Out of touch. Out of control: The Tories in turmoil

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The Conservatives' smooth PR mask slipped as scandal and silliness reigned

"There are many laws that help us to make sense of the world," George Osborne wrote in the Financial Times last week. "The laws of physics, the law of averages."

This weekend, the Chancellor may be searching for a name for a third law to try to make sense of the extraordinary aftermath of his Budget which has left a Prime Minister humiliated over dodgy dinners and Cornish pasties, and left a woman hospitalised for burns, apparently after following the advice of a cabinet minister.

The law of jerry cans, perhaps?

This has been one of the most bizarre weeks that British politics has seen.

Sorry Sunday

Three days of bad, post-Budget headlines have left the Tories struggling to defend a tax raid on pensioners – their core supporters. Worse is to come. The Sunday Times has footage showing co-treasurer Peter Cruddas telling reporters they can buy private suppers with Cameron and Osborne, and some influence over party policy, for £250,000, the "Premier League" of donors. At 12.32am Cruddas resigns, expressing regret at his bluster. No 10 refuses to publish details of the dinners, insisting they are private.

Elsewhere, The Independent on Sunday reveals a secret plot by the Government to build a third runway at Heathrow. A third front-page exclusive – briefed by No 10 in the hope of turning attention from the Budget backlash to Labour's links with the unions – in the Mail on Sunday says that soldiers are on standby to drive petrol tankers during a threatened strike by Unite. Union officials are baffled as they had not yet announced a strike date.

Manic Monday

Cameron starts each day at 5.45am, reading newspapers and documents to be the best briefed person in any room. But this morning he could be forgiven for wanting to remain in the dark. The secret dinners story is running big. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, a privately educated millionaire, goes on the Today programme to dismiss the furore as "nonsense".

Within hours, No 10 is forced into a U-turn: it publishes a list of Cameron's dinners with donors. Rupert Murdoch tweets: "Great Sunday Times scoop. What was Cameron thinking? No one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story." Meanwhile Unite fuel tanker drivers vote for strike action, but still don't set a date.

Turmoil Tuesday

A poll in The Independent shows that two-thirds of people believe the Tories are the party of the rich. The Express and Mail warn that "90 per cent of garages will shut" with Britain "held to ransom by 1,000 tanker drivers". Downing Street urges drivers to take sensible precautions.

The Chancellor appears before the Treasury Select Committee. His bizarre proposals to slap 20 per cent VAT on takeaway food served above ambient temperature dominate. The idea raises the prospect of someone at the back of the queue avoiding VAT because a tray of pasties has cooled by the time they are served. Asked when he last bought a pasty in Greggs, Osborne replies, "I can't remember."

Weird Wednesday

New figures show the economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2011. On any normal day, this – coupled with warnings of a double-dip recession – would dominate. But this is not any normal day. "Wednesday felt like the day when it all went weirdly out of control," says a No 10 insider.

As spin-doctors try to agree a line on what motorists should do, they see Maude on television telling people the strike would put "lives are at risk". Speaking on the steps of the Cabinet Office, he adds: "The greater the extent to which people have fuel in their vehicles, with maybe a little bit in the garage as well, in a jerry can, the longer we will be able to keep things going."

Around the corner, outside the Treasury, a model from The Sun, dressed as Marie Antoinette, hands out pasties and sausage rolls to office workers.

Cameron tries to rise above the silliness with a press conference about the Olympics, but is forced into a bakery confessional: "I am a pasty-eater myself. I think the last one I bought was from the West Cornwall Pasty Company. I seem to remember I was in Leeds station ... I have a feeling I opted for the large one and very good it was, too."

Whoops. The West Cornwall outlet in Leeds shut in 2007. The last pasty shop at Leeds station closed days after the Budget. And it later emerges that instead of Leeds, the PM might have been thinking of Liverpool. Someone in the Labour camp has a bright idea, and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves are dispatched to buy eight sausage rolls in a Greggs in Redditch, declaring the Chancellor "out of touch".

There are few ways the day could get odder. But the Prime Minister playing badminton – not a sport of the masses – in the Downing Street garden, in front of TV cameras, does the trick.

Long after the last pasty has cooled and the shuttlecocks are packed away, the Roads minister, Mike Penning, tells Newsnight that Maude was wrong: "He didn't understand the size of a jerry can. He has apologised."

Thorny Thursday

A report in The Times that Andrew Mitchell, the millionaire International Development Secretary, was once an investor in a firm that avoided stamp duty has the potential to damage the Tory brand further. Yet it is little noticed as the fuel queues grow.

Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, has fresh advice: "The average tank is a third full, and I think if we can increase the average maybe to two-thirds..." Demand for petrol rises 172 per cent, diesel by 77 per cent. Dorset police shut petrol stations. A man in Ilkley, Yorkshire, is seen snatching a pump from a female driver.

The pasty war is not over either. The Sun urges its army of readers to go into a Morrisons supermarket, buy a sausage roll "and eat it at exactly 1pm to show just what you think of the tax".

David Davis, a rival to Cameron for the Tory leadership, criticises the Cabinet of millionaires: "They [the public] look at the front bench and they see them all well dressed, well turned out, well fed, and perhaps feel they're in a different world."

Fill-up Friday

Salvation, of sorts, arrives in the form of George Galloway's shock victory in the Bradford West by-election. But the bad news for Miliband came too late for most newspapers, which are still gripped by the coalition's woes.

Shortly after 9.30am, the BBC reports that a 46-year-old woman, Diane Hill, has suffered 40 degree burns decanting petrol in her kitchen while cooking dinner. Within minutes, Labour MPs tweet that Maude must resign. Cameron says: "This was absolutely a desperate incident and a terrible thing that has happened to this woman."

Within an hour, Unite announces the tanker drivers will not hold a strike over Easter after all, leaving the distinct impression that the week's events have been a little unnecessary. In an attempt to restock supplies, restrictions on fuel tanker drivers' hours are temporarily relaxed.

Slower Saturday

Charles Moore, the Telegraph columnist, reports that the petrol panic was a Tory confection to expose Labour for being in hock to the unions – a "Thatcher moment". The problem is every driver in the land now feels like a pawn in a great political game.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, attacks the Government's efforts to "politically charge" the dispute. The story by now has gone international. Libération in France runs an article on how for three days the UK has "looked like a beleaguered country". Britain has been "plonger dans le chaos" over the Budget, petrol and pasties.

When a nation of patisseries reports Britain's global standing being threatened by a tax on "pâtés en croute", every law of political sanity have surely been broken.

What the papers say: 'A pie-eating contest would perhaps be in order...'

As I watched the Budget and saw Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander [I] did get that "What do they know about anything?" feeling which, polls suggest, is doing the coalition harm.

Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

The Chancellor and his rich cabinet colleagues cannot begin to understand what it's like to be so hard-up that a sharp rise in the price of a pasty will hurt.

The Sun editorial

Cameron has little time to put things right – once the public has made up its mind, no force on earth can change it. The proxies and cronies must go.

Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

The tax has ignited a political firestorm... leading the posh British prime minister, David Cameron, to claim — not all that convincingly — that he, truly, is an aficionado of the pasty (which rhymes with nasty).

Landon Thomas Jnr, New York Times

A pie-eating contest between Cameron and Miliband would perhaps be in order. We cannot wait.

Tina Kaiser, Die Welt

It is time Mr Cameron and his Chancellor realised how disconnected they appear from the people they purport to rule, and whose votes they seek.

Simon Heffer, Daily Mail

Crumbs – a quiz! Jerry Can Manor Pasty Person?

Fuel strikes and VAT hikes have exposed the great divisions in Britain today. Do you prefer bankers or bakers? Do you dine in Downing Street or grab a pie on the go? Take Matt Chorley's quiz to see whether you are too posh for pastry.*

(*Excludes beef Wellington)

What is an oggie?

A A delicious snack, counts as one of your five a day

B A beastly schoolmaster

You pop to the garage. Why?

A To buy de-icer, charcoal and a wind-up torch

B To check the chauffeur has polished the Bentley

How to pronounce "pasty"?

A Past-y

B Paste-y

When do you have tea?

A When you get round to cooking after work

B When Carson brings a tray of Earl Grey to the drawing room

How many pasties laid end to end stretch from Leeds station to Downing Street?

A 1,372,800

B Now, yes, Leeds, I went there once. Got a castle?

What do you expect from a dinner guest?

A A bottle of Kumala red, and some scandalous gossip

B A cheque for £250,000 and some policy ideas

Where do you crimp?

A On the top

B At a card table

Greggs has a special offer on. Do you?

A Buy six sausage rolls

B Book a table for two, by the window

Complete this West Country schoolboy's song: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John/ate a pasty five feet long/Bit it once, Bit it twice/Oh my Lord, it's...?

A Full of mice

B A lot of pastry and then mostly potato on the inside

Of all the characters in The Good Life, who can expect to be told off by Margot?

A Is it Homer?

B Jerry can

How did you do?

Mostly As – You're a pasty-eating man (or woman) of the people

Mostly Bs – You wouldn't go near a pasty without a knife and fork

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone