Shame and Scandal in the Family

Shock Horror! The Prime Minister’s mother has signed a petition opposing the PM’s stringent cuts to local services. Mary Cameron, at 81 years old, by all accounts, remains a formidable and lucid woman. She served for years as a local magistrate. She is against the closure of children’s centres in the Conservative run Oxfordshire County Council. She is against the cuts made necessary by the austerity measures imposed on the council by none other than her own son. Is this a surprise, a scandal even?

Not really!  Last year David Cameron himself opposed the cuts outlined by the Conservative leader of his own local council. He seems to want it both ways. He wants severe cuts in spending without cuts in services, at least in his own constituency. When he sees the reality of spending cuts on local people he himself opposes them. This is the real shame and scandal.

Try this one then! George Osborne has been looking a little under the weather lately. There have been calls, perhaps unfairly, to have him tested for recreational substance abuse. But even this is not the scandal I have in mind.

The Chancellor’s brother is a psychiatrist. He has been in a spot of bother lately.  In 2010 he was suspended for six months for writing fraudulent prescriptions for family and friends. More recently the ‘spot of bother’ is a little different in nature, but no less concerning. Dr Adam Osborne has admitted to having sex with a vulnerable patient in his care, between 2011 and 2014 and to have followed this up with threatening emails asking the woman to withdraw her complaint.

Both Bullingdon Club boys, brothers-in-arms in the Conservative Party apparatus, Cameron and Osborne are conjoined in the need to face down the embarrassing revelations of the antics of their close family members this week. There are other reasons, however, why the Prime Minister and the Chancellor might be experiencing a sense of ‘shame and scandal’.

Michael Crick of Chanel Four News has revealed a potentially criminal level of under-reporting of Conservative Party campaign expenses. It would appear not that invoices accidentally went astray, but that there was a deliberate attempt to hide certain expenses from scrutiny, behaviour that amounts to the criminal offence of showing ‘contempt for the law’. The evidence is very clear that electoral abuse has indeed taken place. Whether or not prosecutions will follow is another matter.

This allegation of financial abuse of the electoral system comes on the heals of previous allegations of emotional abuse, following the suicide of Elliott Johnson on 15th September 2015. Suggestions that the Conservative Way Forward (CWF) ‘Road Trip’ was characterised by a culture of bullying and sleaziness lead to the resignation of the Conservative Party’s co-chairman, Grant Shapps, in November last year, as well as of CWF chair, Donal Blaney, and chief executive, Paul Abbott. The so-called ‘Tatler Tory’ poster-boy activist, Mark Clarke, claimed that the scandal went right to the very top of the party, and that Lord Feldman, close personal friend and confidante of Cameron, was aware of the bullying and did nothing to stop it.

It is true to say that one has little control over one’s family and one is, therefore, not really responsible for what they might say and do. One might expect, however, Cameron and Osborne to exert a little more authority and leadership over the attitudes and behaviours of the ‘family’ of the Conservative Party. Where does the buck ultimately stop? In the words of the 1960s Trinidadian Calypso tune “Woe, is me, shame and scandal in the family… ”


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