Tory Media Bitch Fight: Peter Oborne v Lord Ashcroft Round II

After round one last year, sometime Cameron loyalist Peter Oborne accuses mischief-making Lord Ashcroft of treachery in an uncharacteristically forthright piece in the Telegraph. Citing twitter, polling and his alleged loathing of Lynton Crosby, Oborne calls for Dave to withdraw the whip:

“This brings me onto the subject of Lord Ashcroft. In recent weeks, the Conservative peer … has been engaged in an open, menacing and extremely public campaign against David Cameron… 

What we can all agree on is that there is something strange about Lord Ashcroft’s conduct. He is, after all, a peer of the realm, a very substantial businessman, and a high-ranking Conservative figure. Yet he is stalking the Prime Minister in a rather cranky way… So here is a word of well-meant advice for Lord Ashcroft: it’s time to quit the Tory party. You are no longer happy in it, and it has never felt entirely comfortable with you. The time when rich men, especially those with a record of (legally) avoiding British tax, could buy a political party has gone. If you want to make persistent, childish and personal criticisms of a Conservative prime minister, it is much better that they should be made from the perspective of a private citizen. And here is a word of advice for the Prime Minister. If Lord Ashcroft carries on using this treacherous and disloyal language, stop pretending not to notice. Strip him of the Conservative whip, kick him out of the party, and set an example.”

Leading to this rebuttal from Ashcroft:

“First, my tweets are occasionally mischievous, and I am sorry if some of them have not been to Peter’s taste. But he overstates their “menace”… if I sometimes link to other articles that make unhappy reading for Downing Street – well, I’m not a Tory press officer. Second, Peter makes the excellent point that Twitter is not the ideal medium for complex or thoughtful arguments.

Quite so – which is why I write at greater length elsewhere, especially on ConHome and my own research and commentary site… I have used my more independent position to conduct political research on a scale which to the best of my knowledge has not been seen before in this country. The results are published for all to read alongside my comment. No doubt some of this is uncomfortable for the Tories but I have often pointed out that it shows Cameron to be the party’s biggest asset – hardly the “vicious and damaging public criticism” that Peter accuses me of indulging in… Overall, my political commentary amounts to a prolonged reminder that the winning party will be the one that pays attention to the voters and their priorities. I hope that party will be the Conservative Party – but I think I’m more use to it as a truth-teller than a cheerleader.”

Seconds out…

Paul Goodman, ConservativeHome editor, says calling the Ashcroft owned-website a “right-wing and often anti-Cameron website” is as fair as calling Peter Oborne a “right-wing and often anti-Cameron journalist”.  There are other similarities; The Telegraph and The Spectator are owned by secretive Tory-leaning offshore billionaires the Barclay brothers. Political publishers DODS, ConservativeHome, PoliticsHome, Total Politics Magazine, The House Magazine, Holyrood Magazine, Public Affairs News, bookseller Biteback Publishing plus a few other specialist political publications and monitoring companies are controlled by the formerly offshore Tory-leaning billionaire Lord Ashcroft. It is little known that Ashcroft was rebuffed by the Barclays when he expressed an interest in buying The Spectator…


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