William Hague and David Cameron aren’t having the best of weeks are they? Chris Paul over at Labour of Love has written in a lot of detail about the Ashcroft affair and the Tory leadership. Well worth a read if you have the time. If you haven’t been following this sorry tale, William Hague this week admitted he was told of Ashcroft’s tax status “a few months” ago. A couple of days ago, Liam Fox confirmed that David Cameron had learned about it “within the last month”.
The media have raised questions about this for a very long time now. Both Hague and Cameron have been asked to confirm these details several times. (Though coincidentally enough, Hague hasn’t been asked for a few months and Cameron hasn’t been asked in a little over a month.) What does it say about the Tory party and prospective Tory government?
There are two issues that this raises for me. The first is, given that the Left and the media have asked these questions for so long, why haven’t they been asking them of Ashcroft? Were they scared to lose his money? Just how much influence does he hold over the Tory party? When this started to become a problem on the horizon, Cameron, Hague, et al, should have gotten on top of the issue straight away. If they had done that, they could have controlled the story and gotten better coverage. Cameron is a former PR man. Hague has been in government before. Both of them should know how to manage a story and deal with crises. What they did was bury their heads in the sand and hope everyone would forget about the issue. Will Cameron do the same as a prime minister? Would Hague as Foreign Secretary? What would they do in a national crisis?
The second issue is this: If Hague knew 3 months ago and Cameron found out a month ago, what does that say about
how the Tory high command are communicating? Did Hague decide to keep it from Cameron? Did Hague know Cameron didn’t want to know? Does Hague actually have any access to Cameron? Or is it Cameron, Osborne, Hilton and Coulson on the inside and everyone else looking on, as the rumours suggest. Again, we have to think how that translates to government. A prime minister not listening to ministers is not the way to run a successful government. Of course not every backbench tory can get time with Cameron, but his foreign secretary? The Ashcroft affair has shone a light on Cameron’s conservatives and they’ve been found wanting.