Monday, 26 March 2012

The 250K dinner that adds a little spice to the weekend

Political news is so dull, isn’t it, when there’s no juicy scandal doing the rounds?

Fortunately, this weekend the British were served a real treat. It turns out that the man the Conservative Party appointed as its treasurer had been suckered, by a team of journalists posing as foreign businessmen wanting to make a donation.

‘You’re based in Liechtenstein? No problem. You just set up a UK subsidiary or channel the funds through employees over here,’ he apparently said, or words to that effect. Smart, right? The law takes a bit of a dim view of political donations from abroad.

And this fine gentleman — Peter Cruddas, since you ask, but don't bother to learn the name as he’s already gone — made it quite clear that for a couple of hundred grand, or call it quarter of a million, they could have dinner with the Prime Minister and, indeed, get their complaints taken up by what he wittily refers to as his Policy Committee.

This is hardly the first time that journalists have mounted a sting of this kind, pretending to be wealthy businessmen with money to burn. Prince Edward and his charming wife fell for something similar just a few years ago, rather suggesting that the Tory Party is appointing to senior positions men whose intellectual acumen is fully up to that of the royal family.

Except that the royals seem a little smarter at learning from mistakes.

What I found most fascinating about the Cruddas business was the answer it provided to an issue that has long troubled me.

I couldn’t work out why the government seemed incapable of developing a coherent policy on anything. It was going to privatise the forests and then it wasn’t; it was going to launch an aircraft carrier without aircraft and now it’s decided that perhaps there should be some; it was never going to build a third runway at Heathrow, and now it says it might.

Obviously we could just put this down to the kind of moronic incompetence that led to the appointment of Cruddas. But these men shone at Eton and Oxford. There had to be another explanation.

You have to bear in mind that David Cameron prides himself on having practically wiped out the the Tory Party’s debts of £20 million. So, as they would say in the US, do the math: at 250 grand a pop, that’s 80 dinners.

Can you imagine the torrent of brilliant ideas that must have rained down on the Policy Committee? Perhaps Cameron started by seeing the characters who were against the third runway. Now they’ve seen a bunch who are for. And the policy of course follows.

And see how clever Cameron’s being? By saying that he hasn’t quite gone over to backing the third runway, he leaves the door open to a few more meals with the pro lobby. And then he can get going on the backlash from the antis, again at 250K a time.

He’s in clover. Just think of the war chest the Party will have for the next election!

Makes one proud to be an Englishmen to know we’re governed by such giants.

A political giant, as much for his intellectual as for his moral qualities

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