In this week’s Sunday Times, Jeremy Clarkson has taken a brief respite from shouting “POWER” as he drives round corners to defend the ex-News International boss — and close friend — Rebekah Brooks.
The piece is a response to Peter Oborne’s blog post in the Telegraph, which blamed many of David Cameron’s troubles on the “Chipping Norton set” — “an incestuous collection of louche, affluent, power-hungry and amoral Londoners, located in and around the Prime Minister’s Oxfordshire constituency”.
Those in the set were said to include the PR man Matthew Freud and his wife Elisabeth Murdoch, as well as Brooks and her husband, the racehorse trainer Charlie.
Not so, says Clarkson. Matthew Freud lives in Burford, “which to most people in Chipping Norton — myself included — is basically France”. Admittedly, David and Samantha Cameron do live nearby but Clarkson doesn’t see them very much any more, “partly because Sam is one of those non-smokers who suddenly remembers when she’s presented with a smoker like me that what she’d like to do is smoke all my bloody cigarettes”. (Although Cameron did find time to dress up as the Stig for Clarkson’s birthday party.)
Perhaps the best part of the article, however, is where Clarkson describes the “Christmas-time” dinner at Rebekah’s and Charlie’s house, attended by the Camerons and James Murdoch. (That’s how he refers to it, by the way — “Christmas-time” — so we’re still in the dark over whether it was Christmas dinner itself. The mental image of Clarkson snoring gently through the Queen’s Speech, while Cameron stands over him, tutting, still lives on.)
What Rebekah and Cameron talked about most of all — and I’m a trained journalist so I understand the need to get things right — is sausage rolls.
We were planning a big walk with all our kids over Christmas and thought it might be a good idea to build a fire in my woods and stop off for a picnic. Rebekah was worried about what we’d eat. Cameron thought sausage rolls would be nice.
So, there you have it. Confident that his case has been proved, Clarkson adds triumphantly: “In other words, it was much like a million other Christmas-time dinners being held in a million other houses all over the world that day.” (That leaves me feeling a bit left out — I had a prime minister and a billionaire media baron’s son at mine but unaccountably missed out on the host of a popular motoring show. Oh, well, perhaps next year. I’ll get the call in to Richard Hammond now.)
PS. The Mail on Sunday reports today that the Chipping Norton set was still in full swing two weeks ago, with Elisabeth Murdoch’s and Matthew Freud’s summer party at their Cotswolds home. Guests included Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch . . . and Jeremy Clarkson.