Why won't the Tories tell us who their best friends are?

They held two parties last week. Nothing intriguing about the first, but the second...

The business of government, you might have thought last week, is a social affair, and getting elected mostly beneficial as a way to meet interesting people. Prime ministers weren't always so much fun. They glowered from behind a desk, and if they worried about things such as likeability it didn't much show. The job was to lead, to set a direction of travel for the country and sweep us along.

Today, David Cameron is more interested in listening. He seems like a chat show host, with a rotating cast of the great and the good visiting his sofa, staying for a scripted chat, and then trotting off again. The difference is: with Jonathan Ross and Graham Norton, we get to assess the interaction. With Mr Cameron, it's all off the record. And so, attentive though he may be, it seems important that he is listening to the right people.

Last week the Tories threw not just one party, but two. The first, for those in the creative industries, was held at the Foreign Office, and Mr Cameron wanted everyone to know about it. The phrase "Cool Britannia", which felt fresh and funny for at least 15 or 20 seconds after it was first trotted out in 1997, was invoked again; as the guests arrived, though, it began to feel a bit misplaced. It is a strange world in which this lot are the cream of our "creative industries", a world in which England is a footballing powerhouse, and a Harvester deserves a Michelin star.

Instead of Noel Gallagher and Helen Mirren, we had Danielle Lineker and John Barrowman, the Poundland Tom Cruise; the stars on show were relentlessly lame, and, whether by accident or design, no one was present who might conceivably have rocked the boat. It was Good Morning Britain with a glass of bubbly, and it made you think: if politics is showbusiness for ugly people, perhaps showbusiness is politics for unthinking people.

Danielle Lineker at the Creative Industries party Danielle Lineker at the Creative Industries party Apparently a lot of bigger names stayed away, afraid of the association. As those who did turn up cocked a hip on the steps of the FCO, they all seemed to make the same uneasy calculation: could it really be that I'm the coolest person here? And if so, isn't that really bad news? Noel Gallagher said he took coke in the Queen's toilet; if Michael McIntyre or Katherine Jenkins had had the chance, the limits of their rebellion, one assumes, would have been to tweet a selfie with a royalist hashtag.

It's been suggested that this tells us something about the Tories' relative lack of street cred, but to me there's another, slightly uglier conclusion to draw: one that describes how a large segment of our cultural elite has cosied up to its political counterpart. It's come about as the provenance of the Conservative party's leadership has narrowed to an ever smaller chunk of Notting Hill; as social liberalism has become an almost universal value among metropolitan elitists of all stripes, the healthy thing that kept those worlds apart has been eroded.

Kirstie Allsopp, who has wedded her conservatism neatly to the acquisitive model of home ownership that she has made her personal brand, was of course invited; David Cameron's biographer is the editor of GQ; the creator of Downton Abbey is a Tory peer; Gary Barlow is a Conservative supporter and tax-avoider. If, in the days of Tony Blair, politics became obsessed with being cool, perhaps – far more depressingly – in the Cameron era culture has become just another branch of capitalism.

Eliza Doolittle was also there Eliza Doolittle was also there Barlow, shunned since the revelation of his little problem with the Revenue, wasn't there, loyal though he is. The party was, in any case, not the main event. A little later, a group of 60 "media business executives" were invited to a private meal with William Hague and David Cameron. Aled Jones did not make the cut.

It's easy to find something sinister in this sort of dinner-table hobnobbing, but the conspiracy theories aren't always right. It's reasonable for our leaders to keep in touch with captains of industry so long as whatever representations they make aren't backed up by money. Move along, nothing to see here.

Move along, in fact, to Wednesday night, which, if you want to compose a sinister conspiracy theory, provides you with much stronger material. It was the night of the Tories' annual summer fundraiser, held at the Hurlingham Club in London. This time there were no celebrities. The Conservatives didn't release the invitation list for the first party because they didn't want us to know who didn't come; they didn't release the list for the second because they didn't want us to know who did.

Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and the wife of a former finance minister in Putin’s Russia paid £160,000 for a tennis match with Boris Johnson and David Cameron Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and the wife of a former finance minister in Putin’s Russia paid £160,000 for a tennis match with Boris Johnson and David Cameron Still, we can identify at least one guest: Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and the wife of a former finance minister in Putin's Russia, was named by The Guardian and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism (BIJ) as the bidder who secured a game of tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson for a mere £160,000. And if we go back to last year's summer fundraiser, a clearer picture emerges, courtesy of a guest list leaked to the BIJ last week. Peter Stringfellow aside, the names are much less familiar than those at the Foreign Office do; but they wield a rather heavier sort of influence.

Does any of this break any laws? No, absolutely not. Is it corrupt? Judge for yourself.

There was the Earl of Clanwilliam; a PR adviser for the government of Bahrain, who sat on the same table as Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary; there was the investment banker Howard Shore, who has donated £450,000 to the Conservative party – he shared a table with the Prime Minister; there was the aviation magnate Constantine Logothetis, who sat, conveniently enough, with Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary. And there was James Henderson, chief executive of the public affairs firm Bell Pottinger, who explained hotly: "We do not go there to lobby ministers in any form. We go there to support the Party. Apart from shaking a hand, I don't believe I have ever spoken to a minister at any of these events."

Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer arrives at the Creative Industries party Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer arrives at the Creative Industries party If I was a client of Bell Pottinger, I would want to know why on earth he wasn't doing a bit of light lobbying, given such a golden opportunity. The truth, of course, is that his analysis misunderstands – perhaps wilfully – the real nature of influence. It reminds me of Jeremy Clarkson's defence of the cosy Chipping Norton Christmas dinner that he attended at Rebekah Brooks's house, where Mr Cameron was also present: all the politician and the media executive talked about, he insisted, was sausage rolls.

What Mr Henderson and Mr Clarkson ignore is that it's the conversation about sausage rolls, the lobbying-free support for the Party, that makes the next conversation about policy just that little bit easier. Consider Mr Henderson's phrase "any of these events". Exactly how many is he talking about? Shaking a hand may not be the same as having a chat about your client's interests, but do it often enough and you may begin to notice that those conversations become a little easier.

Shake hands often enough, and you might even come to consider yourself friends. And you can tell a lot about today's Conservative Party from its friends. Whether inanely preening on the steps of the Foreign Office, or hiding their faces behind their invitations, they have one thing in common: they all, without exception, have something to sell.

News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin