The circus that is Prime Minister’s Questions gave us some illuminating information today.
Ed Miliband kicked off his questioning strongly with the following facts: “An hour ago, we learned that linked to the HSBC tax avoidance scandal are seven Tory donors, including a former treasurer of the Tory party, who between them have given the party nearly £5 million. How can the Prime Minister explain the revolving door between Tory party HQ and the Swiss branch of HSBC?
Cameron didn’t have an answer, so relied on diversion instead: “I saw that list just before coming to Prime Minister’s questions. One of the people named is the Labour donor, Lord Paul, who funded Gordon Brown’s election campaign.”
Mr Miliband tried a different tack: “None of those people has given a penny [to the Labour Party] on my watch, and he [Cameron] is up to his neck in this. Let us take Stanley Fink, who gave £3 million to the Conservative party. The Prime Minister actually appointed him as treasurer of the party and gave him a peerage for good measure. Will he now explain what steps he is going to take about the tax avoidance activities of Lord Fink?
No, the Prime Minister wouldn’t. Instead he made a weak point that Tory donors don’t pick candidates or choose policies – which we know isn’t accurate. Tory donors pay for the chance to bend Cameron’s ear and influence his policies; that’s what the ‘Gagging Act’ was all about.
Miliband pulled him up on it: “He is a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors. He did not just take the money; he appointed the man who was head of HSBC as a minister. It was in the public domain in September 2010 that HSBC was enabling tax avoidance on an industrial scale. Are we seriously expected to believe that when he made Stephen Green a minister four months later, he had no idea about these allegations?”
Cameron’s response was to point out that Labour has a history with Lord Green as well. The problem with this, of course, is that the facts about Lord Green were not known until May 2010, after Labour had left office.
Miliband’s last words on the subject: “The Prime Minister is bang to rights, just like his donors. And doesn’t this all sound familiar? The Prime Minister appoints someone to a senior job in government. There are public allegations but he does not ask the questions, he turns a blind eye. Isn’t this just the behaviour we saw with Andy Coulson?”
Bang on target.
Look at this exchange. We see a Prime Minister with something to hide. He has no answers to the questions and must resort to deflection and insult in the hope that nobody will notice.
It’s a forlorn hope.
And it doesn’t matter how much money the tax avoiders have given the Tories –
This man and his party are morally bankrupt.
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