Dave’s darling doughnuts

"Who will be our Darling?" asks Dave, scanning the Sunday Times, biting into a triple-crème doughnut and attempting that camp voice, which serves only to make him sound whiney. Osborne looks embarrassed, Hague looks embarrassed. "Who will be our Darling?" asks Dave again.

Until recently the "Three Musketeers" have met for a fortnightly dinner to hammer out the party line, but pressures on their time (the Foreign Secretary trying to keep tabs on Gaddafi, the Chancellor trying to stop the economy going down the global toilet, and the PM trying to squeeze in a fifth holiday) have seen dinner reduced to breakfast. Not that it is easy to tell the difference when watching Dave tuck in to what he boringly refers to as the most important meal of the day. (The sharper among you might be remarking: "Where's Gove?" Sadly for Wee Scottie, this is not a question that has been heard in the corridors of power for a long while. Education is very much yesterday's slogan. "We've given them two dozen free schools - what more can they want?" being the current line.)

Anyway, last Sunday's brunch marked something of a turning point, if only because the Foreign Secretary dared to allude to something I have been remarking upon for a very long time: did anyone, other than the Liberal Democrats, seriously try to win the last election? That those who tried hardest fared least well only confirmed my suspicion. Certainly it explains why Labour persisted with Brown and then, obviously playing a
very long game when it comes to losing elections, plumped for Goofball Ed.

The problem with mentioning this, of course, is that a more sensitive or - dare I say it - brighter PM might take offence. Nevertheless, Hague, always anxious to burnish his no-nonsense image as a professional Yorkshireman, blurted out: "Appen to think we're fooked." It is with great regret that I have to report there has been a proliferation of bad accents within the inner circle and the contagion is now so advanced that the process of government can resemble nothing so much as a moderate 1970s sitcom. It's like Healey and Benn all over again. The English way of doing things - when in a hole, put on a silly accent and wait for everything to go away.

Except this hole gets deeper by the day and, as holes are wont to do, it is going nowhere. Those shallow columnists who think it clever to remark "August is the cruellest month" should wait until September is out. You think Osborne looks under par? If you had read what he has read, you wouldn't be able to get out of bed. You think Hague looks peaky? Believe me, he's doing well not to be throwing his guts up in public through
utter panic.

And yet, at the centre of everything, the PM remains magnificently oblivious, munching his doughnut. "So, guys, do you think playing golf on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 would send out the right message?"

This article first appeared in the 12 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron vs the shires