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Sunday, April 1, 2012

MPs round on David Cameron and George Osborne

The disgraced former Tory party treasurer Peter Cruddas had direct access to David Cameron on at least 13 separate occasions since he came to power, it emerged yesterday, undermining Downing Street's attempts to close down the cash-for-access scandal.

Mr Cruddas was forced to resign last week after he was secretly filmed by undercover reporters boasting he could provide access to Mr Cameron and other ministers for "premier league" donors giving £250,000 to the party.

At the time Downing Street attempted to dismiss Mr Cruddas as an inexperienced treasurer who had little access to Mr Cameron and had never had dinner in Downing Street.

But new revelations suggest his contact with Mr Cameron was much more extensive than the Prime Minister's advisors have admitted. These included being invited to a dinner on the PM's birthday at a Belgravia restaurant and serving a curry to Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, when she was his dinner companion at a charity event at Chequers which he sponsored.

Mr Osborne is under mounting pressure to end his dual role as both Chancellor and head of Conservative political strategy.
• A senior MP should be appointed as full-time Conservative Party chairman, ending the current arrangement where job is shared by two peers.
• This year’s ministerial reshuffle should be used to promote more MPs from working-class and northern backgrounds, to counter the perception of a Government dominated by privileged public schoolboys.
Downing Street accepted that last week’s events had disappointed some MPs, but insisted there would be “no big change” in the way Mr Cameron does business. “We’ve got the right policies and we’re going to get on with delivering them,” said a source.
However, Mr Cameron was directly confronted at a “robust” private meeting with members of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, who told him he must make changes if the party is to have any hope of winning a full majority at the next election.
Several members of 1922’s executive – elected by their fellow MPs -- told Mr Cameron he must overhaul his Downing Street operation. Others told him to think again on controversial policies like gay marriage.
Robert Halfon MP, a member of the 1922 executive, said he was concerned that the Government is struggling for support among the low-income workers whose votes decide the result in many marginal seats.
“We have to be able to show that we speak for hardworking couples who are working all the hours in the day just to keep their heads above water,” Mr Halfon said. “The Government needs to be better at offering voters big themes: our policies are like clothes pegs without a clothesline holding them together.”
Tim Yeo, a senior backbencher, said the Government has recently shown “a lack of sureness of touch” and criticised the way in which key policies have been presented.

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