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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game