Cameron's choice of hero takes the biscuit

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Indy Politics

Giuseppe Garibaldi, the bearded guerrilla fighter who invaded Italy in 1860 with an army of a thousand volunteers dressed in red shirts, has emerged as one of David Cameron's political heroes.

The Conservative leader admitted that some people might find his choice of hero strange - while others might think that he was talking about a biscuit rather than a figure from history.

Answering a reader's question in today's Independent, inviting him to name his political pin-up and historical hero, Mr Cameron began with what he called the "rather predictable" choices of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

But he added: "Strangely enough, I've always been a fan of Garibaldi - the man, not the biscuits. He conquered half of Italy in months and then handed it over in days, just to see his country united." Before 1860, Italy bore something of a resemblance to the Conservative Party that Mr Cameron inherited last year: weak, split up, and wallowing in the memory of a long lost glorious past. Parts of the country were controlled by some of Europe's worst reactionaries.

Garibaldi's army landed in Sicily on 11 May 1860, and by 7 September, he had taken Naples. He then met up with the king of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, greeted him as King of Italy, resigned his office and refused to accept any reward.

On a more contemporary note, Mr Cameron declared himself more of a fan of The Smiths, who broke up in 1987, than of Morrissey, their former lead singer who has been pursuing a solo career for 20 years and has just re-established himself as a teenage idol. But Mr Cameron added: "I like Morrissey's latest album, but I don't think I agree with anything he has ever said."