Monday, March 08, 2010

Peter Mandelson says Ashcroft has Cameron "by the balls".

Peter Mandelson has raised the stakes in the Lord Ashcroft affair by implying that the entire thing is a statement about David Cameron's leadership or lack thereof.

David Cameron's failure to confront his billionaire deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft over his tax status exposes the "fundamental weakness" of the Conservative leader and undermines his claim to be a moderniser, Lord Mandelson said tonight.

In a highly personal attack, the business secretary said in an interview with the Guardian that Ashcroft had Cameron "by the balls", the affair showed Cameron was "too weak to pick a fight with his own party" and the Tories were "fundamentally unchanged".

I find it hard to disagree with a single word of what he's said as I have been saying the same things for days now.

Cameron looks as if he so dependent on Ashcroft's cash that he can't bring himself to get rid of this man who has made the word of the Tory leader look meaningless, and the Tory party themselves look as if they are unchanged from the nasty party of old and that they will always avert their gaze when it comes to the actions of the super rich.

And Mandelson has made it very clear why he thinks this case differs from the case of Lord Paul, the Labour non-dom who sits in the Lords.

"This is not actually about non-doms or donations. For all the complexity of Ashcroft's financial affairs, the story is a simple one," Mandelson said.

"William Hague [Tory leader in 2000] gave very clear undertakings to then prime minister Tony Blair and to parliament," said Mandelson, referring to the letter from Hague saying Ashcroft was "committed to becoming resident [in the UK] … to fulfil his responsibilities in the House of Lords" and that this would cost him "tens of millions a year in tax".

But those undertakings "have not been met", the business secretary said.

"For 10 years that fact has been concealed from the British people. During that time, David Cameron and William Hague have repeatedly said that the undertakings were being met. So either they were misleading people or they were being misled by Ashcroft. Which is it?

"Either way, Mr Cameron has shown extraordinary weakness. If he knew the truth, he should have fired Ashcroft. If not, why was he too afraid to ask Ashcroft the awkward direct question?"

And that really is the entire affair in a nutshell. As I said yesterday:
[Cameron] has his head firmly stuck in the sand, insisting that Lord Paul's non-dom status renders the entire Ashcroft affair meaningless. I don't think Lord Paul should be able to sit in the Lords as a non-dom, but I know of no assurances that Lord Paul would pay "tens of millions" to the treasury once he was elevated to the Lords, and certainly no assurance which came from the leader of one of our main political parties.
That's the part of this which Cameron is missing. The word of the person who holds his office ought to count for something. Ashcroft has undone that. I am stunned that Cameron can't see that.
Cameron is insisting that this matter is about something which it is not. It's not about donations, or non-doms sitting in the Lords, it's about the word of the Leader of the Tories being rendered worthless and the fact that Cameron appears unwilling to do anything about it.

And he appears unwilling to do it because the man who has trashed it is a super rich patron who is bankrolling the entire Tory party.

Cameron can talk the talk about change, but this entire escapade shows that he isn't willing to do what is necessary to bring it about. The change Cameron talks of is superficial, underneath the rump of his party is fundamentally unchanged.

Click here for full article.

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