Andy McSmith's Diary: One sympathetic Tory sought to co-write leader’s biography


Of all the people David Cameron might choose to write his biography, Michael Ashcroft must surely be near the bottom of the list.

He knows too much, having been Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party during the first five years of Cameron’s leadership, with an office next to Cameron’s.

Since 2010, he and the Prime Minister have grown apart, and Lord Ashcroft has reinvented himself as a social media mogul, pollster and political commentator who turned up at the Labour Party conference this year and was so obviously enjoying himself that he needed to put out a message afterwards saying: “If you’re worried that I  am about to switch sides, don’t be.”

Nothing annoys practising politicians quite so much as criticism by people they think ought to be on their side, which makes me think that this book will cause the crimson tide to rise to Cameron’s hair line.

Isabel Oakeshott, outgoing political editor of the Sunday Times, will be co-author.

Biblical mistakes

On a day when Baroness Warsi made a speech proclaiming that the Coalition is bringing religion back into politics, David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth – not to be confused with the better-known former minister, David Davis – managed to invoke Abraham, Moses and the disciples in support of the Government’s “spare room surcharge”, otherwise known as the “bedroom tax”.

“I even had someone email me here. He said, ‘You’re a Christian, you should be serving the Lord, one day you will stand by the Lord and account for this hardship’,” Mr Davies told the Commons.

“And I wrote back and said, ‘I read my bible, I don’t see anywhere in the bible where it says 17-year-olds should be given a flat but I see plenty of examples of people who have had to move for a better way of life, whether it was Abraham going off to the Promised Land or Moses, or the disciples who toured all over Europe’. They all moved.”

Hang on: I didn’t know that Abraham went to the Promised Land, though I know there was a moment when he was on the point of downsizing his family. Moses travelled, as I recall, but did not arrive. And Europe? Which of the 12 disciples toured Europe?

Chequers mystery guests

There is an announcement on the Downing Street website that “details published today include the annual list of visitors to Chequers that have received Government hospitality”. Note that word “annual”. That “annual” list was published on 15 July, 2011. There has not been an “annual” list since. Might it be time for another?

More Bercow brickbats

As if the Speaker, John Bercow, were not unpopular enough with the Tory high command already, he struck again today. He offered a public rebuke to the Chancellor, George Osborne, for taking to Twitter to announce that the Autumn Statement has been postponed for one day to give David Cameron time to get back from his visit to China.

“Announcements should be made to the House, not by the mechanism of Twitter,” Bercow said.

Maggie’s link to Fenton

Today’s odd but interesting fact from the early life of Margaret Thatcher is lifted from a footnote in Charles Moore’s biography of the lady. There have been more than 9.7 million visits to the YouTube clip starring Fenton the disobedient dog spreading panic among the deer in Richmond Park.

It has inspired a range of spin-offs, including an “official” Fenton website where you can purchase Fenton merchandise.

What almost no one knew was that Max Findlay, Fenton’s owner, heard in the viral clip crying “Jesus Christ!” as he hares off in desperate pursuit of Fenton, is the son of an executive in the paper industry named Neil Findlay, who was himself forlornly pursued by a lonely young Margaret Roberts during their university days. “Margaret was smitten with Neil, a fact of which he was half aware… He felt a little sorry for her,” Moore records.

Tomorrow: how Margaret Roberts offloaded a surplus boyfriend.