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15 December 2009

Cameron still looks like a phoney

The Tory leader's problem is not his class, but his insincerity

By George Eaton

It’s becoming increasingly clear that David Cameron’s problem is not his class, but his perceived phoneyness. Voters are rarely troubled by a politician’s background or education (after all, they elected an Old Etonian as Mayor of London) but they despise insincerity.

A series of events including Cameron’s U-turn over the Lisbon Treaty and the revelations over Zac Goldsmith’s tax status have reinforced these concerns. Equally damaging has been the Tories’ refusal to abandon their pledge to cut inheritance tax, despite their warnings that the deficit is dangerously high.

It’s a thread picked up by Rachel Sylvester in her Times column today. She argues that Cameron must deal with the toxic issue of Lord Ashcroft’s tax status if he’s to avoid further antagonising voters.

Here’s the key passage:

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Of course, most voters have never heard of Lord Ashcroft — although you can be sure that by the time the country goes to the polls Labour and the Liberal Democrats will have made him a household name. But the questions about his tax status play into the wider issue of trust. Voters are still unsure whether Mr Cameron really calls the shots with his right-wingers. If he can’t even force his own vice-chairman to say where he lives for tax purposes, then it is fair to wonder whether he could assert himself on things that really mattered if he got to No 10.

The most notable finding from the latest Guardian/ICM poll is that while two months ago 49 per cent of voters said they thought Cameron and Osborne would do better than Darling and Brown, today only 38 per cent do. Clearly these isolated events are damaging overall trust in the Tories.

The difficulty for Labour is that few people will be willing to take lectures on trust from Gordon Brown, who hubristically declared that he’d “abolished boom and bust”. But after the MPs’ expenses scandal, perhaps the best any leader can hope for is to be mistrusted the least.


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