A good time for Charlie

Preparing for power...

Tramp nightclub, in which it is hard to distinguish the high-class hookers from the low-end countesses, is an establishment that one more readily associates with Taki than with the Tory party. Yet such is the power of the press, that when the Sun editor Rebekah Wade’s fiancé (my old schoolfriend Charlie Brooks) decides to launch a book, the great and the good come flocking. So it was that the editors of the Times, Sunday Times and Times Literary Supplement were in attendance along with our leader David, little George and, lowering the tone, Guy Ritchie.

That Charlie Brooks (one-time racehorse trainer, part-time Telegraph journalist and full-time idiot) should have completed a book was a surprise to anyone who knows him. That he should have written one was a deep shock, but there was Citizen in hardback, piled on a table in Tramp. “It’s the new Francome,” trilled the publicist, unaware of the damage she might be doing to sales. If her claim was true, then this wasn’t the first time Charlie had pulled this gambit; he famously eloped with his friend John Francome’s first wife.

For a ghastly moment as Brooks, not a shy man, cleared his throat and read, “Chapter one: Tipper knew that Ireland was the Emerald Isle; but he’d never seen a real emerald. Ma owned a necklace made of green stones, which, his father had once told him solemnly . . .” it appeared as if “the genial Old Etonian” was going to have a stab at reading all 560 pages of his “thriller”. Thankfully, he ran out of steam just before the remainder of his audience, including the patient hookers, ran out of the door.

Sensibly, I had done my work before the reading, setting up a lunch for DC and myself with Wade before finessing inquiries about Citizen by saying: “Charlie has written the kind of book that Charlie would enjoy reading.” Harding of the Times, meanwhile, was still carrying his British Press Award and mumbling about being humbled. By a press award? Is this possible?

More importantly, I managed to extricate DC from the clutches of Ritchie (whose proposed docudrama, Dave Cameron – The First 100 Days, is still a “goer”, unbelievably) and GO from a coterie of low-end countesses, in order to bang their heads together. Our invitation to Ken Clarke to return inside the tent looked clever at the time, and is looking every bit as clever now, but it does mean that we have three people responsible for economic policy. This causes confusion when they sing from different textbooks. It is unhelpful for DC to accuse Brown of hobnobbing with world leaders when he has enough on his plate at home, while GO is running around trying to convince those same world leaders’ sidekicks that he is a credible chancellor in a globalised age. We are sending out conflicting messages when we need not have any message. Clarke, who sat at home doing nothing, understands this perfectly.

After a brisk chinwag in Tramp, I hope this has now dawned on Cameron and Osborne. The election will be fought on the economy, which is why we should at all costs avoid mentioning the economy. Irritatingly, our policy meeting was interrupted by David being phoned on his BlackBerry by one of Piers Morgan’s people, asking him if “he would like to be interviewed by the great man”. A swift no would surely have sufficed, but DC became embroiled in discussing terms and conditions, and by the time he had finished, Brooks had started and the opportunity to make further headway on economic policy had passed.

This article first appeared in the 13 April 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Easter 2009