Who is the Cameron family member who doesn't vote Tory?

The Prime Minister suggests that not all of his family are as supportive as they could be.

After Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg's appearances earlier this week, it was David Cameron's turn on The World At One this lunchtime. Asked about the decision of Conservative MP Priti Patel's father to stand as a UKIP candidate, Cameron replied: "it's a free country...often in families you get split loyalties", before intriguingly adding: "I'm trying to think of my own family. I don't want to reveal which members of my family ...". He quickly trailed off but the clear suggestion was that one or several members of the Cameron clan don't vote Conservative. "On the whole, they're all pretty supportive," he added, sounding less than convincing. Cameron couldn't bring himself to mention the word 'UKIP' (a fact that Martha Kearney rightly drew attention to) but could there be a supporter of Nigel Farage's party in the ranks? 

I'm reminded of the incident before the 2010 general election when Ed Vaizey, a friend of Cameron's from Oxford University, suggested that Samantha Cameron "might have voted for Blair" and "would be going into this poll thinking 'Is Cameron the real deal or should I stick with Brown?'" A furious CCHQ went on to force the-then shadow culture minister to issue this retraction: "I am very embarrassed by this. I had no justification for what I said. The only thing I do know from seeing David and Sam for many years is that Sam worked night and day on David's campaign in 1997 in Stafford and, as she said, has never voted Labour."

David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on April 24, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

GETTY
Show Hide image

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.