Cameron's clique accused of having "frozen out" his only black adviser

In another blue-on-blue attack, friends of Shaun Bailey claim he was sidelined by Cameron's Etonian aides.

In last Saturday's Daily Telegraph, David Davis pleaded with David Cameron to stop recruiting "old Etonian advisers". Tomorrow, in another blue-on-blue attack, some of the same advisers are accused of having "frozen out" Cameron's only black working class aide, Shaun Bailey. Bailey, who stood unsuccessfully in Hammersmith for the Tories at the last election, is said by a friend to have been sidelined after criticising No. 10's failure to address the rising cost of living and to build a more diverse party. Bailey was sacked as a special adviser earlier this year and moved to a part-time role at the cabinet office. The friend in question tells the Telegraph:

They just didn’t get what Shaun was saying. He kept challenging them saying, ‘Why are we not saying this?’ … He went into Downing Street and the first thing he said was, ‘The only political conversation you need to have publicly is about the cost of living’. He also gave plenty of warning that if they wanted to talk about being a diverse party, people have to see it. But they didn’t want to hear about it. Shaun was frozen out.

And there's worse, much worse. The friend adds:

Shaun always says that you can see from space that the place is dominated by those from Eton.

It was very difficult for Shaun. He was never included. He got the distinct impression they tried to keep him away from the Prime Minister. It got to a point where Shaun just stopped saying things because it was just getting him in trouble. There was even one week where he decided not to go into the office because he wanted to see if they would even notice. They didn’t. None of them.

Elsewhere, in an anecdote that Ed Miliband's team will already be considering how best to deploy at PMQs, we learn that Bailey was "horrified" when US pollster Frank Luntz visited Downing Street and asked Cameron's advisers "what kept them awake at night". The friend explains:

The pollster asked them what kept them awake at night and they didn’t even have the wit to understand that he meant it was the electorate.

When the pollster pointed that out to them, they literally said, 'Nothing keeps us awake’. How can you be advising people and nothing keeps you awake? Then someone said 'school fees’.

Here's how Labour's Michael Dugher has responded tonight:

"Once again David Cameron has shown that he is in complete denial about the cost of living crisis facing millions of hard-pressed families thanks to his Government's failure.

"When even one of his own advisers dares to point out some home truths, they are immediately shunned in favour of yet more old school chums and yes men.

"The idea that private school fees is the only thing keep David Cameron's clique awake at night tells you everything you need to know about this Government.

"This is a Prime Minister that takes being out of touch to a whole new level".

Some will dismiss all of the above as the usual grumblings of an out-of-favour adviser, but the fusion of race and class is toxic for Cameron. As pollsters regularly attest, now, more than ever, the Conservatives are viewed as "the party of the rich" and it's worth remembering that the Tories received just 16 per cent of the ethnic minority vote at the last election. In an acknowledgment that the party still has a race problem, there has long been talk of Cameron delivering a speech on the subject, in which he would repudiate Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech and Norman Tebbit's "cricket test", the memory of which still hinders support for the Tories among ethnic minority voters. But for now, the Prime Minister would do well just to stem the tide of leaks from his party.

Update: Never blame the King, always blame his advisers. Here's how Bailey has responded on Twitter.

P.S. If you haven't already, do pick up this week's NS to read Jason's cover story on Cameron's clique and how "the old ruling class became the new ruling class", including his interview with Eton headmaster Tony Little (read some web-only extracts here).

Shaun Bailey, who stood for the Conservatives in Hammersmith at the last general election, with David Cameron.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Former Irish premier John Bruton on Brexit: "Britain should pay for our border checks"

The former Taoiseach says Brexit has been interpreted as "a profoundly unfriendly act"

At Kapıkule, on the Turkish border with Bulgaria, the queue of lorries awaiting clearance to enter European Union territory can extend as long as 17km. Despite Turkey’s customs union for goods with the bloc, hauliers can spend up to 30 hours clearing a series of demanding administrative hoops. This is the nightmare keeping former Irish premier John Bruton up at night. Only this time, it's the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and it's much, much worse.   

Bruton (pictured below), Taoiseach between 1994 and 1997, is an ardent pro-European and was historically so sympathetic to Britain that, while in office, he was pilloried as "John Unionist" by his rivals. But he believes, should she continue her push for a hard Brexit, that Theresa May's promise for a “seamless, frictionless border” is unattainable. 

