David Cameron won the leadership of his party telling activists to “let sunshine win the day”. Into the 2010 General Election he went, promising to clean up a political system discredited by MPs’ expenses. Here was the man to bring about transparency in the lobbying industry and even end “crony capitalism”, to heal Britain’s sickly politics.
Ten years on those sunbeams lie broken in the gutter.
He can’t shake off his association with Andy Coulson, a man he put at the heart of government but who ended up serving a spell at Her Majesty’s pleasure and is now soon to be tried for perjury in Scotland. In keeping such company, we don’t so much see Cameron as a man who would do anything for his friends as one who will do anything for power.
Way back then, Cameron’s promise was that he would “take the power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman on the street”. In reality, he has abused Number 10 to host dinners for donors, and filled the boots of funders with Lords placements and government access.
Going begging to his donors again when his party blinged up and stepped out for their Black and White gala dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel, this was certainly not the politics of “the man and woman in the street”.
Hedge-fund billionaires, porn barons and c-list celebrities feasted on the main offer: access to the highest levels of the Tory party.
For the sort of loose change that drops off from the average tax avoidance deal, a gala attendee could buy a shoe shopping trip with the Home Secretary. Or perhaps an Iron Man cross-country run on the family estate of Iain Duncan Smith, a man untroubled by the irony of waving the luxury he enjoys in the face of the penury he wrought on hundreds of thousands with his bedroom tax.
The auction was shrouded in secrecy so we will never know who of this bunch bought time and access to the highest levels of governance. But we must never let the electorate forget that in seeking to run our government, the Tory party will sell its soul. With this, Cameron’s descent into sleaze is complete.
There has been the odd peep of disquiet among one or two in the Tory press over this grotesque abuse of the offices of state but this pales to a whimper compared to the full-blown hysteria over trade union affiliation to the Labour Party. Of course, they’ve chosen their colours – but how dare they, in all conscience, compare the honest pennies given by millions of working men and women to support their party with the £12m given by only eight City high-rollers in search of a party to buy.
Cameron came to power with the promise to clean up politics. If there is fairness in this world, he will be driven from number 10 accompanied by the stench of sleaze – even disregarding the voting public just months before a general election by voting to keep second jobs for MPs.
Voters who craved a fresh start after the expenses scandal in 2010, who were told to swallow austerity but denied the reform sorely needed to avert another banking crash, who heard time and again “we’re all in this together” as their living standards went through the floor have every right to be sickened.
When I speak to people up and down the country they are angry with politics, a common belief that those in Westminster abide by different standards to the rest of us. They may come for our votes every five years but the rest of the time our politics motors along on the petrol of dirty money and cronyism.
This Prime Minister courts the powerful in order to deliver a government that will bring harm to the vulnerable; this must never be allowed to happen again. Which is why the contrast this presents with Ed Miliband ought not be lost.
Peter Oborne wrote in February, that where Cameron has sucked up to money and power, Miliband has bravely – and to his cost in subsequent media treatment – taken on “establishment interests”. Yes, this shows a man of integrity and courage, but for our tattered political life it promises something much more precious, something destroyed in these years of Tory rule but that we must fight to restore: decency.
We have that chance for as Oborne says “consider this: if Ed Miliband does become prime minister, he will have done so without owing anything to anybody.” This, friends, is how our ruined politics can begin to be renewed.
- This article first appeared in Tribune, March 8