Coffee House

Downing Street has forgotten that its business is politics

13 April 2014

11:03 AM

13 April 2014

11:03 AM

The Sunday papers resound with the sound of Tory MPs thinking aloud about how to deal with ill-discipline: principally expenses and harassment.

On harassment, the Sunday Times reports the 1922 Committee is considering its own regulation plans after deciding that placing the complaints procedure in the hands of whips might lead to scandals being ‘hushed up’ because politics would win out over justice. Committee chairman Graham Brady has said: ‘We have taken independent advice and had preliminary conversations with Acas [the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] about how an appropriate grievance procedure might best be structured.’ On expenses, Douglas Carswell and Zac Goldsmith make the case, yet again, for voters to be given powers of recall over MPs.


Carswell and Goldsmith’s article appears in the Sun on Sunday; an indication that the expenses scandal resonates far beyond the confines of the Westminster Village. This simple fact makes the Prime Minister’s comparative silence very strange indeed. This is a moment for the leader; not charismatics like Carswell, Goldsmith and Brady. Not for the first time this parliament, backbench Tory MPs are asking what has happened to David Cameron’s political instincts.

It was not always so. Cameron won plaudits in the last parliament when he attacked the MPs’ expenses system. Duck houses were condemned. Transgressors were savaged. Even friends like Andrew McKay were abandoned. He had caught the public mood – and won the public’s attention. Chastened backbenchers told journalists that Cameron’s decisiveness enabled the Tories to weather the crisis better than Gordon Brown’s moribund Labour Party.

Now we see the difference between opposition and government. Opposition is about taking limited opportunities to create tactical advantage. Government is about grip: closing out the background noise and taking the long-term view. Cameron took a while to grasp this distinction: his government’s U-turn habit was very serious. But, having settled into governing, the prime minister and his team appear to have forgotten that their business is politics. Government types say that the prime minister should choose the government, not backbenchers and newspaper editors. True enough; but Cameron stood behind Maria Miller and lost because no one would defend her after her inadequate apology. It was a misjudgment that has damaged the prime minister. The damage is not terminal (this will, of course, blow over); but it is real nonetheless. And the timing of this unforced error, on the cusp of the European election campaign, is most unfortunate; distracting attention from Nigel Farage’s band of purple paper tigers.

The Spectator’s leading article this week argues that the Miller tale is yet more proof that the political operation in Downing Street is lamentable and that Lynton Crosby should be dispatched there immediately. The events of the last few days reinforce the argument; backbenchers are making the political weather while the prime minister gets ready for some yoga in Lanzarote.

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Show comments
  • starfish

    It is a failure of leadership, pure and simple
    Cameron spends too much time listening to other people and trying to offend no-one. The motley crew he has surrounded himself with are frighteningly unrepresentative of the nation outside the Westminster bubble. This is also true of Milliband.
    Modern politics is all about ‘identity’, ‘triangulation’ and lobbying, appealing to special interest groups
    When was the last time any politician took a stand against any of them because of a conviction that he knew they were wrong or that what he proposed was right for the country as a whole?
    I have come to the conclusion that a seismic realignment is required – maybe UKIP and/or the SNP will deliver it; we shall see

  • Richard N

    Let’s face it – the Commons is full of trash that needs throwing out – as is the government, needless to say: cheats, liars, con-men and crooks, the whole lot of them.

    Not surprising that the proposal that these thieves and crooks continue to police themselves is violentlly opposed by the British people – who are finally beginning to realize that they are ruled by utter trash, who couldn’t be trusted with anything – let alone the fate of this country, which they’ve already signed away to the crooks in Brussels, while obeying the EU’s orders to flood Britain with 3rd world immigrants, so as to destroy its national self-image and national pride.

    A reckoning is due. I wish the British people weren’t so self-controlled: these people in the Establishment – both inside the totally rotten political establishment, and far outside it, need to be called to account, in ways that would have been used a few hundred years ago.

    • 0rangeman

      Let me enlighten you as to exactly who we are ruled by and its not the people we physically (or as you term them trash) voted for.

      We are obliged to shell out £56 million every single day not to mention back in march a whopping £2.4 Billion of our taxes gone to plug a mysterious hole in the out of control EU budget.

      Here’s the idiots guide to what we get for our blood sweat & taxes OR if you like (&WE DONT) the UKs ANTI DEMOCRATIC REAL RULERS..

