market trader, he grew up on the Bracklyn Court Estate in Hackney and left school at 15 with no qualifications. Within 20 years his financial wizardry had generated a personal fortune of hundreds of millions.
This rags-to-riches tale is strikingly similar to that of David "Spotty" Rowland, Cruddas's predecessor as Tory treasurer. He too never sat for an O-level, and when 15 was convicted of petty larceny at a juvenile court in Wimbledon for stealing £2 worth of goods. He resigned from Tory high command in disgrace after just two months in post, following revelations about his business practices.
Now Cruddas has gone after brave, inspirational Sunday Times reporters proved beyond doubt that David Cameron and George Osborne are men whose ear and time can be bought for the right price.
Four points come to mind. First, the statement released by the Tories – "Donations to the Conservative Party do not buy party or government policy" – might have been necessary, but will probably haunt them in the future. Second, it is not just voters who have been wronged. It is the other lobbyists and ambassadors of the moneyed interest who were willing to pay vast sums for the chance to sup fizz in Downing Street.
Third, it cannot be stated enough that Cruddas would not have said what he said to the undercover reporters unless there is a culture within the party, and our politics more generally, of shady deals, corporate purchase of influence, cash for access to Cameron and Osborne, and corruption generally. He simply cannot have said what he did unless his words, or something very close to them, are fundamentally true.
Poll after poll suggests the public think David Cameron, the Etonian son of a stockbroker who married into the aristocracy, and George Osborne, impish heir to a baronetcy, have no idea what life is like for most ordinary folk.
In an astonishing, under-reported and ultra-personal attack, Tory MP Nadine Dorries told the Financial Times this month: "The problem is policy is being run by two public school boys [Cameron and Osborne] who don't know what it's like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can't afford it for their children's lunchboxes. What's worse, they don't care either."
The fourth point is this: the charge that government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich rules in Austerity Britain is getting very hard to refute.Reuse content