The moment of the week for most people might have been when Ed Miliband stood up to Jeremy Paxman with a “Hell, yes”, but for me it was seeing Nancy Cameron in the gallery of the House of Commons, cheering on her father at Prime Minister’s Questions.
It is said – I think mistakenly – that women and young people are put off the gladiatorial nature of PMQs, but here was one girl absolutely loving it. I found myself rather moved by 11-year-old Nancy, sitting on the edge of her seat, punching the air with her fist when David Cameron scored a direct hit against Miliband, and shouting “Yeah!” when the Prime Minister spoke about his government’s record.
I was moved, too, when the Labour leader took his two young sons, one hanging on to each outstretched hand, on the school run earlier that day. Politicians are sometimes criticised for “parading” their children but if I were in their shoes I would want my daughter with me at these moments. For Cameron, Miliband and Nick Clegg, fatherhood is a large part of who they are. It is not part of the branding, it is a genuine, unshakeable characteristic.
When Cameron beamed and winked at Samantha, Nancy and nine-year-old Elwen from the Dispatch Box on Wednesday, the thought that this could be his last PMQs as prime minister must have been at the forefront of their minds. Why did Samantha smile so broadly when Miliband brought up Cameron’s “retirement plans”? Could it be that, if Cameron is no longer PM in May, this family will breathe a sigh of relief as their car leaves Downing Street and makes its way back to Notting Hill?
Earlier this month Michelle Obama spoke of how she missed open windows while travelling in a car. With a young family, all the security, police protection and escorts must be suffocating. With the Blairs, you got the sense that they wanted to cling on to the security detail. The Camerons – both David and Samantha – appear desperate for a bit of normal life. In an interview with The Times magazine yesterday, Cameron said he often sits alone before PMQs thinking: “Oh God, what is it going to be this week? … God this is a nightmare.” Despite his trouncing of Miliband in the final session of the Parliament, he doesn’t sound as though he would miss it.
If Cameron does leave Downing Street, it is worth thinking about what legacy he leaves – I don’t mean the policies, his government’s record or his (semi)modernisation of the Conservative Party, but the socio-cultural imprint of Brand Cameron. He has, on this, defined the last decade in the way no other politician has: the Dunlop-wellied, breadmaker-owning, chillaxing dad at Waitrose. If that seems like the identikit description of a modern politician, then Cameron is the template.
Never has Britain seen such a casual prime minister, and whoever comes next is likely to follow suit, literally. You can see it already in the Boden-wearing Miliband boys. If politics hadn’t worked out for Cameron, you can imagine that by now he would be approaching middle age downshifting in the Cotswolds with his family and some chickens. He might even have grown a beard – if he could. If the Conservatives lose the election, that may be part of his (long-term) plan.
Keeping on keeping on
The Conservative core message of Election 2015 is “competence versus chaos”, but as I arrived for the launch of Labour’s campaign at the Olympic Park in east London on Friday, I noticed something new around the Miliband organisation. As I got off the Tube at Stratford, there were young American volunteers in Labour branded jackets – perhaps trying to evoke the spirit of the Games Makers from 2012 – giving directions.
At the ArcelorMittal Orbit, where the launch took place, there were old hands from the Tony Blair era telling photographers where to stand. At the top of the Orbit, Miliband, fresh from his tussle with Paxman the night before, had the air of the plucky underdog buoyed by staying upright in several rounds with a boxing heavyweight. It seemed he had momentum, what my colleague John Rentoul calls “keepgoingness” or what the football manager Iain Dowie called “bouncebackability”.
Spot the Germans
While we’re on the subject of football, this election race is so close, with the winner of each day lurching between Labour and Conservatives, that it feels like one of those high-scoring but ultimately messy draws in the World Cup which will inevitably come down to penalties in the final days. The question is, which side is Germany?
Election traditions to treasure
If there was ever proof that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was a mistake – and we don’t need much evidence given the way MPs have had to string out the last year in the Commons – it is the fact that it obviates whoever is PM going to see the Queen on the dissolution of parliament because it happens automatically under the legislation.
I love the theatre of elections – the car travelling down The Mall, taking the prime minister to the Palace. But thankfully, Cameron is expected to go through with this tradition anyway tomorrow.
From Benny Hill to the blues
During the ad break for the first TV election event, The Battle for Number 10, Kay Burley got Cameron singing “Ernie (the Fastest Milkman in the West)”, to the audience. No wonder they were all warmed up for the following Q&A segment. The Benny Hill hit was, of course, one of Cameron’s Desert Island Discs but I would have preferred a rendition from what he’s said is his favourite album of all time, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. “Tangled Up in Blue”, perhaps? I can’t help thinking of a lyric from another track on that album, “You’re a Big Girl Now”: “Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast”. This might be going through Cameron’s mind as he ponders life beyond Downing Street.Reuse content