Political biographies can permanently alter our perceptions of leaders.
The first major David Cameron biography, Cameron: The Rise of the New Conservative, revealed the PM’s passion for chillaxing, a term that will dog him for ever. (On the subject of dogs, I’m rather touched by the fact that one of Cameron’s chillaxes is his “labrador-like” love of plunging into cold lakes and seas.) Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon’s new book, Cameron at 10, opens the door on his first five years as PM and, according to extracts serialised in the Mail on Sunday, tells us some interesting things about when our dear leader stops chillaxing and gets down to work.
Barack Obama is known as ‘Spock’
There is no evidence that this cheeky moniker was bequeathed by Cameron, but the US president was apparently so nicknamed by staff in the Foreign Office because of his alien-like detachment. Seldon reports that the PM found Obama “too rational and considered”, which rather begs the question: does the PM prefer the wild irrationality of Kim Jong-un?
Wellies aren’t safe from spin doctors
Before a visit to the flooded Somerset Levels in 2014, Cameron fretted that his pair of green Hunter wellies (£95) would be seen as too posh, so he dispatched an aide to buy some bargain boots from Asda. These were Dunlops, the cheap choice of every flood-savvy politician from Ed Miliband to Nick Clegg. Later, however, Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ election guru, discovered that one reason voters gave for believing that the PM was too posh was “seeing him on television during the floods wearing a shiny new pair of black wellingtons”. This is odd, because Cameron’s boots were green and not visibly shiny. But the anecdote shows the PM’s political antenna is sound – Philip Hammond, the former defence secretary, was mocked for tackling the Somerset floods in expensive Hunters – but his execution flawed. Presumably now when Cameron wears a new piece of clothing, he has a lackey scuff it up for him.
The PM swears – by SMS
Much has been made of tensions between Cameron and Boris Johnson, the man who would have probably succeeded him as Tory leader had the Conservatives lost. According to Seldon, however, Cameron actually finds his old school mate and Bullingdon Club mucker “entertaining and funny”. But after Boris wrote an article listing all the prime ministers who, like Cameron and him, went to Eton, Cameron apparently sent him a text saying: “The next PM will be Miliband if you don’t fucking shut up.”
Cam and Ozzy are no Blair and Brown – but they aren’t always bessie mates either
The prime minister and his chancellor are plainly not at war in the way that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were during Blair’s tenure, but Seldon’s book does reveal tensions. He claims that Osborne tried to persuade the PM not to hold a referendum on the EU because he feared the public would vote to leave – a claim denied by the chancellor’s spokesman. The PM was also said to be critical of his chancellor after the inept “omnishambles” budget of 2012, after which the PM apparently vowed to have “a much bigger footprint on the decisions in the runup to the budget”. And presumably, as a huge fan of chillaxing in Cornwall, Cameron was as outraged as the rest of the country by Osborne’s much-derided “pasty tax”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010