      Theres the European Commission; The European Council; The Council of Europe; The Council of European Union; The European Parliament a bizarre toothless organisation which is the only one of its kind on the planet calling its self a parliament whose members cannot initiate legislation propose legislation or even for the repeal of legislation all of which is already decided for them by the UNELECTED European commission. DICTATORSHIP BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL DICTATORSHIP! which has to have an army of translators to even function.

      Meanwhile on this side of the channel we have a parliament which boasts all the functions the EU parliament is short of yet our democratically elected body is rendered utterly powerless to stop over 50% of our new laws being dictated to us by the above EU parliament. Our l;ot have become merely the muppets slavishly rubber stamping the dictats from on high.

      And we havn’t even started on those bodies in Brussels and Luxembourg. Then there the Council of Europe isn’t even officially part of the EU and which must not be confused with The European Council or The Council of the European Union which are. We haven’t even touched on the European Court of Human Rights that’s another can of worms right there.

      All these large growing (They are one of the few growth industries left in the EU zone) all boast huge laberinthine separate bureauracies to
      staff and run them with huge opportunities for duplication of effort and
      departments or conflict of interests like spending millions on Barcelona
      football stars to run expensive ads to get Europeans to quit smoking while in the building next door they dole out 260 billion euros in subsidies to help tobacco growers

      Thank God 22nd May is coming soon!

      • Richard N

        Totally, 100% agree.

        The tragedy is that if the British people only realized how they have been totally betrayed by all the EU Quisling political class, they would rise up and hang the whole lot of them – and would leave the EU dictatorship in a heart beat.

        But they don’t have a clue – and the media does everything possible to keep it that way.

        If the EU ever collapses, I think it will be more likely to be caused by the French, or the Dutch, than the BBC-brainwashed, depressed and hopeless British.

      • Agrippina

        Don’t forget the EU has ambassadors in every country (I am unclear if they have a budget for ferrer rocher!) what for, we don’t need them, just another waste of our monies.

  • 0rangeman

    So now we can add “Purple paper tigers” to fruitcakes & Loonies I will ensure this is added to the now impressive list of name calling our party has accumulated. Personally I prefer fruitcakes as they are wholesome tasty and sweet.

    Channel 4 savaged Nigel recently for using EU funds against the EU yet we learn that Maria Millar helped herself to was it £45,000 or £5500 we will probably never know the truth. Then the PRU were caught with their trousers down (literally) on taxpayers expense at £2500 a night. Dont worry though when the parliamentary watchdog rolled over for Maria she will be a pushover this time too

    The poor old taxpayer in this country was a species the establishment elite in this country would have hunted him to extinction by now while the 22 millionaires club which run our country (CAMERONS CABINET) do a sterling job looking after their tax heavening pals the bankers and fat cat big six bosses profiteering while bedroom taxing the rest of the peasants into the ground.

    On top of all this mehem Dave finds God.

    Jesus in the gospel according to Dave was the !st Conservative.
    Well Dave heres a short parable for you:

    In the end Jesus was CRUCIFIED and he DEFINITELY had God on his side

  • Roy

    More to the point, should the Tory MP’s be wondering whether the ill discipline is more correct than they wish to imagine?

  • Jenson Phaedor

    I think Dave picked up on the potential of the Miller situation to fade away the Clegg own goal with the Farage debates. It was a trade off that seems to have worked.

  • swatnan

    Wrong. Its job is to govern Britain.
    Not to indulge in petty party politics and witch hunts. That should be left to the conservative party and lib dem party machine.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, and it’s a shame that these Speccie kids don’t understand this.

  • Tony_E

    The business of downing st is government. Not the low politics that it has become reknowed for since 1997.

  • Agrippina

    Cameron is just not bright enough for high office, he has no work experience, skills or charm (he stamps his foot and goes purple at PMQ’s). Tories should have got shot of him long ago.

    As the Iron Duke (etonian) said to his brother Henry (etonian) the Dean of St. Patrick’s Dublin, ‘not a word, Henry not one word’. Henry wanted Wellington then PM to help him in his career so that he could become a bishop. The Duke knew of his brothers’ limitations.

    Cameron by contrast hangs onto and promotes some ghastly folks for purely tribal reasons not even the best in his party. He forgets he should be looking for the best for our country, thus he shall pass on as a pretty poor PM.

  • Mynydd

    “Downing Street has forgotten that its business is politics” what the headline should have been; “Downing Street has forgotten that its business is leadership” We had the politics with Mrs Miller when what the country needed was leadership. The Prime Minister politics is seeing policies through the prism of will it win votes, or will it loose them. Prime Minister leadership would this policy be good for the country, or not.

