If you’d watched the BBC News last night, you’d have thought Rory Bremner had given up his serious commentator bit and gone back to being a funny impersonator dreaming up lines that no politician, surely, would ever have the nerve to deliver. David Cameron’s performance was beyond parody.
The scene was Dave’s kitchen, where he was clearing away the cereal boxes – like he does every morning when the BBC cameras pop in – then engaging in a bit of small talk with Samantha before raising his voice to utter the words ‘trust me’ as he turned from wife to camera. I would instinctlvely worry about the marriage of a man who felt he had to tell his wife to trust him as he left for the office, but of course the words were directed not at Mrs Dave, but at the BBC team who would later put together political editor Nick Robinson’s package.
Off to work, which mainly entailed delivering a speech of such soaring populism that even I, no stranger to the occasional populist touch, found myself squirming in embarrassment. Here we are, looking at post-economic crisis public sector debt figures on a mammoth scale, and Dave would like us to think he can deal with it by adding fifty pence to the cost of Vince Cable’s tomato salad in the Commons canteen.
Then there were those other big cuts he was going to make – lower salaries for MPs, fewer ministerial cars. When he admitted that the sums involved amounted to a ‘pinprick’, it was the ‘prick’ part of the word that stuck in the mind.
Cameron, with millions in the bank, does not have to worry about the paycut. Nor do several of his similarly loaded frontbench colleagues who would prefer to get back to the days when politics was the plaything of the wealthy. But even after the expenses scandal, there must come a point where as a democracy which claims to want high quality politicians from all backgrounds, we recognise that paying MPs higher not lower salaries, whilst politically difficult, might actually be the right thing to do. Populism dictates you keep pandering to the anti-politics mood of the moment. Should Cameron make it to Number 10, he may regret it.
During a quick scour around the web to see how his speech was covered, I came across another piece of Tory uber-parody in the Telegraph. Byline Tara Hamilton-Miller. Headline ‘How cool are David Cameron’s Conservatives?’ Picture of Dave and Sam in their Boden-gear on the beach. (Does he shave his legs by the way? That would be cool.)
Tara H-M spells out what it is that is making young Tories feel they are part of something exciting – ‘David Cameron choosing to be interviewed in the fashion magazine Grazia, and Boris Johnson appearing on the front of a London Fashion Week special issue of Elle magazine embody all that is fresh and forward-thinking about their party.’ Isn’t it great to see the noble causes and the great crusades are still driving people in politics?
Tara, who clearly likes Dave a lot, scoffs at those who said that the ditching of tweeds and ties, or Dave’s trip to Scandinavia to hug huskies, were just part of a cynical rebranding exercise. ‘They were the actions of young Tories doing what felt right.’ Aw sweet.
And anyone who thinks the party is run by a bunch of Notting Hill toffs, she relays excitedly, should know some of them have moved out of the area. To Kensington and Chelsea I guess.
But there’s more from the Tara-Tory message machine … the ‘boys’ at Central HQ are really interested in real ale, and some of them go to real ale festivals. Oh yes, we are talking real men of the people here. Some of them go to a pub where the ‘lady bartender’ is mean to them ‘and they seem to like it.’ Another sign of their ‘increasing confidence’, says Tara, is that they don’t mind having a go at karaoke. Honestly, I don’t normally urge people to get the Telegraph, but this bilge has to be seen to be believed.
Nor should we worry that Dave’s team is so heavily male-dominated, says THM. Because they love nothing more than to get home and read bedtime stories to their kids.
The best parody line comes when she says ‘Cameron’s Conservatism is about being politically serious.’ Shame her piece appeared on the day so many people realised from his speech that it is anything but.