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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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.