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Let’s give Cameron a Doris Day moment over Ashcroft

Posted on 10 February 2010 | 10:02am

David Cameron, his eye ever on a passing bandwagon, used the prosecutions arising from the expenses scandal to leap upon the one marked ‘new politics.’

Put to one side the fact that his remarks seemed to drive a bus through the age old principle of innocent until proven guilty, they also showed up a phenomenal lack of judgement.

Because his attack would appear to be the thing that is finally bringing to the boil what GB at the weekend called the Ashcroft scandal. All Cameron’s calls for transparency and openness are utterly hollow so long as he and his Party fail to answer the very straight-forward questions about Ashcroft’s tax status, and the conditions he was asked to meet on becoming a peer. The Information Commissioner has criticised Cameron and Co for being evasive and obfuscatory on Ashcroft, and despite the news blackout in most areas of the media, this one is going to blow up as a big issue some time before or during the election campaign.

Watching first Sir George Young and then Michael Gove try to answer simple questions on Ashcroft on Monday’s Newsnight, was just over the embarrassing side of comical.

We now have the situation of Cameron saying one day that it is no longer acceptable for parliamentarians to regard their tax affairs as wholly private affairs, and literally the next day say the opposite. New politics? Sounds like same old Tory arrogance to me. The arrogance of believing you have any right even to ask questions about transparency when you are so closed up about the man who has been pouring huge funds into key marginal seats.

The role of most newspapers and broadcasters has been pathetic in this but the signs are that is changing and that Ashcroft’s bankrolling of the Tories is going to become the issue it deserves to be.

Meanwhile, as another bandwagon rolled by Chateau Cameron the other day, he said that if on any issue people signed 100,000 names on a petition, the issue would be debated in the Commons. Do these people ever stop to think?

It reminded me of a similiarly pathetic and populist move by one time Canadian opposition leader Stockwell Day who said that if enough people expressed a view there should be a referendum on any given issue, a government led by him would grant it.

The team of wily PM Jean Chretien immediately got going on a campaign to get huge numbers of signatures for a petition demanding that the first referendum under the new government be on the question ‘Should Stockwell Day change his first name to Doris?’. Day started to dive in the polls under the weight of the hilarity. Defiant, he said it was not over till the Fat Lady sings. Cue the hiring of teams of overweight singers who turned up at his rallies singing ‘Que Sera Sera’

‘The future’s ours, to see….’ and it is bleak if this lot get their hands on Britain. Come on Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, anyone who knows the Cameron-Ashcroft Party would be a disaster for Britain – let’s get going with Dave’s Doris Day moment. 100k names on a petition calling for a debate on Ashcroft. Papers, radio stations, telly, where’s your sense of humour gone? We need some fun in this campaign.

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  • Jonathan

    Blimey! Is this really all Labour has got? Couple of jibes at an individual? Dog-whistling “Chateau Cameron” epithet.

    Whatever happened to the “moral compass”, the “end to boom and bust”, the “end to child poverty”, “education, education, eductation”? At least those were policies, if overpromised and under-delivered policies.

    New Labour has nothing to show for its 13 years in office. That is why its campaign for re-election seems to consist entirely of personal insults.

  • Paul Hardy

    Chretien was in so many ways not an obvious politician – looked and sounded a bit odd. But he was a terrific tactician and his wit could be deadly. The S Day story had me remembering all that. Good luck

  • Hal Johnson

    Hope you’re right it is becoming an issue. I live in one of Ashcroft’s marginals and the weight of Tory materials is impressive. People need to know where it is all coming from and how evasive the Tories are about him and his money. Can’t help thinking that if this was a Labour peer, doing something similar, he would be as well as known as Simon Cowell or Becks by now

  • Andy

    I’m admittedly a bit behind here.

    If we’re talking about Lord Ashcroft, can Labour also clarify the non dom or tax status of Lord Paul please?

  • M Mason

    Jonathan, this is a blog not a political manifesto. Lighten up. This sounds a great idea. The Tories deserve to be skewered over Ashton. In the Ealing and Shepherds Bush marginal the leaflets he is paying for are being distributed by an agency which uses illegal immigrants to do the work. More Tory hypocracy there.

  • Patrick James

    Mine was signature number 29 🙂

  • s chapman

    AC – Arrogant Campbell….to call the Tories arrogant is the best case of “pot calling the kettle black” I’ve ever heard…with the prospect of a sterling crisis and round 2 of the Credit Crunch – all you can bleat on about so arrogantly is a guys tax status..does anybody care in the scheme of things….jobs lost,debt mountain,a change in direction for politics…and any prospect of 5yrs more years of GB,these are what matter.

  • Jonathan – left

    Mine was signature 388 to still a long way to go. Oh yes we must keep Cameron’s background to the fore and how can anyone say that the last 12 years have not seen improvments. Just look at the infrastructure improvements in schools and hospitals. Look at the higher staffing levels in all the main services. On a seriouse point – how can we convince people that crime has reduced if no-one believes the figures?

  • Em

    It was Rick Mercer of the political satire show “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” who started the Stockwell/Day petition”

    from wiki:
    “2000-01 – Often cited as the show’s best joke, the sketch was aired during the 2000 federal election campaign, and consisted of a staged rant by Rick Mercer.

    When former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day ran for Prime Minister of Canada, he proposed a mechanism to call for a referendum. A petition on any particular subject which gathered at least 350,000 signatures of voting age citizens (“3% of the electors”) would automatically trigger a national referendum.

    Mercer’s “rant” asked viewers to log on to the 22 Minutes website, and sign an online petition asking the party leader to change his name to Doris Day (after the singer/actress). Producers claim to have obtained in excess of 1,200,000 online votes. This was cheerfully admitted to be a stunt unhampered by the rigours of an Elections Canada-controlled petition. Although the skit had no effect on Alliance policy, it did obtain international publicity for the show and contributed to the general air of farce surrounding Day’s election campaign. Day did, however, have a very appropriate response to the petition: “Que será, será.”[3]”

    Although the entire thing is risible, populist politics can have devastating consequences. Many decades ago, similar referenda in the prairies provinces lead to the sterilisation of children who were deemed mentally-challenged and who later went on to successfully complete secondary education.

    We need real political leaders, not Cameron-like cheerleaders. Transforming politicians into administrators of referenda and simple executors of the people’s every whim is not the solution.

  • Alan Quinn

    Last year the local tories were pleading poverty stating all their funds were raised locally. Recently we’ve had 3 direct mails, glossy brochure, glossy leaflet and a normal leaflet. Worse than this we’ve had to endure staring at Cameron’s airbrushed mug on two poster sites. Not bad for a local party with little money…..unless a few quid has been doanted from afar, after all we are a marginal.

  • Robert Jackson

    On Lord Ashcroft’s Tory donations – if we assume he should be paying 50% tax and his donations to the Tories are from untaxed income it means half of the leaflets they send out in the marginals are being paid for by the rest of us taxpayers.

    What a swizz!!