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  1. Election 2024
16 October 2009

Is Cameron a pre-emptive or reactive leader?

Perception over reality on expenses

By James Macintyre

I just had a call from a BBC producer who, testing my views on the expenses affair, said: “Obviously Cameron has taken swift action on this.” And from the media coverage this week, you could be forgiven for thinking that Cameron had been very tough indeed over the latest batch of Tory MPs to be caught up in the scandal. Some broadcasters have indicated that he urged David Wilshire, the MP for Spelthorne, to quit after it was reported that Wilshire — who thinks he is paid “close to the minimum wage” — had channelled £100,000 of public money into his own company.

The truth is rather different, as the Evening Standard‘s tireless scoop-finder Paul Waugh reveals on his blog.

As it happens, Cameron has a history of reacting rather slowly to dodgy news rather than leading from the front. When Patrick Mercer made his “black bastards” gibe in March 2007, the Tory leader acted only after the story took off on the rolling news channels. Initially, he failed to make a move.

Come to think of it, the BBC has a history of reporting Cameron’s supposed deciveness favourably: that was its way of working then, as it is now.

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While we’re on the subject of Cameron and expenses, I would urge anyone who hasn’t read Mehdi Hasan’s short but sharp piece in this week’s magazine to do so. Otherwise, given the Cameron media love-in, you’re unlikely to be reminded elsewhere of the rather murky subject of the Tory leader’s own expenses and taxpayer-subsidised mortgage.

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