Andy McSmith's Diary: David Cameron fails to use his loaf over a basic question of price

Our man in Manchester

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Indy Politics

After being written off by the wayward Tory MP Nadine Dorries as “posh boys who don’t know the price of milk,” you would think that David Cameron and George Osborne would make a special point of keeping abreast of the price of groceries. If Dorries’ words were not sufficient warning, there was the exchange on Monday night when Boris Johnson was asked the price of milk by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, and did not know the answer.

But Mr Cameron went, as it were, naked into the LBC studios, where he was challenged by Nick Ferrari for the price of a “value sliced white bread loaf at Tesco or Sainsbury’s this morning”. The Prime Minister said: “I don’t buy the value stuff. I have a breadmaker at home.” Pressed to give an answer anyway, he took a stab at it, and said: “It’s going to cost you north of a pound.” Actually, Tesco sells a “value” loaf at 47p.

Confronted with that fact,  David Cameron was not so dismissive as Boris Johnson was the previous evening, when he declared: “Well, there you go, I don’t know how much a pint of milk costs. So what?” Instead, he waxed lyrical about the wonderful smell that wafts through the Cameron kitchen in the morning, from the Panasonic breadmaker. Not very “man of the people”.

The claws are out

There is an allegation in Matthew D’Ancona’s new book, In It Together, which is not quite on a level of the long-running feud between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but hints nonetheless at hidden tensions in Downing Street which the Tory propaganda machine seeks to conceal. A cabinet minister is quoted as saying about Larry – the cat enlisted in 2011 to rid 10 Downing Street of mice but who has proved to be too lazy for the task – that “the truth is that the Camerons don’t very much like Larry”. For the record, a spokesman has denied this allegation, saying they get on “purr-fectly well.” We will have to wait for the memoirs to be published to establish the truth.

The grooming of Gideon

Many people watching George Osborne’s set-piece speech to the conference on Monday noted something odd about his appearance. His hair did not resemble the hair he had within recent memory. It had gone flat. This has been the cause of much comment. When Osborne was asked about it by Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon, he replied that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had come up with the best line: “You applied your economic policy to your hairstyle. You have turned it round to stop the recession.” I should add that this was said at a fringe meeting. Gary Gibbon also asked Osborne why he changed his name from Gideon to George. The question prompted laughter in the audience. “I think you can see now why,” was Osborne’s reply.

Another question being asked around the conference hall is who thought up the terrible jokes that Osborne included in his speech. I am reliably informed that the culprit was the recently ennobled Danny Finkelstein, columnist for The Times columnist and old mate of the Chancellor.

What the papers did 

In the run up to their conference, Conservative MPs had an away day near David Cameron’s home in Chipping Norton, during which the Downing Street spinner Craig Oliver gave them a talk on the importance of the social media, which included figures on how newspaper sales have declined since the rise of the internet.

When he told them how the Daily Mirror circulation had slipped, they cheered. When he described the falling sales of The Sun, they booed. But there was a tumultuous cheer when he described how the Daily Telegraph circulation has shrunk. The Telegraph may be a Tory newspaper to you and me, but to Tory MPs it is the rag that humiliated them by publicising their expenses.

Out of the mouths...

Away from the conference, the Australian novelist Kathy Lette gives an example of how embarrassingly truthful children can be. She told the Melbourne Herald Sun how she took her 12-year-old son Julius to No 10 to meet Tony Blair. “I said, ‘Oh Jules, this is the Prime Minister, Tony Blair’ and my son said, “You’re the one my mother calls Tony Blah Blah.” His mother’s reaction: “Let me die now!”