I have always thought Francis Maude was a rather decent chap on the
moderate side of Tory politics. He has worked valiantly to drive the Big Society agenda from the Cabinet Office. He has the good hair of a classic Conservative MP of the old school. But he gave the
game away when he talked on the Today programme about the ‘suppers’ held at Downing Street. For the people
out there who think that supper is a snack you have in your pyjamas just before bedtime, and dinner is something you eat in the middle of the day, Maude’s comments will be mystifying (if, that is,
they ever listen to the Today programme).
In these straitened times a lot of voters out there can’t afford to have anyone around for dinner, tea or supper. Tory pollsters know Cameron has a credibility problem when he tries to identify
with ordinary families. This whole episode just adds to the impression that we are governed by a metropolitan elite, entirely out of touch with the way most people lead their lives.
For almost two decades it has been unfashionable to talk about class, and the millionaires of Cameron-era Conservatism were the products and beneficiaries of this convenient fad. The combined
effect of a Budget which appeared to take from the most vulnerable to give to the most fortunate and the latest cash-for-access scandal could not be more toxic.
In policy, the centrist mask the Tories wore in opposition has well and truly slipped. Where the Tories are dominant, we are witnessing reforms every bit as ideological as during the Thatcher era,
even if the execution is often desperately incompetent. As one senior Liberal Democrat told me: ‘It’s a bit like the creatures in Avatar, the closer you are to them, the bluer they
The Labour high command knows the government still has one asset that gives it the electoral edge: David Cameron himself. This latest scandal is further evidence of the Prime Minister’s sometimes
woefully poor judgement, following serious lapses over Andy Coulson, Liam Fox and Emma Harrison. And yet, despite everything, he remains a more convincing Prime Minister than Ed Miliband.
The Tories may be posh, out-of-touch, ideologically right-wing, mired in scandal and barely able to implement reform, but (despite the latest ComRes polling in the Independent) they still look the best bet for victory