This is what happens when you forget that private means private, George

When the story of Peter Mandelson and George Osborne’s meeting was leaked to the press by the Tory shadow chancellor three weeks ago, I argued on Lib Dem Voice that Mr Osborne had behaved pretty shabbily:

There’s a principle at stake here, even if it’s one increasingly regarded as old-fashioned: that private conversations held in good faith should be respected.

At the time, Iain Dale (every Lib Dem’s favourite Tory blogger) accused me of being “pious”. But, in fact, there’s more to not leaking private conversations than good manners: it’s also good sense. Who knows exactly why Mr Rothshild decided to go on the counter-attack against the Tory shadow chancellor – but there’s more than a hint of the personal offence he took at Mr Osborne’s very public outing of his social relations with Lord Mandelson in the concluding lines of his letter to The Times:

it ill behoves all political parties to try and make capital at the expense of another in such circumstances. Perhaps in future it would be better if all involved accepted the age-old adage that private parties are just that.

And who knows exactly what happened when George Osborne, Peter Mandelson, Oleg Deripaska and Nathaniel Rothschild holidayed together in Corfu this summer: chances are this scandal-in-a-tiffin-cup will descend into an undignified he-said-she-said stand-off.

But the incident has further damaged George Osborne’s political stock; and it was already on the decline due to his distinctly unimpressive response to the financial turmoil of recent weeks. Even the usually über-loyal Spectator Coffee House blog couldn’t avoid mentioning how Mr Osborne had evaded media questioning about the discussions he had with Mr Deripaska:

The frustrated press pack kept asking whether Osborne has discussed a donation with the oligarch at all, but the Shadow Chancellow repeatedly batted that away, which will not play well in the media.

George Osborne should take note: Lord Mandelson has discovered to his political cost over the years that leaking against your opponents may win you the battle, but all too often ends up losing you the war.

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3 Comments

  • If I (as a local councillor) was found to be enjoying the hospitality of a property developer’s yacht along with a councillor from another party I rather think it would be the end of a distinguished career in planning …….

    There are times one is tempted to believe the New World Order Conspiracy Theorists !!!!!

  • Osbourne’s leaking info from his meeting with Mandelson was very shabby. It’s a shame then that Clegg thought it wise to jump on the band waggon and talk about the details of private meetings he had with Mandelson too.

  • I wonder what this episode says about the Conservatives’ commitment to civil liberties if the principle of privacy is one they are prepared to stand up for when it might win them votes, but not one which they are willing to defend when it is trumped by their selfish interests?

    If Mr Rothschild is looking to support a political party which does defend these principles (and considering the record of Mr Mandelson’s party) may I suggest he look no further than the LibDems (where he will also find he gets more bang for his buck).

    The more I read about this saga, the uglier it looks.

    With wealthy jetsetters potentially throwing around what amounts to small change for them during a time when ordinary members of the public are feeling the pinch and are being forced tightening our belts as a consequence of financiers taking massive risks on the markets with our hard-earnt money, this begins to take on the appearance of our democracy our well-being and our futures being bought for self-aggrandising favours.

    The details of Osborne’s conversations asking whether LDV could be used to channel the donation bears striking resemblance to the story about the way the Midlands Industrial Council has been used as a ‘clearing house’ for Conservative party donations (isn’t LDV based in the midlands too?), so I hope there is further following up to be done.

    While Osborne may be taking stick for his lack of judgement in this particular matter there is a stench around political funding which hangs about the Tory party generally. Considering the number of multi-millionaires who sit on Cameron’s front bench, shouldn’t they be capable of funding themselves?

    I think we should also be making pointed comments about how the behaviour of individual Conservatives reflects upon their policy proposals as a party. This matters.

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