His memoirs in the bag, the artisan politician has emerged to weigh in on Brexit. Pity he wasn’t so alert when it counted
What ho, David Cameron! I note the artisan politician has surfaced briefly from his money trench to offer a wan opinion on the government’s plan to break international law. Such is the Cameron Paradox – most of the time I’m thinking: “Where’s David Cameron?! This is all his mess!” But when he materialises, I pivot immediately to: “Oh YOU’VE turned up, have you? Well we ARE honoured…”
On Johnson’s mooted lawbreaking, Cameron helpfully says we’re “in a vital negotiation with the EU to get a deal … and that’s why I have perhaps held back from saying more up to now”. Is it? I doubt it’s why at all. The paperback of Cameron’s memoirs is out this week, so there’s now something in it for him to belatedly join all the other living Tory leaders who’ve expressed much stronger views.
Those memoirs are not a great fit for the Personal Growth section of any bookshop – then again, nor is the other opus in which Dave plays a significant role this week. The former prime minister appears extensively in Sasha Swire’s diaries, serialised at length in the Times. Sasha is married to the former MP and minister Hugo Swire, a Cameron-era Tory so obscure I’m amazed even his own wife has heard of him.
She is, however, the right diarist for the period in question: clique-obsessed, throbbing with misplaced entitlement and declining to learn from any of the events she witnesses. Just as Dave’s innate overconfidence failed to spot that his way of doing business was going to end in cataclysm, so Sasha seems surprised that people are calling her indiscriminate indiscretion “social suicide”.
No one emerges with credit. Swire seems to regard herself as easily as grand as a Mitford, which isn’t the case, while Cameron is the sort of locally sourced wanker who not only knows that lemon juice will spoil mozzarella, but says it out loud at someone else’s house. “At one point, on the coastal path,” Sasha relates of some Cornish holiday hike, “he asks me not to walk in front of him. ‘Why?’ I ask. ‘Because that scent you are wearing is affecting my pheromones. It makes me want to grab you and push you into the bushes and give you one.’”
If there are any remaining Cameroons out there, they may well regard this as evidence of Dave’s wit and virility. From this end of the telescope, though, all I can make out is a load of rugby-shirted not-quite-theres making dreary vanilla innuendo with one another. The episode takes place shortly after the fall of Tripoli, prompting Cameron to opine: “A great day on the beach … and I’ve just won a war.” Yup, well: SPOILER ALERT.
Everyone seems permanently on the verge of some class-related nervous breakdown. Sasha’s first instinct on visiting George Osborne at the grace-and-favour Dorneywood is to strip it for decorative errors made by the previous tenant, Pauline Prescott, while Michael Gove’s wife – the Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine – is cast as a sort of below-stairs Madge Allsop to glamorous SamCam. I see Vine has taken it well, with just the 1,200 words of seething in Monday’s Mail, in which Swire is lambasted for being “amazingly confident in her own opinions”. An opinion columnist takes against the opinionated: very good. Of course, we do have to remember that Vine had frightfully strong views about Ed Miliband’s kitchen, so perhaps all the looking down on people was catching.
The clique are forever noticing the wrong tiles or mild social neediness, but not the freight train coming towards them. If only they’d spent as much time worrying about, say, the country, as they did on all the not-very-niceties. Cameron learned nothing from the divisively bitter and close-run Scottish independence referendum – indeed, he doesn’t seem to have even noticed it was divisive and embittering. Then again, in Swire’s diaries, the mistake of the EU referendum for Cameron would be classed as less significant than using the wrong word for loo or omitting to void oneself in diamonds.
Thereafter, all is not well in the £25,000 shepherd’s hut, where Cameron finds his memoirs a huge Farrow & Ball-ache. “He seems bored by the process,” writes Sasha, “and so is speaking into a microphone, which converts it into text.” Six months later the microphone has farted out a book, and Cameron is raking in so much cash he “has no interest in taking on a big public job like Nato”. Their loss, of course. “As for all the dosh, he says every time he looks for a loophole to stash it away, he realises that George and he closed it, and laughs.”
Cameron was so incapable of seeing life beyond his chumocracy that he made the sensational category mistake of judging the referendum a loyalty test, as opposed to issue-driven. When it all goes tits up, he is “incandescent with anger, which is almost wholly directed against Michael [Gove]”. He can forgive Boris Johnson his narcissistic ambition, but not Gove his principles. Ah well. As Swire non-reflected last weekend: “I just think, fuck it. People come into your life and they go out of it.” Well quite. People, jobs, houses, money, countries – nice not to have to worry too much about any of them.