David Cameron has displayed either skilful brinkmanship or a way with weasel words, depending on your point of view, in evading the question of the government’s interaction with tobacco-lobbyist-cum-Tory-spinmeister Lynton Crosby on plain cigarette packs.
The revelation, in this weekend’s Observer, that Crosby had lobbied Lord Marland by email on 1 November 2012 has had critics scurrying to Hansard to find evidence of contradiction in the PM’s previous statements. But perhaps most problematic claim by Cameron was issued not within the Commons chamber but in a BBC interview on 21 July 2013.
Dropping the present tense — which seemed to restrict the period covered by the denials to Crosby’s current tenure with the Conservatives — the PM told Andrew Marr:
“Let me be clear. He [Crosby] has not intervened in any way on this or, indeed, on other issues.
“The whole thing from start to finish has been something of a media invention. He hasn’t intervened.
That Crosby’s role with the Tories was announced on 18 November 2012 (17 days after his message to Marland) might provide a bit of wriggle room — were it not for the fact that the pair are “close friends” and it was known in Westminster that Crosby had been in talks with the Tories for months.
The Indy had even reported in early October that one of the final sticking points was Crosby’s demand that his firm also be given the party’s polling contract.
And it gets worse. In the same interview, Cameron explains his vacillation on plain packaging:
“We need more evidence. We need greater legal certainty.”
Scrapbook wonders whether there is a better way to undermine such certainty than to commission opinions from former Court of Appeal judges questioning the legality of plan packs on intellectual property grounds …
… like the, errr, one that was paid for by Big Tobacco and sent to Lord Marland by Lynton Crosby on 1 November 2012.