Diary: Why 'horsegate' was on message for the Cameron grid


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The Independent Online

Yesterday was "Syria day" on the Downing Street grid. The grid is a device pioneered in Tony Blair's time by Alastair Campbell, under which all forthcoming government announcements, speeches etc are logged on a central calendar to prevent unnecessary clashes and so that the media managers know what the main message is to be.

Yesterday's main political news was scheduled to be David Cameron's strong words at the Brussels EU summit about the "day of reckoning" before an international court that awaits those who commit atrocities on behalf of the "criminal regime" in Syria. Unfortunately, a horse ran away with the headlines. After four days of uncertainty, Cameron finally confessed that he had in fact ridden Raisa, the retired police horse that was lent to the former chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks.

Cameron is an old school friend of the horse trainer Charlie Brooks, the husband of the former media magnate, and went riding with him before he became prime minister. "He has a number of horses and, yes, one of them was this former police horse Raisa which I did ride," he told the assembled media in Brussels.

A sane person might wonder why Downing Street bothers with this story, however much it entertains us. It is because of the light it shines on Mr Cameron's adage that we are all in it together. Visiting a millionaire you have known since you were fellow pupils in the most expensive school in the country, and going out for a ride on a police horse lent by the Metropolitan Police to your mate's wife, who heads a corporation that has been stuffing the pockets of corrupt Met officers with backhanders: it's a story that could be about any of us.

A dictator, a stud and a stallion

The last prime minister to be troubled by a horse was John Major, who was presented with a magnificent stallion in 1993 by Saparmurat Niyazov, the cruel, corrupt and self-aggrandising dictator of Turkmenistan. The horse was one of a special breed unique to that country, and there was a risk of diplomatic repercussions when Major seemed uncertain about what he was expected to do with it. Eventually, the animal was conveyed 4,000 miles via Moscow to the UK, meeting all manner of complications on the way. On arrival, it was found to be too small for the cavalry and too frisky for ceremonial occasions, so it was sent to a Welsh stud farm, where it lived happily ever after.

Glamour knows no party bounds

The April edition of Glamour, which calls itself the "No 1 Women's Magazine", boasts of a new columnist, the "all-round GLAMOUR girl Louise Mensch". In her inaugural column, Mensch names six women she particularly admires. They include Gloria de Piero, whom she lauds for having "rocked the House of Commons with her tough talk", thereby proving that "nice girls do finish first!" Mensch is a Tory MP; De Piero is Labour.

Uniform response to Nazi nasties

As Mark Pawsey, the Tory MP for Rugby, protested in the Commons about a how a war memorial had been shockingly defaced with Nazi graffiti, who should be sitting by him but his fellow Tory Aidan Burley, of Nazi-themed stag party fame. Mr Burley was soberly dressed and on his best behaviour.

Ode to Ed: a poetic licence to advise

A hazard of being the leader of the Opposition is that you are expected to listen politely to people who think they know the answer to the question that obsesses you night and day, namely how to get elected.

"I said to Ed Miliband the other day," Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, has told his local paper, the Camden New Journal, "if you want people to believe in you, to believe in your government, to win an election, we need a new style of government.

"What else do we value apart from wealth and materialism? What would it be like to live under a government that cares about people, a government that puts its firepower towards lives gone wrong, one that trusts the arts as much as pound signs?"

That's Labour's election manifesto sorted then. Next, we need to know what advice Ed Miliband gave Mr Motion on writing poetry.