It’s not rocket science: What advice would David Cameron give to his younger self?
John Rentoul speculates on the pearls of wisdom offered by the premier to the public schoolboy he once was
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Thursday 12 December 2013
David Cameron was asked what advice he would give his young self. He said it would be to “keep on with science subjects because understanding of science will be so important in your future life”. In an interview with The Spectator, the Prime Minister said that he would tell the young Cameron at Eton: “So: a little more on the physics and chemistry, please, David.”
The Spectator interview had to be cut for space, but we have a transcript of the other 12 pieces of advice Cameron offered himself. *
1. “Twat” is ruder than you think it is. So when they invent something called Twitter, as they will, resist the cheap shot.
2. In fact, all swearing is a bad idea. Try not to use even genuinely mild words because if you call environmental policies “green crap” it’ll get you into no end of trouble.
3. Don’t worry about not getting into “Pop”. Nobody outside Eton College has heard of it. If they hate you for going to Eton, being a member of a self-selected elite society won’t help. Time spent “greasing for Pop” would be better spent estuarising your vowels.
4. Avoid dressing up, silly clubs and class-A drugs. I know it sounds square, but trust me.
5. Beware free trips to South Africa. The apartheid regime may look as if it will last for ever, but just ask yourself how your freebie might appear if it doesn’t.
6. If you find yourself working for a Cabinet minister who has to make a statement to television cameras in the street, for example about a currency crisis, stay out of shot.
7. There will be this Labour MP for a North-east seat called Blair. Keep an eye on him. And another one from Scotland called Brown. He’ll be tougher than you think.
8. If someone asks you why you want to be PM, on no account tell the truth: “I think I’d be good at it.” On the other hand, something like: “I exist only to serve” might be mistaken for sarcasm. “I want to make a difference” or “put something back” is probably safe.
9. Look out for people called Andrew Lansley or Iain Duncan Smith offering to sell you surefire complete schemes that will solve all your problems.
10. Remember that you do sound posh and if you present yourself as someone who understands average people’s problems it is better not to do something that unkind bullies could conceivably describe as a tax cut for millionaires. In particular, do not legislate for a tax cut for millionaires.
11. When court cases are in progress, do not take sides in public.
12. If someone asks you for advice to your younger self, give them some old hogwash about wishing you’d paid more attention to atom moles and the laws of thermodynamics, when any fule kno History of Art is a top posh A-level, leading naturally to Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, which is the passport to the highest places.
* OK, not really
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