One would have fully expected Private Eye to go to town on the Piggate non scandal and in the latest edition they have not disappointed. But probably not in the way Lord Ashcroft would have expected. In fact, both he and the co-author of Call Me Dave, Isabel Oakeshott, come out of it very badly, as they should.
I find it very hard to be fair to David Cameron. It is a matter of record that I am not a Conservative Party supporter and I despise the current government for reasons I have given on countless occasions, but Ashcroft’s book is nothing but a hatchet job. The PM does not come out of it smelling of roses, or anything else for that matter, but we are left in no doubt as to who the bad guys are: Ashcroft and Oakeshott.
I have always been far more concerned about other issues. Whether Cameron did indeed put Percy in a dead pig’s mouth – and, to quote the Eye, there is not a “scrap of evidence” he did (there were no eyewitnesses but there was rumoured to be a photo, which no one has managed to track down) – it is the patronage money buys in politics, revealed by Aschcroft’s anger at being offered only a junior role in government in exchange for the £8 million he gave to the Tory Party, not to mention being the party treasurer and deputy chairman for 10 years. The job suggested was, he said, “a declinable offer”. The book is Ashcroft’s revenge. Also, he is so stinkingly rich that hardly anyone, not even a multimillionaire Tory, would dare take him on in the courts. Money can buy you a lot of things in Britain in 2015.
Ashcroft’s accomplice Oakeshott was political editor of the Sunday Times until Ashcroft made her an offer – £500,000 – that she couldn’t refuse to co-write the book. Her risible comment about Piggate was to put the story out there and let people “decide for themselves whether it’s true”. Oh right. Find some tittle-tattle, which can’t be proved, and print it as fact and allow people to “decide for themselves whether it’s true”. What, true lies? Is this an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? “Here’s a story. We’ve no evidence or witnesses. You make up your mind about it!”
The only porkies in this story, I suggest, originate from the bitter and twisted mind of a billionaire scorned, a man used to getting anything in life he wanted, more often than not by paying for it.
I did not find it odd that the Mail of all newspapers, the far right Daily Mail, should be the one serialising the shabby book. Its editor Paul Dacre loathes Cameron and his fellow “Tory toffs”, the same Dacre who sent his own sons to Eton. He knows the next election is five years away, the story won’t “stick” to the Tory Party and his choice to succeed the posh boy is…er…Old Etonian Boris Johnson.
I suspect Cameron is a nicer bloke than he sometimes appears. Just occasionally, beneath the highly politicised exterior, he comes across as a nearly real human being who sometimes makes an attempt, token or not, to find out how ordinary people live their lives. His commitment to equal marriage and overseas aid are not from the Tory right, they are from the libertarian left.
The Piggate scandal is no such thing. It’s froth and nonsense. Billionaires buying influence, now that is different, especially billionaires who do not always pay the taxes you might think a stinking rich man should do.
Buying honours is nothing new in politics. It has always gone on and Tony Blair’s government was as bad as any for allowing that. Ashcroft’s efforts plumb new depths of political depravity and Private Eye has given him the kicking he so richly deserves.