It was while we were sitting in a Starbucks in Norwich that the loneliness of David Cameron’s position dawned upon him. It was our second visit to Norfolk within the month for a by-election campaign that had not even officially begun and, despite it being breakfast, his patience with the day had thinned.
“There must be some other f***** who can help out with
the dogsbody work?”
“Not really, DC.”
“That’s pathetic. And unacceptable.”
“More sugar?” Sometimes it can seem that my destiny has been to provide saccharine, in verbal or granular form, for the man who will be this country’s 52nd Prime Minister. Once again, I pushed the bowl towards him and watched him take two cubes, and one for luck.
Acceptable or not, we are where we are at. Dave wanted a new party in his own image and has been granted his wish. The only impediment to his joy is that he is not just chief but only salesman for the project. We have managed to assemble a shadow cabinet absent of all the talents. It is hard to think of a more slothful man on the planet than William Hague – other than Ken Clarke, whose return to politics is beginning to look like his position on Europe: another of his jokes, which no one else understands but which keeps him chuckling for a decade. Little George Osborne is tricky, and the public are wise to it. Maude, Willetts and Letwin are bores. The Theresas (May and Villiers) are best avoided. Gove has gone missing. Hammond is useful only for anaesthetising a Newsnight audience. As for the rest, even I struggle to remember their names, and I advised upon their appointments.
Nor is there likely to be any improvement. David has pulled the doubly alienating trick of demanding his colleagues write hefty cheques with one hand while writing letters of resignation from lucrative jobs with the other. He is, I think we can say, considerably more popular in the country than he is
in the cabinet. Mention this quirk to him, as I did in Norwich, and he comes over all dreamy.
“I know, I know, Gids,” he says. “It is only the truly popular who are unpopular.”
“Run that by me again, DC.”
“It’s complicated, but it’s based on something Simon Cowell told me: if you want to strive for a new level of popularity, you must accept unpopularity from the level you have recently left behind. He calls it his Celebrity Ladder theory.”
“There may be nothing to it.”
And, at that moment, a feral urchin and his sidekick broke through the ropes of the impromptu VIP area, which the staff at Starbucks had kindly assembled for us, and said: “Autograph?”
“Certainly,” said DC, flourishing his Mont Blanc.
Afterwards and, considerately, out of Dave’s earshot, the sidekick turned to his feral friend and asked, “Who was that?”
“That bloke on Celebrity MasterChef last night. Tony Hadley or something.”
An example, maybe, of Celebrity Snakes & Ladder theory.