Andrew Grice: Cameron's terrible week shows he can no longer get benefit of the doubt

 

Share
Related Topics

For David Cameron, the worst moment in a torrid week came when he watched a TV news bulletin showing the footage of Peter Cruddas, the Conservatives' former co-treasurer, telling undercover reporters that a £250,000 donation to the party would secure dinner at the Prime Minister's Downing Street flat.

Mr Cameron cringed. In his mind, a few boastful and totally untrue statements by a newly-appointed fundraiser could undo his painstaking efforts to put Tory finances on a more healthy footing. When he became leader in 2005, the party was dependent on huge donations from a handful of millionaires. Today, it has broadened its funding base and receives many £50,000 donations.

There was plenty of competition for Mr Cameron's worst moment. His most sticky period since becoming Prime Minister began with last week's Budget. Mr Cameron believed the Government could win the argument over George Osborne's controversial decision to cut the 50p tax rate on incomes over £150,000. But he had not reckoned on the outcry over the "granny tax"– the freezing of the personal allowances of pensioners. The two were a toxic combination, reviving suggestions that the Tories are the "party of the rich".

The image was reinforced by Mr Cruddas's ill-judged remarks to Sunday Times reporters posing as would-be Tory donors. The huge amounts of money involved – and the explosive suggestion that donors could buy influence over policy – echoed Labour's favourite attack lines on "out of touch" Tories looking after their rich friends.

There was worse to come. Amid near farcical scenes, Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron both tripped up over the Chancellor's decision to extend VAT to pies and pasties sold hot. First Mr Osborne could not recall when he last had a pasty and was dubbed "Marie Antoinette". When Mr Cameron tried to avoid the same trap, he fell into a deeper hole. He recalled his most recent pasty – at Leeds railway station, but a sceptical media soon established that the shop he had claimed to visit closed five years ago.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, added to the impression of an "out of touch" ruling party by playing down Mr Cameron's "kitchen suppers" with Tory donors and then suggesting motorists beat the threatened tanker drivers' strike by filling "jerry cans".

Conservative jitters were enhanced by a ComRes poll in The Independent which gave Labour a ten-point lead, its highest for seven years, and found that 66 per cent of people view the Tories as "the party of the rich".

"They think we're toffs," David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary, told BBC Radio 4 yesterday. "They look at the front bench, see them all very well dressed, well turned out, well fed, and perhaps feel that they're in a different world to them. That's why the 'we're all in this together' phrase is very important – but at the moment it's not working."

Mr Cameron started 2012 with a purple patch, while Ed Miliband came in for growing criticism within Labour. Now, suddenly, the roles have reversed.

Mr Cameron remains cool under fire, dismissing recent events as a bout of the mid-term blues that afflict all governments and are inevitable in an age of austerity. He calms his nerves by reminding himself that he is less than two years into a five-year administration. But he will want to "get a grip" – and soon.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee