So much has been written and said about Michael Ashcroft’s biography of David Cameron, and yet so few people have turned their gaze to the real scandal brought to the surface by this piece of political agitprop. Not the question of whether the pig story is a porky. Or if the PM was once at a party where Class A drugs were being shared around. Or even the stunning allegation that Mr Cameron may be a bit posh. No, the most shocking aspect of this book is the light it shines on our corrupt, iniquitous, anti-democratic political system.
In the midst of the general tittle-tattle, the rumour mongering and the character assassination dressed up as revelation that have preoccupied the nation these past few days, it seems odd to me that no attention has been paid to one of the central issues of Lord Ashcroft’s book. Which is: how is it even possible that a massively rich man can apparently buy his way into a position of political influence?
Apparently, Ashcroft was motivated to write the book because David Cameron reneged on a promise to give him a top job in government if the Tories won the 2010 election. Once in No 10, Cameron clearly had second thoughts, perhaps deciding that to introduce a controversial figure such as Lord Ashcroft into the centre of government might not be his smartest move.
It should be remembered that Ashcroft, who has donated £8m to the Conservative Party, was ennobled in 2000, an appointment which sparked a public outcry when it emerged that the newly minted Baron was in fact a “non-dom” who also had Belizean citizenship. Through the Cabinet Office, he issued a statement that he would take up permanent residency in the UK and pay the full whack of UK income tax. Ten years later, it was revealed that he still hadn’t made good on this.
And yet Ashcroft still seems to have believed that the moolah he’d given the Tories down the years and the fundraising work he had undertaken was enough to get him a red box and a ministerial Jag. We have become almost blasé about cash for honours, but am I alone in being scandalised by the thought that Lord Ashcroft believed his application for a job helping to run the country could be facilitated by bank transfer?
Politicians can be heard lamenting the fact that public trust in the democratic process is being eroded, and they largely blame the media for this. It’s true that we have an unhealthy interest in personality politics and gossip, and this diminishes proper affairs of state. This week’s feeding frenzy is a good example of this (a friend of mine, who was at the Chipping-Norton-set parties that David Cameron attended, has been called by a variety of newspapers asking him to confirm a number of different scurrilous rumours about the PM and drugs).
But no one brings politics into disrepute better than politicians, and the idea that someone who paid millions to his political party, but whose tax status allowed him to minimise his UK tax bill, should expect (no less) a senior government post – and that we appear to accept that this is the way we do business these days – is surely the most demeaning “revelation” that comes from Lord Ashcroft’s tawdry tome.
David Cameron's biggest controversies
David Cameron's biggest controversies
A book released by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft alleged that an MP and Oxford contemporary of David Cameron had allegedly seen a photograph of Mr Cameron performing a sex act on a pig while at university. Downing Street did not comment on the allegations and the peer said they could have been a case of mistaken identity
David Hartley/REX Shutterstock
2/8 ‘Swarm’ of migrants
In July 2015 David Cameron referred to refugees coming into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa as a “swarm”. He was criticised for using the language, which critics said was dehumanising
3/8 Child tax credits
In April 2015 David Cameron was asked whether he’d cut child tax credits. “No, I don’t want to do that,” he said, saying that he rejected reports that he would. Shortly after the election the Government unveiled cuts to child tax credits
4/8 Cycling to work
As leader of the opposition David Cameron was regularly photographed cycling to work. In early 2006 he was photographed cycling but with a driver in a car carrying his belongings. It was suggested at the time the cycling was just for show and that having two vehicles on the road instead of one was wasteful
5/8 Andy Coulson
David Cameron employed former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as government communications director from 2010. After stepping down from the post due to coverage of the phone hacking affairs, Mr Coulson was later found guilty of conspiracy to intercept voicemails. He served a short prison sentence
6/8 His personal windmill
Early in his leadership of the Conservative David Cameron made an effort to change the party’s image by making eco-friendly gesures. As one of these gestures, the future PM put a wind turbine on his house. However, the turbine later had to be removed after neighbours condemned it as an eyesore and the council’s planning committee said it had been put in the wrong place
7/8 Funeral selfie
David Cameron was pictured posing for a ‘selfie’ with Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Some in the press criticised the prime minister for showing in an inappropriately low level of respect for the gravity of the occasion
8/8 Eating a hotdog with a knife and fork
The Prime Minister was pictured eating a hotdog with a knife and fork in the run up to the 2015 general election. He was accused of being “posh”. “I had a very privileged upbringing... I've never tried to hide that,” he said
- More about:
- lord ashcroft