Monday, 21 September 2015
#Piggate may be hilarious, but there are some worryingly serious implications
Getting serious about #Piggate (difficult though it is), there's something undeniably sinister about the way this has all gone on.
Think about it. It seems pretty likely that as Ashcroft's been working on this book for a while, he probably had this information on Cameron before the election. But even though, on a personal level, he felt betrayed by Cameron, he didn't reveal the information until after the election. Hardly surprising - being the billionaire that he is, a Tory government - even one lead by someone he has a personal grievance with - is still financially preferable to a Labour government.
By waiting until after the election to undermine Cameron, then while this story - regardless of whether or not it's true - is likely to stick, then the worst that can happen is that Cameron resigns much earlier than originally intended, because his reputation is in tatters, and/or he bows out due to a leadership challenge from Boris Johnson or George Osborne (or someone else entirely).
Also worth bearing in mind that getting towards the end of a second term, governments can be really quite unpopular, even if they're going to survive. Having a a different leader in the top job saved the Tories in the early 1990s, and it may well do so again.
There's also the parallels with what has happened with previous political leaders - Thatcher didn't really go because of the public - she went because she was being pushed by her own party. And the moment The Sun dropped its support for Labour under Gordon Brown, the party's fate at the following election was virtually sealed.
In this case, not only has The Sun seemed to have turned on Cameron (have a look at what tomorrow's front page is...) then so has The Mail. Obviously Ashcroft himself has an axe to grind, but for The Mail to agree to print it and for The Sun to jump on the bandwagon, that says something about just how ruthless the British (media) elite is. They spent the last week tearing into Corbyn - now they're doing the same to their own.
Is it just a personal dislike? Has Murdoch jumped on board because of all the stuff over phone-hacking a few years ago, and this is his payback on Cameron? If support of him in the run-up to the election was essentially a marriage of convenience, this is the messy divorce.
Or is it deeper than that? Is it political and tactical?
How rattled or not are the Right by Corbyn? Is it possible that they think that the longer Cameron sticks around, the worse the Tories' chances are at the next election, regardless of who's in charge?
Do they want rid of Cameron early so that his successor has more time to grow into the role and prove himself? Have they decided that the potential late poll-boost that a new leader may grant them might not be enough come 2020?
This is before we even get started on whether or not #piggate is another massive 'dead cat strategy' - sure, the revelation (which politically, is actually far more important) that Cameron may have known about Ashcroft's non-dom tax status, as early as 2009, is damaging, but if everyone's more focused on what he may or may not have got up to in his student days, does that distract the public enough from the bigger picture?
The short answer is, I don't know. But as funny as #piggate is, taking a step back to consider some of the wider implications, this is very worrying. Not just for the Left's prospects at the next general election, but also just how corrupt the ruling elites of Britain truly are; their contempt for democracy, and their disloyalty, and their ruthlessness.