"A good example of the sort of thing that might arise is what’s happening on the Turkish-Bulgarian border," the former leader of Ireland's centre-right Fine Gael party told me. “The situation would be more severe in Ireland, because the UK proposes to leave the customs union as well."

The outlook for Ireland looks grim – and a world away from the dynamism of the Celtic Tiger days Bruton’s coalition government helped usher in. “There will be all sorts of problems," he said. "Separate permits for truck drivers operating across two jurisdictions, people having to pay for the right to use foreign roads, and a whole range of other issues.” 

Last week, an anti-Brexit protest on the border in Killeen, County Louth, saw mock customs checks bring traffic to a near standstill. But, so far, the discussion around what the future looks like for the 260 border crossings has focused predominantly on its potential effects on Ulster’s fragile peace. Last week Bruton’s successor as Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, warned “any sort of physical border” would be “bad for the peace process”. 

Bruton does not disagree, and is concerned by what the UK’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights might mean for the Good Friday Agreement. But he believes the preoccupation with the legacy of violence has distracted British policymakers from the potentially devastating economic impact of Brexit. “I don’t believe that any serious thought was given to the wider impact on the economy of the two islands as a whole," he said. 

The collapse in the pound has already hit Irish exporters, for whom British sales are worth £15bn. Businesses that work across the border could yet face the crippling expense of duplicating their operations after the UK leaves the customs union and single market. This, he says, will “radically disturb” Ireland’s agriculture and food-processing industries – 55 per cent of whose products are sold to the UK. A transitional deal will "anaesthetise" people to the real impact, he says, but when it comes, it will be a more seismic change than many in London are expecting. He even believes it would be “logical” for the UK to cover the Irish government’s costs as it builds new infrastructure and employs new customs officials to deal with the new reality.

Despite his past support for Britain, the government's push for a hard Brexit has clearly tested Bruton's patience. “We’re attempting to unravel more than 40 years of joint work, joint rule-making, to create the largest multinational market in the world," he said. It is not just Bruton who is frustrated. The British decision to "tear that up", he said, "is regarded, particularly by people in Ireland, as a profoundly unfriendly act towards neighbours".

Nor does he think Leave campaigners, among them the former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, gave due attention to the issue during the campaign. “The assurances that were given were of the nature of: ‘Well, it’ll be alright on the night!’," he said. "As if the Brexit advocates were in a position to give any assurances on that point.” 

Indeed, some of the more blimpish elements of the British right believe Ireland, wedded to its low corporate tax rates and east-west trade, would sooner follow its neighbour out of the EU than endure the disruption. Recent polling shows they are likely mistaken: some 80 per cent of Irish voters say they would vote to remain in an EU referendum.

Irexit remains a fringe cause and Bruton believes, post-Brexit, Dublin will have no choice but to align itself more closely with the EU27. “The UK is walking away,” he said. “This shift has been imposed upon us by our neighbour. Ireland will have to do the best it can: any EU without Britain is a more difficult EU for Ireland.” 

May, he says, has exacerbated those difficulties. Her appointment of her ally James Brokenshire as secretary of state for Northern Ireland was interpreted as a sign she understood the role’s strategic importance. But Bruton doubts Ireland has figured much in her biggest decisions on Brexit: “I don’t think serious thought was given to this before her conference speech, which insisted on immigration controls and on no jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice. Those two decisions essentially removed the possibility for Ireland and Britain to work together as part of the EEA or customs union – and were not even necessitated by the referendum decision.”

There are several avenues for Britain if it wants to avert the “voluntary injury” it looks set to inflict to Ireland’s economy and its own. One, which Bruton concedes is unlikely, is staying in the single market. He dismisses as “fanciful” the suggestions that Northern Ireland alone could negotiate European Economic Area membership, while a poll on Irish reunification is "only marginally" more likely. 

The other is a variation on the Remoaners’ favourite - a second referendum should Britain look set to crash out on World Trade Organisation terms without a satisfactory deal. “I don’t think a second referendum is going to be accepted by anybody at this stage. It is going to take a number of years,” he said. “I would like to see the negotiation proceed and for the European Union to keep the option of UK membership on 2015 terms on the table. It would be the best available alternative to an agreed outcome.” 

As things stand, however, Bruton is unambiguous. Brexit means the Northern Irish border will change for the worse. “That’s just inherent in the decision the UK electorate was invited to take, and took – or rather, the UK government took in interpreting the referendum.”