  • Peter Stroud

    Cameron has been a disappointment, as is Hague: yet the alternatives are terrifying. Miliband, a man completely devoid of ideas, and Balls: a man who has been wrong on every count since 2010.

    • Mynydd

      Cameron has been a disappointment is a bit of an understatement, just ask yourself, what has he achieved in the last four years, apart form losing long standing party members. Now Hague, he is positively dangerous, first he wanted to bomb Syria thereby declaring war on that country, now he has given unconditional support to an unelected government, in power due to mob rule.
      I liked Mr Miliband’s idea of freezing energy prices and at same time reforming the energy market, more so now that we can see the results. If he can do this while in opposition just think what he can do in government.

  • jamesbarn

    From and including all the local elections since 6th March 2014 UKIP have contested no less than 25. Of which 19 were contested for their first time by UKIP. Over this period UKIP’s vote share ranged from 8.2% to 28.8%. The average percentage for UKIP over this period is no less than 19.32% and remember these are actual votes cast they are not subject to weightings or other analysis.
    No doubt about it UKIP will cost the Tories many seats in the GE and they are beginning to realise that fact.

  • DaveTheRave

    Its business is politics, but the sort of politics we’re getting is sick, corrupt, unrepresentative – whatever party is in power.

  • Kitty MLB

    Oh come on.New Labour were the experts at forgetting that.
    They were not in politics but showbiz.We had the arch villian
    the lunatic on the loose, several wicked witches and the evil
    inventor. Not forgetting a few damsels in distress.

  • HookesLaw

    Its thick tory backbenchers who have forgotten their business is politics. Carswell is a fool.
    This is yet another prejudiced Spectator article.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Bravo more more! Do tell though why would anyone in their right minds vote for those 200 or so thick tory backbenchers? Surely by highlighting their lack of intellect you are only making the case to vote for anyone but the Tories…..

      • HookesLaw

        There are not 200 – there a loud-mouthed idiot score or more – the usual rebels of a dim ‘tea party’ bent.. But you are right – as they continue to harm their mown party to sustain their own prejudices why indeed should people vote for them? They are indeed being crazy. The point is its them not ‘No 10’ as alleged by this dim article that deserve criticism.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Has it never occurred to you that Cameron and his rabble deserve each other like the various members of a university drunkards club?

        • Alexsandr

          maybe these ‘thickoes’ have seen heard their constutencies views and think its their job to represent them. Its their job.

    • saffrin

      Don’ts despair Hooky, Nigel Farage loves you still .

    • Two Bob

      If you dont like it then why oh why do you bother hanging around here?

      The Cameron machine is bent and you are the face.

  • WatTylersGhost

    What a load of tosh. If politicians behaved with honesty and integrity, there would be no politics in dealing with transgressors. Why do you Westminster types concern yourselves with appearance rather than substance?

  • dado_trunking

    I believe the catalogue of speeding fines ought to be determined, decided over and fines raked in by British Automobile Raking It In Club.
    I believe drinking offences and resulting acts of public nuisance ought to be regulated and enforced by Anheuser Bosch, Inbew and Whitithererspoon.
    I believe the Hallow! and Moon publications ought to be in full control of British divorce law.

    Only then perhaps will MPs begin to grasp what it feels like to get shafted.

  • Smithersjones2013

    This government and the Tory party has been run like an elitist university drinking club. Oh wait a minute………..

    The only difference is the intoxicant is power not booze….

    • HookesLaw

      No it has not – but then again you are an extreme right wing nutjob

      • Smithersjones2013

        You do know so well how to compliment a person and validate their views. After all if you don’t like it/ disagree, it must be right!

        • HookesLaw

          The govt is not run as you say. Its in a coalition with the LDs for a start. Then there is Hague May Pickles IDS Hammond etc.
          Your claims are total rubbish. TYpical rubbish spouted by a typical thicko nutjob who cannot rub two brain cells together.

          • Smithersjones2013

            Oh dear. How poor your memory is and how poor your judgement of the likes of Wet Willy Eunuch is.

            Ukraine and Syria are triumphs of his diplomacy wouldn’t you say and we won’t even get into the farce of his abject failure in returning sovereignty from Brussels.

            As for the “Court Jester” (her jackets are just so DC Comics) the complete disarray of immigration policy and her failure to meet the party’s commitments on immigration will be inscribed on her political tombstone. Fancy equalling (if not surpassing) the average net immigration figures of the Rotten Government of the Labour years.

