A year to go to the election and the race to head up David’s inner sanctum, the only race in town, is approaching the final turn, with the field beginning to bunch up. No better time, then, to consider the runners and riders. When doing so it is helpful to bear in mind the schism at the heart of the party. This, for once and thank goodness, has nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with there being two David Camerons. There is the Dave who is protected and indulged by his wife Samantha and the Astor clan. It is they who, in the way the aristocracy has done through the ages, propelled him on to the national stage to see how he might fare and how far he might go. In private, they are amazed by the results. In public, they try to remember to laugh with him not at him.
Along the way they have allowed into their circle Osborne, Boles, Vaizey, little Steve Hilton and my brother-in-fundraising Andrew “Marty” Feldman. The most important member of this clan, however, is not the shadow chancellor, who is, if you will, already reaching for his whip, but the “one-man think tank” who is cruising through on the outside. This is, of course, Michael Gove, who despite being brought up by a wet fish merchant in Aberdeen, has been accepted by the aristocrats. In no small part thanks to the efforts of his wife, the “author and journalist” Sarah Vine, who is sufficiently chummy with Sam’n’Dave to have helped out on the occasional school run.
This, one might imagine, might render them unassailable, but that would be to underestimate the deviousness and determination of the press pack. This is headed up by Andy (formerly Andi) Coulson, with considerable support from the Freuds and Murdochs. They take DC, as they call him, desperately seriously because their careers depend on him. They flatter him with grandiose comparisons to Margaret and then terrify him with stories about the power the tabloids exerted over Major. Cameron, never one to deflect a compliment, laps it up, and, being the son of a stockbroker, thrives on the sense of risk and chicanery which prevails in the court of King Coulson and the endless tittle-tattle which enables him, for once, to be better informed than the in-laws.
Expect Gove and Coulson, therefore, to be leading the way as we enter the final furlong. And do not be surprised or alarmed to see Colonel Fawn in the mix. Ever since he published Dave on Dave, his stupendously interesting book of interviews with our glorious leader, the men’s magazine editor has exerted an influence in direct contrast to his abilities. Neither witty nor wise, nor, indeed, well-connected, he has worryingly wormed his way into David’s affections through endless talk of what Fawn, punningly and deadeningly, calls Cam-eron-elot.
Claiming to be an expert on branding, the author of iPod, Therefore I Am (My Life So Far!) has chatted incessantly about projecting Cameron as Kennedy, or DWDC as JFK, as he puts it. This has gone down well with Samantha, never one to deflect a compliment. She is taken with Fawn’s (rather blurred) vision that “Sammy C is the new Jackie O”. It is the Colonel, bafflingly, who, having a foot in both camps, might ascend to the top. Even though I’d have thought any comparison with a drug-addled, womanising leader with a secret medical condition is the last thing we would want in the run-up to the election.