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.
Regarding the Telegraph article I want to be clear I have no problem with the PM. He has always supported me.
— Shaun Bailey (@ShaunBaileyUK) May 11, 2013
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).