            Then there is Pickles who is in a pickle because his commitments on weekly bin collections and the freezing of council tax have collapsed as defiant Tory councils ignore them and whose central dictats to councils have made the Tories claims to support localism a standing joke

            And last but not least we have poor old IDS whose “Universal” credit is so “universal” it is still in the pilot stage and has already written off tens of millions in wasted IT expenditure (yet another centralist computer white elephant designed to waste the taxpayers geld)……

          • Chris Morriss

            I’m sure you can’t be the authentic HookesLaw. He used to write grammatically correct English most of the time, however bile-spattered the posts were. Your recent postings seem to indicate that your ‘Care in the community’ programme hasn’t done any good.

          • ButcombeMan


            If you are going to blindly follow the Tories, at least get their names right.

      • Two Bob

        You cant resist insulting people can you?

  • Two Bob

    Record high for Ukip! Record low for the LDs! – Comres

  • Dicky14

    He’s never been particularly good at politics. He won the ugly baby contest for leadership and then surrounded himself with yes men. The only thing he’s ever had going for him is he’s not the other guy. Leadership? No, no, not so much.

  • david trant

    What a week, we’ve had Miller even though she had to resign of course she did nothing wrong, Evans found not guilty as the jury found his explanation of mixed signals plausible, of course despite the fact he spent his time in the subsidised bar at his place of work getting drunk and groping young men he did nothing wrong. Topped off with stories of Gay or*ies paid for by the taxpayer what ever the truth I’m sure they did nothing wrong. Makes you wonder what you have to do in the Tory Party, (although I’m sure the others are just as bad) to do something wrong.

    Perhaps its time the ultimate Jury the voters in Miller and Evans constituency to be the judge of what’s right and wrong.

    • Andy

      And perhaps the identities of those who falsely accused Nigel Evans will now be revealed. It is easy, as many woman have found, to accuse behind the curtain of anonymity. And therein lies the root of the problem.

    • HookesLaw

      Grossly misrepresenting the case against Evans is pretty pathetic when you see that various people who were supposed to have accused him actually sent him messages of support. All observers regarded the police/CPS case as laughably non existent.
      Perhaps it time for you to pack your bigotry in a suitcase and shove off.

      • Two Bob

        You seem to be rather rattled. Maybe its the recent polls that have shook you all up….. Bless.

        • HookesLaw

          Are you happy at the prospect of a Europhile Labour govt then? You clearly are not interested in justice. But then Evans is gay and you are a homophobic kipper bigot whose bigotry will give us a Europhile labour govt given half a chance.

          • Alexsandr

            nope. what is wanted by many is a properly eurosceptic party in government. As the tories dont seem to fit the bill on this it will have to be someone else.

          • Hexhamgeezer

            I do hope that your hilarious diatribes are fuelled by quality drink rather than Buckfast meths and cider.

  • anyfool

    Cameron arrogance rears its head every time the party has few good weeks, he lapses into this mode as soon as he thinks he is making the political weather.
    He did it before the election when they had a massive lead, now his airy disdain about the effects of defending the indefensible “Miller`s expenses scam” shows he is the master of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, not as he thinks, master of all he surveys.

    • HookesLaw

      Cameron arrogance?? Laughable again as usual. Try berating thick tory backbenchers for a change. I doubt we will see the self interested Spectator doing that.
      Miller was not guilty of anything. As the committee agreed. You live in a fantasy world of your own ignorant making.

      • HookesLaw

        Oh Hello again there Mr bob. I have got you all exited have I?
        All political parties are coalitions – nobody is perfect and I have news for you – the sun does not shine out of Saint Nigel’s backside.

        Cameron is a
        good PM, broadly like most tory PMs of the past. His govt despite being
        hamstrung by LDs is doing a good job of repairing the mess left by
        Labour. He is far better than Miliband will be. Europhile socialist
        But I do not expect a thicko like you to recognised that. You are more interested in your own bigotry.
        Cameron is a
        good PM, broadly like most tory PMs of the past. His govt despite being
        hamstrung by LDs is doing a good job of repairing the mess left by
        Labour. He is far better than Miliband will be. Europhile socialist
        But I do not expect a thicko like you to recognised that. You are more interested in your own bigotry.

        • anyfool

          I must have hit a nerve, you are talking to yourself, HookesLaw > HookesLaw .although I agree with you about how Cameron is a reasonably good PM compared to the dross on offer, your last line when you describe yourself as a thicko bigot is priceless.

