David Cameron promised a “cleaner politics” soon after becoming leader of the Tory Party ten years’ ago despite the leak of his resignation honours that has prompted criticism of “cronyism”.
In September 2006, Cameron had been leader of the Opposition for little over a year when he laid out a series of proposals to a Conservative taskforce, headed by Ken Clarke, and promised to reverse the erosion of “public confidence” in politics that had been “tarnished” under Tony Blair.
Pledging to re-establish the independence of civil servants and a new system to investigate allegations of ministerial impropriety, Cameron said:
“There is a backlash against top-down, dictatorial government and a desire for greater openness, probity and accountability in the institutions that regulate and control our lives.
“The public wants cleaner politics and better value for money. Tony Blair’s government has tarnished politics and eroded public confidence in our traditional institutions.
“We need to restore trust and tackle the public’s underlying cynicism - that politicians put party before country and partisan spin before the truth. In short, society has changed. Politicians must change too.”
Many will now think those words ring hollow after it emerged those in line for honours as he quit as Prime Minister include former Chancellor George Osborne, Samantha Cameron’s stylist, several prominent Remain campaigners and Cabinet ministers and Tory donors.
The condemnation was immediate and cross-party. Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, called for new Prime Minister Theresa May to halt the awards. He said:
“I hope Theresa May is not going stake her reputation on David Cameron’s old boys network.
“That Mr Cameron proposes to reward his friends network on such a huge scale will not only bring the honours system into disrepute, it will undermine the reputation of the Theresa May.
“It’s cronyism, pure and simple and proof the Tories will always put their own interests before those of the country.”
Ukip’s Nigel Farage, a key player in the bringing about ‘Brexit’, said there were “too many rewards for failure”.
Political commentators seized on how Cameron appeared to have abandoned any claim to making politics more respectable.