David cameron

No nonsense in the kitchen

I rather bristle at newspaper column collections. They strike me as a bit lazy, a cheat’s way of getting another book under the belt, often just in time for the gift-giving season. When it comes to Rachel Cooke’s Kitchen Person, however, I have to eat my words. It draws from the 14 years of monthly food columns Cooke wrote for the Observer from 2009. Each comes with a postscript from the author looking back on her thoughts at the time, ensuring that the pieces hold their own as a collection, as something cohesive. You sit down to read one essay, and look up 75 pages later. The tone, too, is

The Rishification of the Tory party

When David Cameron arrived at the Foreign Office on Monday, he told staff he might be a bit rusty when it comes to modern politics. He joked that the only WhatsApp group he is in ‘is to do with my children’s school play’. Cameron may have been out of frontline politics for a while, but the rules stay the same. As Tory leader, he championed his favourites and promoted his supporters to the cabinet table, even at the expense of ignoring older colleagues’ claims. This week, his successor has done the same. A trio of thirtysomething former special advisers elected in 2019 now comprise the Prime Minister’s Praetorian Guard. Laura

The Tories didn’t lose Mid Bedfordshire – Labour won it

In 1975 I travelled as an undergraduate to Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and finally to Israel. I visited refugee camps and met a Palestinian militant, Bassam Abu Sharif, who had been blinded in one eye by a Mossad parcel bomb. I talked to policymakers in each country and heard a range of Israeli opinion. On return I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle of the need to address the plight of the Palestinians caused by their displacement. I made the case in favour of a two-state solution five years before the 1980 Venice declaration on Palestinian statehood. One of today’s many tragedies is that Hamas’s barbarism has pushed that solution even

Rory Stewart is a fish out of water

Rory Stewart is one of that almost extinct species in the modern Conservative party, a one-nation Tory. He is also – or was (until Boris Johnson kicked him out) – a politician with hinterland. He had been places and done things before getting himself elected in his late thirties, entering parliament in 2010. Disillusion rapidly set in: Too much of our time was absorbed in gossip about the promotion of one colleague or the scandal engulfing another. Even four weeks in, I sensed more impotence, suspicion, envy, resentment, claustrophobia and schadenfreude than I had seen in any other profession. It is made clear to him from the outset that rebellion

The Tories would be lost in opposition

It is widely observed that many Conservatives are preparing to lose power at the next general election.  The Conservative Democratic Organisation and National Conservatism meetings last week are generally regarded as preparation for the leadership battle that would likely follow Rishi Sunak’s departure from No. 10. Most (though not all) Tories appear to assume that Sunak could not remain leader after that exit, nor want to. Privately too, even the most optimistic Tories will concede that leaving government after 14 years – they’ve just beaten the New Labour tenure – has to be considered a real possibility. What would the Conservatives do in opposition? This is not a trivial question.

My Ibiza diary

You wait 11 years for a Tory leadership election and then three come along in quick succession. The first in which I had a vote was in 2005. In August of that year my candidate, David Cameron, was being told to fold his tents. The final choice was a foregone conclusion: it would be a battle between the big beasts, David Davis and Ken Clarke. The Cameroon cohort in parliament at that point was more notable for quality – Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Nick Soames – than for quantity. They may have made a fine first eleven but it was a struggle to find a twelfth man (or

Boris’s final days in No. 10

‘So what did he say?’ I asked the ministerial friend who went to tell Boris last week he had to resign. ‘Well, he told me a long story about a relative of his who got caught up in a planning dispute, barricaded himself inside his house and the police had to come in force to drag him out. I think it means he’s not going quietly.’ At one level, politics is unpredictable; but enduring political rules apply. Boris told me years ago that while he wasn’t a team player, he could be a good team leader. For all his infectious optimism, it turns out that’s not possible. Downing Street will

All talk and no trousers: is Oxford really to blame for Brexit?

Attacks on British elitism usually talk about Oxbridge, but Simon Kuper argues that it is specifically Oxford that is the problem, which has provided 11 (out of 15) prime ministers since the war. So what’s the explanation? Kuper thinks it’s all the fault of the Oxford Union, which fosters chaps who are clever at debating without particularly caring which side they are on. As a result, they acquire enough rhetorical skills to enable them to beat opponents who rely on thoughtful, fact-based arguments. Such arguments are ‘boring’, and being boring in the Oxford Union is the worst crime you can commit. This wouldn’t matter if it were confined to undergraduates

David Cameron gets an honour

When you’ve held the highest elected office in the land, subsequent honours might all seem a bit trivial. Gongs, trophies, baubles: what can compare to the premiership? But there is one highly-desired honour which has managed to elude David Cameron – until now. For the Old Etonian this week joins an exclusive club in becoming the 22nd former Prime Minister whose words have now graced the pages of The Spectator. Cameron’s diary about his Poland excursion places him in hallowed company among a select band of his successors. Some 40 per cent of the 55 men and women to have held the post have written for this magazine: quite an accomplishment

Andrew Mitchell relives the agony of Plebgate

Andrew Mitchell, as he readily admits, was born into the British Establishment. Almost from birth, his path was marked out: prep school, public school, Cambridge, the City, parliament, the Cabinet. At every step along the way he acquired the connections that would propel him to the stratosphere. But for one extraordinary event, who knows where he might have ended up? Certainly in one of the top jobs. In other circumstances this might have been a conventional story. Posh boy goes into the City, makes loads of money and then takes time out to come and govern us. In fact this is an unusual memoir — honest, self-deprecating and rich in

Cameron snubs Osborne

The papers have been full of speculation this month about rumours of a rift between Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson. The pair are reported to have clashed over travel quarantine rules amid speculation about Sunak’s designs on the top job. Such tensions are nothing new in Westminster politics of course – not for nothing has the relationship between Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street been described as the ‘San Andreas Fault’ which runs through British government. But it appears the pair are not the only Chancellor and Prime Minister to have fallen out in recent months. David Cameron and George Osborne appear to be experiencing a rift of their own,

How do we stop the next David Cameron?

