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

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing