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18 March 2010

Did Cameron mislead over outing Ashcroft as a non-dom?

Tory leader snapped: "It was me -- right?" But was it?

By James Macintyre

Much is being made of William Hague’s embarrassing lightning-conductor admission that he was wrong to declare that “Lord” Ashcroft would pay “tens of millions” more in tax after his 2000 peerage. And Hague’s admissions are significant because he is such a central part of today’s Tory leadership.

But surely even more important is the question of whether David Cameron misled the public when he characteristically tried to take personal credit recently for outing Ashcroft as a non-dom.

Paul Waugh has highlighted the two key soundbites.

Hague says that it was he who had the initial conversation with Ashcroft, and: “I said to him he should explain all that to David Cameron.”

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Cameron: “And it was done by me — right?”

The second quotation is from that interview with the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, in which the tetchy Cameron was on show (for another example of this during tricky interviews, see the first paragraph here).

Cameron’s temper when placed under media scrutiny, a rare event to which he is very unused, is becoming a not-so-well-kept secret in Westminster. Under the pressure of an election campaign it is likely to get a few more airings.