The Ashcroft affair: it’s not just about money, it’s about the civil service

What has slowly been dragged out of the Conservative Party over the last day is that senior figures such as William Hague and David Cameron were kept in the dark over the exact facts of Lord Ashcroft’s financial affairs for many years. Despite seeking reassurances and the like – and answering questions about it in public – none of them actually got to the bottom of the matter.

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the Ashcroft affair itself for a moment (many of which amount to the simple question, “Is something being legal enough to make it acceptable?”), what does this tell you about how Cameron, Hague et al might handle the civil service if they were in power?

The message sent out to civil servants seems quite clear: drag your feet, don’t fess up the full information and it’s ok – they won’t keep on asking questions until they get to the truth of the matter. They’re happy to stop far short of that.

In other words it’d be a field day for the reluctant, the incompetent or the just plain lazy to get away with carrying on as before regardless. Of course, there are many, many civil servants who are far better than that, but that’s the easy part of running government. The tough part is getting the best out of those who aren’t.

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  • I think we have got our approach to Ashcroft wrong (and who let Shirley Williams on QQT last night? She was poor on this topic).

    Crtiticising non-dom donations is not a good idea if you accept non-dom donations (Chris Huhne).

    The real issue here is about large donations full stop (and Labour are just as culpable on this matter), and the influence that individuals can gain in this way. It is just made worse by being channelled through tax-avoiding countries.

    Donations should be reformed to a low level (say £5k) and ONLY t be made by individuals elegible to vote in UK parliamentary elections; NOT companies, or Unions.

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