A pig in a poke

THE PRIME Minister has, perhaps wisely, decided to ignore the scandalous allegations that have appeared in the media this week. But it hasn’t stopped David Cameron becoming a laughing-stock throughout the world over claims made by Lord Ashcroft in his unauthorised biography of the Prime Minister, Call Me Dave, which is being serialised in the Daily Mail.

Lord Ashcroft is a billionaire who has immense holdings in the former British colony of Belize, which he uses as a tax haven. His wealth made him a major player in Belize and within the Tory Party, which he showered with money when he was Conservative Party Treasurer under William Hague’s leadership. Or as Belizean premier Dean Barrow put it in 2009: “Ashcroft is an extremely powerful man. His net worth may well be equal to Belize’s entire GDP. He is nobody to cross.” That, however, is precisely what Cameron has done.

Lord Ashcroft has done little to hide his anger at Cameron’s refusal to reward him with high office in the Coalition government when Labour was defeated in 2010. His book is his literary revenge for not getting the job Cameron supposedly promised but failed to deliver.

The Mail tells us about the “drugs, parties and the gilded world of Cotswold elite he’s oh-so at home with” in the “Chipping Snorton” set. We’re told of Cameron’s alleged membership of decadent and degenerate Oxford student societies and that: “A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig. His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal’s mouth.”

The book also challenges Cameron’s word. Ashcroft, who holds dual British and Belizean nationality, was publicly accused by Labour in 2010 of using “non-domiciled” status to avoid British tax and to pay only the tiny rate applicable in Belize. Cameron claimed total ignorance until a month before that scandal broke. Ashcroft says Cameron lied.

“Amidst the furore around Lord Ashcroft’s new book there lies a serious question mark over the consistency of the Prime Minister’s statements about the peer’s tax status,” Labour Shadow Cabinet member Jonathan Ashworth MP said this week.

“Lord Ashcroft stated today that he made the Prime Minister fully aware of his non-domiciled status in 2009. However in March 2010, when his status was made public, David Cameron said the full details were ‘only’ known by Lord Ashcroft and the Inland Revenue. Furthermore, his spokesperson confirmed that David Cameron was only made aware of the Peer’s status the previous month. The Prime Minister should immediately clarify exactly when he first knew of Lord Ashcroft’s non-domiciled status,” the Labour MP declared.

Ashcroft’s motives may be obvious. Those of the people behind him who have ensured that it got the maximum mileage in the bourgeois media this week are another matter. Timed for the run-up to Tory party conference it killed stone-dead the vicious hate-campaign against Jeremy Corbyn that started even before he won the Labour leadership. The Tories are deeply divided over Europe, HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow. Some of them are opposed to a new war with Syria. Clearly a section of the ruling class want Cameron out.