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  1. Long reads
23 October 2008

George, Nat and me

By Gideon Donald

I am pleased to report that while Ricky Gervais was in London drumming up business for his new major motion picture we met to discuss what we might do for each other. Ricky has long been a Tory and Dave is a “huge fan”, owning entire DVD sets of not only The Office but also Extras.

Both of us are keen to avoid a Kenny Everett at Wembley moment – as Ricky says, “There’s cheesy and there’s really cheesy.” That said, some stage performance involving “Britain’s funniest man” and the future prime minister (and maybe Sam Cam?) would work well for all of us. Maybe we can work-test it on the old Queen K.

Gervais is one of the sharpest potential donors I have had the privilege to meet. He is, if anything, too quick.

As is so often the way in the donation game, one wallet opens, another one closes. In this instance that of the celebrated film director Guy Ritchie. He had been earmarked to make the documentary to accompany Dave’s First 100 Days (the diminutive public relations guru Steve Hilton was anxious for “the tone to be edgy yet populist”) and had hypothecated a low seven-figure sum from one of Mrs Ritchie’s accounts in order to fund the project. That particular gravy train, however, hit the buffers along with his marriage, and we are now scrabbling around for new investors in what can only be described as a challenging financial climate.

The nature and extent of that challenge being the subject of much discussion at competing country house gatherings last weekend. The socialists have played the politics of crunch awfully well, not least because it is far easier for them to carry off the whole “disappointed with bankers” act.

We, in contrast, have been a shower, with none drippier than my old friend George Osborne. As Jeff Randall magnificently put it, “He’s not so much behind the curve as behind the curtain.” Not for the first time, as those Bullingdon members who witnessed Oik’s diffident performances on strip poker nights will attest. One of whom was that Bullingdon colossus, Nat Rothschild, who has never entirely forgiven GO following a disagreement at the end of the annual Mussolini dinner. No one was entirely sober, but what is beyond dispute is that NR ended up picking up a tab for many thousands while others were strangely absent. There aren’t many rules in the Bullingdon but “Men of honour pay their share” is fairly cardinal.

Oik’s recent limpness came under attack both at the weekend I hosted in the New Forest for, inter alios, John Redwood, Peter Lilley and Dominic Grieve, and the Camerons’ do, which Gove and Letwin attended.

These social occasions are, if you desire to speak like Hilton, management bonding sessions, albeit from a time before management consultancy was invented. It remains a source of excessive pride to me that Lady Thatcher attended not one, but two, of my country house weekends. The chair on which she sat, on both occasions, has been preserved in the Grand Library in her honour.

Although I may be partial, it seems to me that the ideas emanating from the New Forest were (caveat Hiltonism) of a “different class” from those from Oxford.

Down in Hampshire, Redwood was on fire. Redders, as you can see from his remarkable blog, predicted every facet of the global economic meltdown months before it happened.

Let’s hope the Great Man was rewarded for his prescience with a bundle in the markets.

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