Friday, 20 August 2010

Cameron to kiss and make up with Ashcroft?

It is never very wise to be an enemy of Michael Ashcroft in the Conservative Party.

That could well be a lesson of the resignation - before taking up his post - of the man appointed as Ashcroft's successor as Tory Treasurer, David Rowland. And it is a thought which may still be on the mind of party leader David Cameron too.

And so a week of political controversy over whether the new Tory Treasurer is a reputable choice for the high profile role, and of heated debate about Philip Green's credentials for advising on austerity and deficits appears to have cleared the way for a possible return to the political frontline for Michael Ashcroft himself, according to the Guardian's front-page report.

Ashcroft himself had promised in the Spring to resign as deputy chairman - to spend more time with his business interests (and perhaps his blogs too, having spent £1.3 million to acquire majority stakes in ConservativeHome and PoliticsHome).

The Guardian reveals that he has not carried out his promise to resign - and is instead in talks with David Cameron about a future role.

One ministerial aide said: "This certainly leaves the door open for him. It really depends on whether Cameron feels that Ashcroft can be trusted after the tax debacle [over his undeclared 'non-domciled' status]," he said.

The source said he believed Ashcroft had promised to stand down because of a rift with Cameron's aides. "If Michael is taken back into the fold, he could come back in a more powerful position because they [the aides] have tried and failed to get rid of him," he said.

Not carrying out his public promises is not a new thing for not-Lord Ashcroft. It is what rather got the Conservative party into a rather controversial mess over his tax status. Hence the Guardian's suggestion that there may be a small issue of trust to resolve.

Still, Dave may find some advantages in keeping Ashcroft inside the tent too. No doubt the motivation would be to draw on the peer's incisive political insights - though Next Left would argue that Cameron would be rather selfish to keep these all to himself.

After all, with too much spare time on his hands, Michael Ashcroft does like to pen a score-settling tome or two (you can read Dirty Politics, Dirty Times account of his battle with The Times on his own website), so Westminster has been eagerly anticipating Ashcroft's account of why Cameron's Conservatives failed to win a majority at the General Election.

If Dave does find Lord A a new role, it would be a sad loss to political literature as the peer may feel it inappropriate to produce that revelatory insiders' account.

The Guardian report refers to "well-sourced speculation that he [Ashcroft] was instrumental in forcing the embarrassing resignation of the property tycoon David Rowland as Tory party treasurer on Thursday, weeks before he could even take up the post".

Ashcroft is, rather deliciously, widely reported to have warned his party of the reputational damage of appointing Rowland as his successor as Tory Treasurer.

Let us be absolutely clear that we have no evidence at all that Ashcroft was any more directly involved in fanning the spate of high-profile press reports about Rowland's record and reputation than offering that helpful warning. ('David Rowland makes Lord Ashcroft seem like a nun', one Tory source had earlier told the Daily Mail).

I would think it is perfectly plausible that Ashcroft happens to be a very happy and coincidental beneficiary of this sad outcome for Mr Rowland, which would appear to have reopened the happy possibility of Michael Ashcroft being able to continue to serve his party leader in a prominent role.

1 comment:

Cammie Novara said...

The minute I followed a link to the jaw dropping hilarious Yes We Scam! B.S. We Can Believe In! Obama Approval Plummets article my first thought was Next Left's frequenters have to be able to chat about this!