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21 March 2010

Oi, Samanfa, leave it aht!

"Plummy" columnist launches eccentric attack on Sam Cam's "Estuary" accent.

By James Macintyre

For those seeking a bit of what we used to call in television “light and shade” of a Sunday — and this falls in the light category — I recommend the Mail on Sunday, where its lead columnist, Peter Hitchens, has chosen to devote the main item in his weekly column to attacking Samantha Cameron’s accent.

The unusual move follows a blog in which I touched on the same subject and an amusing post by Hitchens earlier in the week, which I reproduce, complete with unusual pay-off image, for your amusement here:

One small point about the [Trevor] McDonald programme. I was enthralled by the encounters with Mrs Cameron, not because of what she said (which was predictable and properly loyal) but because of the accent in which she said it. Mrs Cameron is the eldest daughter of a baronet, grew up on a 300-acre estate in Lincolnshire, attended St Helen and St Katherine’s school in Abingdon and then Marlborough College. Yet she speaks in pure Estuary English, and I could swear I heard her say “somefink” instead of “something” at one point. This wasn’t the glorious, swaggering raffish old patrician cockney that Winston Churchill, Edward VIII and (the last MP to do so) Julian Amery used to employ. It was the speech of Bluewater and Big Brother.

Why would someone with such a background talk like this, especially when most of her business must be with London’s moneyed, cut-glass classes? I know (who should know better?) that the Celia Johnson/Trevor Howard vowels of postwar middle-class England have long ago had to be suppressed by anyone who doesn’t want to be beaten up on the night bus, but this wasn’t camouflage. It was the way she talked when interviewed by a Knight of the Realm. It may not be important, but it’s certainly interesting.

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We were also told (by an Old Etonian pal) that all that Bullingdon Club stuff wasn’t really the point about David Cameron’s Oxford years. What he really liked was playing pool. Right. Of course. I look forward with interest to the photographs of David Cameron in his shellsuit, pictured alongside the other members of the Oxford University Pool and Darts Association, outside the “Original Swan” in Cowley.