One of the enduring charms of British politics is how slight the pecuniary rewards are for taking up the job of prime minister. American presidents can look forward to stonking great advances on their memoirs. (Barack and Michelle Obama received a joint up-front payment of £47 million from Crown publishing group.) They claim rock-star appearance fees in exchange for a few platitudes to sandalled Silicon Valley execs. (Bill and Hillary Clinton raked in £110 million in speaking fees between 2001 and 2015.) A stint in the White House boosted George H W Bush’s net worth by 475 per cent and Richard Nixon’s by 650 per cent, pocket change compared to

Portrait of the week: Cameron’s cash, A-grades abound and Tower Bridge won’t budge

Home With less frightening domestic data on the coronavirus pandemic to ponder, subjects such as the rivalry between Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, found time for discussion. The seven-day average of coronavirus cases detected by tests remained below 30,000. In the seven days up to the beginning of the week, 637 people had died with coronavirus, bringing the total of deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 130,281. (In the previous week deaths had numbered 524.) In a week, numbers remaining in hospital fell from 5,943 to 5,631. Three quarters of adults had received two doses of vaccine, but numbers crept

Has David Cameron any shame?

$10million, or £7million. That’s what David Cameron is now reported to have made from Greensill Capital, the company he helped lead to ruin. The number, reported by the BBC, is news, not least because Cameron himself had refused to disclose it. Speaking to a Commons committee investigating his failed lobbying for the failed company, the failed former PM would say only that he had been paid a ‘generous’ sum by Greensill. That one word, ‘generous’, speaks volumes about Cameron and the Greensill episode. Let’s start with the obvious fact that Cameron used a word rather than a number to describe the money he got (I’m not sure ‘earned’ is the

Boris’s Brexit battle isn’t over yet

On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Brexit was the dog that never barked. Project Fear portended half a million job losses – a hard measure to test given a year of lockdowns and furlough, but before Covid hit (and now) the unemployment rate is lower than it was five years’ ago. We were warned of a ‘punishment Budget,’ as though there is ever any other kind. The hysteria, the stalling of Parliamentary machinery, the well-documented family rifts – was it all for nothing? First, a few caveats. There are many problems that still need fixing – especially in

The shamelessness of David Cameron

I’m almost starting to admire David Cameron. Almost. There is something that borders on the impressive about the former prime minister’s dedication to the destruction of his own reputation. He may have been a casually idle premier, but he’s really rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into the job of trashing his own name. How many times did he use the private jets of his collapsed finance firm to travel between his houses? Can’t remember. How much did said collapsed financial contraption pay him for services including pestering senior civil servants with texts signed ‘Love, DC’? Not saying, but it was much more than the mere £150k he got

Who regulates the regulators?

This isn’t about David Cameron and Greensillgate; it isn’t about Boris Johnson and wallpapergate or Jennifer-Arcurigate. It isn’t about Westferrygate and the illegal planning approval (later reversed) given to a big Tory donor by the responsible minister (Robert Jenrick) for that grotesque development. Nor about Mr Jenrick’s department’s awards under the Towns Fund, which the public accounts select committee found had ‘every appearance of being politically motivated’. Nor is it about (Lord) Edward Lister and the late Sir Jeremy Heywood and twohatsgate, nor about Len McCluskey, Joe Anderson, Paul Flanagan and Flanagangate in Liverpool. Some of these men (the last two) have been the subject of police inquiries and one

Did David Cameron know Greensill was about to collapse?

On the day that senior Treasury officials and the Bank of England revealed quite how much David Cameron lobbied them last spring on behalf of Greensill for access to emergency loan schemes, I want to share important disclosures made in recent weeks that suggest Greensill was heading for collapse over many months. These represent the financial – as opposed to the political – side of this debacle, which has largely been ignored because of widespread outrage at the way David Cameron exploited his connections in government and the civil service to lobby for Greensill’s cause. What I want to focus on is what I see as the big unanswered question,

Juncker’s Brexit delusion

Regrets? It turns out he has a few. The former president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker does not seem too bothered by the EU’s miserable growth rate during his time in office, its geopolitical marginalisation, or indeed the growing power of corporate lobbyists in Brussels. But there is one thing that makes him at least a little sad. Not deploying the formidable force of his personality to swing the British referendum behind staying in the EU. Juncker now reckons the former PM’s judgement was a couple of bottles short of a full case In an interview this week, Juncker revealed that David Cameron told him to keep out of

Sunday shows round-up: Cameron’s behaviour ‘is acceptable’, says Environment Secretary

George Eustice – David Cameron’s behaviour ‘is acceptable’ Both Andrew Marr and Sophy Ridge were joined this morning by the Environment Secretary George Eustice – and much of their conversations focused on the recent lobbying debacle sparked by the former Prime Minister’s texts to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Cameron was attempting to secure support loans on behalf of the financial services firm Greensill Capital, but was unsuccessful and the business filed for insolvency in March. Marr questioned Eustice over whether the current lobbying rules were too soft and ineffectual: AM: Do you think that what David Cameron has done is acceptable? GE: …Well, it is acceptable because [it was] within