Why is our Prime Minister surrounded by sheisters?
Some news stories emerge from the strangest alcoves of time and place. More at less at home now in the French Redoubt – and back online after nine tortuous days of France Telecom arrogance – I was making a fire in the early evening of a clear, February day in Lot et Garonne.
It had been a gentle afternoon, during which tepid late winter sun had combined with easy breezes to make garden-tidying a joy more than a chore. But a colder night was approaching, and when making fires, newspapers are a vital component. I have often wondered how hacks feel about that, knowing that their words (in the days before the internet made them an everlasting part of an infinite cloud) would be at best clouded by the vinegar of fish n chip wrapping, and at worst immolated by the need for warmth.
But on this occasion, far from being uninterested in the content of an ancient Daily Mail in my hands, I found myself drawn to an article in which Bob Diamond had been on the same private jet as David Cameron.
The piece was classic Dacre Mail bollocks: “Was Bob Diamond at the controls of the PM’s jet? Answer: No”. But what struck me was the bonhommie between Diamond and Cameron’s acolytes as they returned home from a trip to Nigeria – the purpose of which was the development of trade. That alone could explain the presence on that same plane of the then International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell (of later Plebgate fame) and Trade Minister Lord Green (of later HSBC drug-money laundering denial infamy).
The report had about it the same sleazy air of complicity one sniffs in the relationship between RBS’s Stephen Hester, and the desperate amoral mandarins of the Treasury.
But the more I read, the more intriguingly funny it got. For it turned out that the Prime Minister had been working on the first draft of a Commons statement about…..phone hacking. As he flew through the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Cameron’s civil service aides were trying to keep him informed about the performance of another upstanding member of the community: Rupert Murdoch, who was at that moment giving answers to a Commons Select Committee. Cameron, of course, was (and is) inextricably linked to Murdoch through his close personal and working relationships with two of the Digger’s closest confidantes, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.
The date of the article was July 21st 2011…roughly two and a half years ago. Downing Street later declined to comment on what a banker hugely immersed in the Libor scandal was doing on a trade mission junket to Nigeria with top MPs and Whitehall officials. But one of them told Mail reporters later, “Bob has a fantastic sense of humour”. Well, he certainly spent much of the period 2007-2012 taking the piss out of the rest of us.
Why does the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom feel impelled to seek out the company of men like Michael Fallon, Michael Spencer, Bob Diamond, Rebekah Brooks, Lord Green, and Rupert Murdoch? They stand accused of shady dealings, massive international fraud, gross privacy invasion, perversion of justice, money-laundering, and the corruption of everyone from senior US Senators to top Metropolitan policemen. OK fine, there is rumour and innuendo: but can all the accusations about this list of suspects really be without foundation? It seems highly unlikely.
No, David Cameron seeks out these people – and actively cultivates them – because he wants either the money they can give him in Party donations, or access to the power they have to influence events…..or both. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair before him were no different.
As I write these lines, an ad is on the TV extolling the virtues of Gazprom as sponsors or the European Champions’ League. There are times when “game over” feels like the appropriate phrase.