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Monday, 24 November 2014

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Why inquiry could leave bad taste at 10 Dining St

The funny thing about the idea of rich folks paying a fortune to sit at David Cameron’s dining table is that – well, it just isn’t funny.

David Cameron photo
David Cameron

“If I’d paid £250,000 to dine with Cameron, I’d want...” (We won’t go into detail) “With Theresa May gently massaging,” a Twitter friend tweeted last week.

She assured me she was joking to make more forcibly her point. She would never pay for dinner in the PM’s flat – and that bit about Eric Pickles making up a threesome was meant to be amusing... not nauseating.

It was calculated by somebody or other last week that for £250,000, a potential eating companion could buy the Camerons 140,000 hot pasties – Dave loves them apparently, even though he can’t remember where he buys them – and save Sam Cam all the cooking.

That, I suggest, may well have been a nifty way of hinting that no pasty-tax row nor any petrol pump crisis had yet deflected attention from the Cam Dine With Me scandal, which rumbles on dangerously for the Tories.

Last week was a spectacular wobble-week for Mr Cameron and his friends.

What with petrol and pies and suggestions that a wad of cash could buy government policy – and a hearty dinner at Number 10 – all was not going his way.

On top of all that, Ed Miliband accused the Prime Minister of having “something to hide” in the row over donations to the Conservative Party and alleged access by lobbyists to ministers.

Whether he has anything to hide or not, is something you or I will probably not know for sure – for a good while anyway.

But if he has, I feel sorry for the guy.

Because David Cameron is man who has an unhappy knack for hiding most things very badly indeed.

Having lately been called to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics and standards, it struck me that Mr Cameron might well be wondering what he’s started.

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, was called at the behest of the Prime Minister, following the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World.

A murky business all round, that was – is. Journalists and politicians, publishers and editors, all rubbing shoulders, sharing tables and stables with Metropolitan Police officers.

Very cosy.

Not what you’d call pristine.

So, there was I with my colleague Nick, accounting to a judge – under oath – for every cup of tea bought for a copper, every coffee and biscuit accepted in return, in preparation for deeper, heavier regulation of the media... which is bound to come.

Frankly, I thought, if I’d ridden a borrowed police horse with low friends in high places, now fallen from grace; if I’d been accused of charging hundreds of thousands of pounds for dinner at my table; if I’d been a prime minister who once put wisteria pruning on my expenses, I doubt I’d have called this inquiry.

I think I might have kept well quiet.

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