There are many, many reasons to feel uncharitable towards Bill Cash. He's posh, rich and has a fine set of teeth. He's a Eurosceptic old-schooler out of synch with the reforming ideas of younger members of the Conservative Party (not least its leader). And now he's been revealed as something of a creative accountant – paying his daughter £15,000 from taxpayers' money to rent her Notting Hill flat, despite having his own flat steps away from Parliament.
His daughter Laetitia is a prospective MP, on David Cameron's A list of parliamentary hopefuls, which says a lot. Dave'n'Bill might not be hugger mugger, but Tish has blossomed within the Tory party anyway. She's learnt politics at her father's knee, after a brief, not entirely successful career in journalism. (I know, I was her boss.)
We now wonder whether daddy dearest might have damaged Laetitia Cash's chances of becoming an MP by dragging her into his part in the expenses debacle. The conservative backbencher may be many bad things, but is he a bad father?
Faced with the choice – within the law at the time – of giving rent money to a complete stranger, or to his daughter, he chose Laetitia. There aren't many dads, I'd wager, who would be able to resist (on some level) being able to treat their little princess to something. It's the small but significant fact that it wasn't his money to give which takes this story from paternal protection to murky manoeuvres.
My own father used to smuggle sweets into my bedroom in his briefcase when he came home from work – invariably after my bedtime. The crackle and crunch of Spangles all but drowned out the sounds of my mother's frustration. It was the same during teenage years, when I'd phone home from the pub, almost insensible with Southern Comfort and lemonade, and my dad would creep out to pick me up. "I won't tell your mum," he'd say, conspiratorially. Now a mother myself, I feel sure she knew exactly what was going on, but knew better than to come between a father and his daughter.
It can, of course, become a problem. There are plenty of examples of little princesses and their proud papas behaving, if not as co-conspirators, then certainly in some sort of cahoots. It seems to happen a lot in tennis: one thinks of Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, and Jim Pierce, father of Mary and inspiration for a rule banning abusive parents, coaches or players. It happens in pop: Mathew Knowles, father of Beyoncé, retooled the girl group Destiny's Child group to give his daughter centre stage, while Serge Gainsbourg famously wrote and recorded "Lemon Incest" with his little 13-year-old girl Charlotte.
Who was the driving force in these relationships? Did the girls stamp their feet and demand success, in the style of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ("Daddy, I want a squirrel")? Or – more likely – did the fathers conduct themselves inappropriately to try to get maximum attention?
Laetitia Cash might be hiding behind her front door avoiding the paparazzi, cursing Bill for the opprobrium he's brought upon her, or feel delighted that she is receiving so much free publicity for her fledgling political career. Coming from the famed Cash's name tapes dynasty, she should know better than most what it's like to be labelled (ho, ho).
Paternal pride is a potent force: Bill Cash was wearing a real shit-eating grin in the photograph of him and Laetitia at a party emblazoned across news stories. The grin can't have been about his daughter's nigh-on see-through black lace dress. More likely it was the fact that Laetitia was on course to carry on the family tradition of going into politics.
Bill's son William's main claims to fame are a) being Elizabeth Hurley's friend and b) his on/off marriage to "the cracker from Caracas" Vanessa Neumann. No wonder Laetitia benefited from papa's attention and financial largesse. Back in 2006, when Miss Cash was trying to be selected as Tory candidate for Regent's Park and Kensington North, it was said (by an admirer) that she "looks like a model but campaigns like Rommel". Can't you imagine Bill's chest-bursting pleasure?
Of course, being a "grandee" doesn't always guarantee you'll be a help to your little girl. Bertie Ahern's daughter Cecelia has become a best-selling author despite having the Taoiseach for a dad. (Now there's someone who knew a thing or two about creative accounting.) When her book PS I Love You was earmarked for a movie adaptation, she quipped, "I think it's very flattering for Dad, actually, to think he has all this influence with Hollywood and all over the world... The reaction is, 'Bertie who?" Ouch.
The best thing a father can do for his daughter is simply to remain a dignified, consistent, supportive rock against which she can flail when heartbroken or downcast. After all, he is the model for the man she may one day marry – and who wants a trickster for a son-in-law?