When I turned up yesterday with an appointment to see Mr David Cameron, the new Tory supremo, I was not entirely surprised to see some very familiar faces milling around outside his office, hoping for jobs and other favours. Apart from all the young people eager for shadow promotion, there were people like William Hague, Jeffrey Archer, Michael Cockerell, Rory Bremner, Andrew Motion . . .
‘What brings you here?’ I said to Rory Bremner. ‘Surely not looking for a shadow post?’
‘Good God, no!’ he said. ‘You don’t want comedians running things in politics. Look what happened to William Hague. No, I’m here to pick up some tips on how Cameron speaks and looks.’
His face suddenly went soft and young.
‘Blair and Brown are yesterday’s men,’ he said. ‘We think we are the future. If you like the look of what you see, come and join us. . . .’
‘Not bad,’ I said. ‘Have you ever in fact joined a political party?’
‘Oh, yes. I am actually a paid-up member of all three main parties. It’s a bit like having an overdraft at three separate banks. But you never know when you might need an entrée to a meeting. . .’
‘Oh, that’s nice!’ said Andrew Motion, overhearing him. ‘Can I use that?You never know when you might need an entree to a meeting…'
And off he wandered, scribbling in a notepad. Jeffrey Archer nodded at Rory Bremner.
‘Looking for a shadow post, Archer?’ said Bremner.
‘Not likely,’ said Archer. ‘That’s way in the future.’
‘Or, of course, way in the past,’ I said.
Archer looked at me as he might look at a window.
‘I am the foxhunting of politics,’ he said, to no-one in particular. ‘I am supposed not to exist any more yet I am still everywhere. Especially at weekends.’
Archer wandered off again.
‘That’s quite a good line,’ said Bremner. ‘I wonder who wrote it for him?’
Just then my name was called, and I was ushered into the inner presence of David Cameron himself. He shook my hand, gave it back and asked me to sit down.
‘I don’t believe I know you,’ he said. ‘You’re not an MP, are you? I don’t know you all yet!
‘No,’ I said. ‘You said that if we liked the look of you, we should come and join.’
‘Great!’ he said. ‘Lovely! So, what you need to do is see one of our chaps, and fill in a form and hand over the money . . .’
‘I was really expecting a bit more,’ I said. ‘You said you wanted to listen to us as well.’
‘Did I?’ he said. ‘Yes, I expect I did. We all say that. Even Gordon Brown says that – and he never listens to anyone! So, tell me – what do you think?’
‘I think you have got to be careful,’ I said. ‘You gave a great speech at the Tory conference, and a great acceptance speech yesterday. But you don’t want to become known for your great speeches, like that bloke in Iraq…’
‘Saddam Hussein’ he said
‘No. Colonel Tim Collins,’ I said. ‘He’s been off the radar screen ever since. Doing good speeches just raises vain expectations. Remember how we got the Olympics for London in 2012? Everyone thought Paris was going to get it, but we did a stunning audio-visual presentation, and Seb Coe gave a wonderful speech and everyone burst into tears and gave the Olympics to London.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I remember. Great, wasn’t it?’
‘YOU think it was great because you were in PR,’ I said. ‘The rest of us think it was disastrous. We’ve got barely half a dozen years in which to transform London. All because of one big speech.’
‘We can do it,’ said Cameron.
‘Oh, yeah?’ I said. ‘And how’s the new Wembley Stadium coming on?’
Cameron shuffled the papers on his desk, but couldn’t find the answer.
‘I don’t know,’ he admitted. ‘Now, I have lots of other people to see, so before you go do you have any single bit of advice for me? For Prime Minister’s Question time this afternoon, for example?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Resign. Quit while you are ahead. Be remembered as the one Tory party leader who never put a foot wrong . . .’
Even while I was still speaking, he gave a signal, and I was forcibly ejected. Moments later I was out on the pavement. I get the feeling that Cameron does not suffer fools gladly. I respect him for that.
The Independent Dec 8 2005