Fraser Nelson

Cameron strong on party funding, vulnerable on dinner party etiquette

Cameron strong on party funding, vulnerable on dinner party etiquette
Text settings

The monthly Cameron press conference is far more congenial than Brown's. Coffee is offered at the door, together with biscuits made by the chef in downstairs kitchen. But for all that, it's quite thinly attended and short (30 mins). Cameron called every journalist in the room by their first name, being utterly at ease. I guess one of the purposes of these briefings will be to strike a contrast with Brown, who only knows a handful of journalists..

Cameron had an entrée for us. He announced, statesman-style, that he’d just spoken to Sayeeda Warsi in Sudan and could confirm the pardon of Gillian Gibbons. No one cared. All questions were on party funding. A ban in billboard advertising “would be more Stalin than Mr Bean” he said.  Intriguingly Cameron says "parties do make mistakes, all of us have done this over the years". Oooh, done what? Accepted cash from proxy donors? The Times' Francis Elliot picked up this point. Cameron said he meant the patrons clubs “a completely innocent mistake”.

Joey Jones from Sky News came in late, and asked about the Sudan teacher. Cameron instantly realised he had the chance to insert himself in the Sky reporting schedule and shamelessly did his little Sayeeda Warsi spiel – complete with furrowed brown, serious tones - all over again. The Sky cameras were rolling, so he obliged with a take two.

He was uneasy at two points. Newsnight’s Michael Crick asked when Lord Ashcroft registered for income tax. None of my business, said Cameron. But, Crick shot back, isn't this "see no evil" approach exactly what he accused Brown of? Cameron hesitated then said he'd sought assurances of all necessary measures. And no, he wouldn't take any more questions on that. It was hilarious because this is precisely what he’s accused Brown of.

It got worse when Bob Roberts from the Mirror asked about his story (well worth reading). It said Cameron had thrown a drinks party at his house for people who campaigned (in vain  to stop the closure of the school where his son Ivan went to. According to Roberts, some middle parents were tapped up and asked to stay for dinner while the drivers were shunted out the door after one drink. So, asked Roberts, does this mean Cameron has trouble mixing with people not of his own class?

You could see Cameron thinking that every word he said in response may give the story extra legs. He said he didn't recognise the Mirror story. Roberts came back again: he invited the posh for dinner, but the rest booted out after drinks. Why? Cameron replied that he'd said all he was going to. This “snob” line is political kryptonite to him. To escape he turned to a foreign journalist more likely to ask soft question, a typical Blair tactic.

So both Cameron's strengths and vulnerabilities were on display today.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

Topics in this articlePolitics