It was during one of the many lengthy selection meetings for our speech-writing squad, held around Easter, that the name Coren was first mentioned.
“Are we really reduced to satirists? And deceased satirists at that,” said Maude, whose displays of dry wit provide, for many of us, the only reason to show up at these interminable occasions.
“Vicky?” said Andy Coulson, whose penchant for what I have actually heard him term “posh totty” provides the only adequate explanation for him joining our side (along with being fired from his previous job, of course).
“Giles,” said little Steve Hilton, whose patience is often remarked upon.
It wasn’t the most ringing of endorsements but it transpired that Osborne was a fan of Giles’s restaurant column and, in a thin market, that was enough. Calls were made and within a week G C was writing in the Times about how it was now perfectly acceptable for people of taste and refinement (like, to name but one, himself) to support the Tories. It was neither the best-written nor best-reasoned piece, and its only novelty was his surprising claim that he allegedly went to Oxford (Poly?), but it was enough to keep him in the team.
And so matters meandered along until the Times printed last week the most absurd “news story” claiming that Cameron was related to Moses. I was with David when he read this for the first time and fully expected him to dismiss it with a trademark raised eyebrow before tossing the paper aside, but instead he murmured something (in, I think, Hebrew) and filed the article away. It would not surprise me a jot on my next visit to his loo to see it framed and hanging on the left-hand side of his photograph of the 1984 Members of Pop. Fortunately, no other news agencies ran with it and it might have been forgotten by everyone but Dave. Might have been, that is, if Coren had not treated us to a hilarious article on “Dave as Moses”, which was exactly as unfunny as you would expect anything labelled hilarious to be. It fell to me to read the riot act.
Cheaper than the skate it is his job to comment upon, Coren doubled up his lunch with me with a visit to a restaurant he was keen to review and, as a result, there was much faffing around as he sought to retain his anonymity.
“I’ve been on the telly recently, don’t you know,” was one of many uninteresting things he would tell me.
Once we were ensconced in a corner booth I interrupted yet more talk about his life by bringing up the subject of the column. “Did you like it?” he asked. “Be honest here, what did you really like about it?” he further asked. “Did Dave say anything?” he finally asked before I could get a word in.
“It was well up to standard, one of your better efforts, even,” I reassured him. “But in future it might make sense, if you are thinking of essaying ‘a political piece’, to run it past me first.”
My tone was mild, his reaction apoplectic. “Bastard,” he screamed, leaping to his feet. “I am Giles Coren,” he continued at the same level, thereby rather blowing his hard-worked-upon cover, “and no one, N-O-O-N-E touches my copy. I am an artist, not a mere hack.”
“Absolutely,” I replied, picking up the menu. “Now the party’s paying, so shall we go à la carte? Is there anything you can’t eat?”