‘Increasingly, his pronouncements seem designed to grab a headline rather than challenge the status quo — it’s bash-a-burglar, prison ships and PC-gone-mad, instead of hug-a-hoody, husky sleighs and general wellbeing. He drips out minor policy announcements on broadband and planning laws, while failing to confront a more important issue and force his biggest donor, Lord Ashcroft, to say whether he pays tax in this country.’
The sudden berserk approach to policy was engendered by an as yet unresolved strategy re-appraisal in the wake of negligible growth. Can the Tories afford to stand for radical change? Or must they offer reassurance? The dilemma will become less opaque later today when George Osborne speaks; but I doubt that the position will be exactly clear - such are the Tories commitment issues.
Lord Ashcroft’s tax status is the one issue upon which the Tories are resolute: no one has a clue. The ongoing saga is damaging the Tories needlessly. The objection to Ashcroft is that he trades affluence for influence and hides behind privacy laws. Ben Brogan refuted the charge last week:
‘Those who accuse him of using affluence to seek influence may be surprised on polling day. Friends say he is more likely to walk away than trade his influence for a role in government. In fact, although much is made of the "Ashcroft millions" earmarked for target seats, most of the cash comes from other sources – with the coffers now brimming, he accounts for barely two per cent of party income these days.’
If that summary is accurate, which I've no reason to disbelieve, why not be bold and come clean?