          • HookesLaw

            Not a nerve – I believe I was replying to 2 bob and Disqus would not let me reply direct.

            • southerner

              “Cameron is far better than Miliband”.
              Well there’s a ringing endorsement. So’s my cat.

            • Smithersjones2013

              Cameron is far better than Miliband

              You know what they say about ‘damning with faint praise’. You really are an appalling advocate for Cameron and an even worse one for Tory interests.

              Your ‘vote Tory coz they are thick nutjobs’ line is a real doozy…..

        • southerner

          You are a Europhile socialist like the rest of the Camerluvvies.

        • Chris Morriss

          All exited (sic)! Does this mean one out, all out?

        • Mynydd

          If Mr Cameron is being hamstrung by the Lib Dems, then, it’s of his own making. He failed to win an overall majority at the last general election. Of course Mr Cameron could say; it’s all Labours fault, Mr Brown didn’t loose enough seats. If he had lost a few more I would have had an overall majority, and wouldn’t be hamstrung by Mr Clegg. Like everything else it’s all Labour’s fault.

      • southerner

        “Miller was not guilty of anything.”
        Just re-typing it again and again doesn’t make you right. Nobody agrees with you.

      • ButcombeMan

        MM fiddled around with her place of residence and got a lot of funding out of our taxes. She was difficult and obstructive when (rightly) called to account. The fact that others did it, does not excuse her. Her behavior, her non apology and even her resignation letter, absolute insensitive disgraces.

        It is to be sincerly hoped she gets de-selected.

        Is anyone in any doubt whatsoever, that properly investigated, (like interviewing those four “missing” au pairs, for example,) a decent, potentially criminal case, could not be made out against this woman?

        Both you and Cameron, have failed to understand how deeply toxic this is.

        Truth is that Cameron is just not very good at politics. He is out of touch and has already given up. The article above is wrong. this will not be forgotten. It will keep being referenced as an example of Cameron’s political stupidity.

        And where was Craig Oliver? He is a media professional. He should have put Cameron right.

        • telemachus

          Cameron made the right call
          Maria was exonerated by the Committee of the crimes alleged and only had to repay based on the technical error of failing to amend a standing order
          What we saw last week was a media led by the Telegraph intent on bullying and punishing our elected representatives for daring to agree with Leveson that the out of control press needed taming
          Cameron’s stupidity was backing down
          Weak weak weak

      • Smithersjones2013

        Miller’s a flipper. Whether it was within the rules or not symbolically that’s a hanging offence in the court of public opinion

      • saffrin

        Hasn’t done anything wrong by whose rules Hooky, the MP’s that make them or the electorate that pay for them?

  • Shinsei1967

    Isn’t a central point about the Maria Miller scandal that it refers to expense claims prior to the changes made in 2009/10. The same thing couldn’t happen today so any demands for the system to be tightened are clearly from people who don’t realise that the rules have been tightened.

    And it would be helpful if the likes of Carswell had better things to do than continually banging on about recall. MPs should be able to rely on having a Parliamentary term to make decisions as they see fit (they are our representatives not our delegates) without fear that right but unpopular decisions lead to the potential for vexatious recall.

    If our MPs abuse their position they can be (and should be) deselected or voted out at the next election.

  • John Lea

    “Even friends like Andrew McKay were abandoned.”

    Presumably because he was disposable and low-key. Strangely enough, he didn’t abandon Francis Maude, whose continued presence on the Tory front benches tells you everything you need to know about how tough Cameron was – and is – on the issue of expenses.

    • HookesLaw

      Cast your mind back to MacKay’s expenses.

      Maude is ensuring that billions of savings are been made in government.
      ‘Civil servants across Whitehall have radically changed the way they work
      to save £10 billion for taxpayers, Minister for the Cabinet Office
      Francis Maude announced today. ‘
      Last week, Chancellor George Osborne announced an agreement with seven Whitehall departments on savings he wants made in 2015.
      He said he had found 20% of the £11.5bn he wants to cut spending by in the year from April 2015.’
      Despite this the loony toon kipperesque nutjobs seek to decry the govt and plot to see the return of a labour govt.

      Despite the Spectotor’s inference there were no claims for ‘duck houses’.

      The Spectator has its own bigotry and self interest at stake in attacking the govt and the PM. It wishes the press to be unregulated and left where it can inspect everyone else and remain free itself. It has an agenda and is totally untrustworthy in its reporting. This article is a classic example .

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, you socialists are always rabid to institute your historical censorship regime, as we know.