Leading article: Cameron still has much to do

Share
Related Topics

Here is the deal and why it is still not sealed. David Cameron has shown himself to be a highly proficient politician who has learned a great deal from Tony Blair about how to win against a tired, long-serving government. He is personable, clever and has done a good marketing job of changing perceptions of the Conservative brand.

He has even made a start at convincing us that his core values have changed from the old-school Toryism of his upbringing and the brittle Thatcherism of his youth. He has made a reasonable fist of arguing that, as the author of the 2005 Conservative manifesto, he was simply doing a presentation job on the right-wing programme of an older man, Michael Howard. He had his doubts, he would like us to know, even if he has to rely on what the Prime Minister would call the "props" of his family in order to persuade us.

It is argued plausibly on his behalf that the experience of raising his severely disabled son has changed his attitudes to the public services, and to the NHS in particular. And there is no doubt that his conversion to the cause of environmentalism is made more credible by his wife's former membership of Greenpeace. Yet the doubts remain, and over the past few months, while the financial crisis and the Labour leadership soap opera have dominated the news, it has felt as if Mr Cameron was allowing his party to snuggle back under its comfort blanket. Over the summer, he and George Osborne, his shadow chancellor who is interviewed by the IoS today, seem to have soft-pedalled on the "progressive" goals of the new Conservatism.

Mr Cameron has said, rightly, that we do not have to choose between economic growth and green objectives, but has not followed it up. The most notable recent stories have been "clarifying" an inheritance tax cut for couples worth £2m and a refusal to match future Labour spending that Tory activists have seized on enthusiastically as a promise of further tax cuts in the future. Above all, while the critique of New Labour has been sharp, the alternative policies have been fuzzy.

Our report today about the cloudiness of Conservative Party funding casts further doubts on Mr Cameron's conversion to a new way of doing politics. At the time of the Derek Conway business earlier this year, when the Tory MP was found to have put his son on the public payroll in return for no visible work, Mr Cameron ringingly declared: "Any arrangements we enter into are ones we are prepared to protect and defend in a court of public opinion."

To be fair, he showed some steel in forcing his reluctant MPs to publish details of family members they employed. But he has fallen short of the openness that he promised. The use of private clubs as a conduit for donations is an obvious loophole in the law that requires disclosure and that bans foreign money. Given the problems that Mr Blair had with funding, Mr Cameron should have acted before now.

As we reveal today, the Conservative Party under his leadership has received millions of pounds via unincorporated associations. We have no idea who the original donors are, or if they are on the electoral register in this country.

Our confidence in Mr Cameron is not strengthened by his continued evasiveness about the promises made by Lord Ashcroft, deputy chairman and one of the party's largest donors, who is personally funding Tory candidates in marginal seats. When Michael Ashcroft was raised to the peerage, he undertook to become resident in the UK for tax purposes, a question on which he now claims a right to privacy. Mr Cameron says that he accepts the assurances Lord Ashcroft has given him. This is not good enough for the rest of us. A candidate prime minister needs to do more to defend his party's funding in the "court of public opinion".

A believable commitment to clean up party funding is a precondition of gaining a hearing for a Conservative way of achieving the goals of social justice, civil liberty and environmental sustainability to which Mr Cameron now claims his party is dedicated.

The theme of Mr Cameron's message to his party on the eve of its annual conference is that it has not yet "sealed the deal" with the electorate. That is another way of putting this newspaper's unfashionable observation that all is not yet lost for Labour and Gordon Brown. The temptation in Birmingham this week will be for Tory activists to think that the fight for the allegiance of The Sun and the Daily Mail is all that matters, and that the right response to economic hard times is to cut taxes. With the election at most 20 months away, Mr Cameron has to tell them what they do not want to hear if he is to start to seal the deal with the wider electorate.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
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
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
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
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
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
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker