At his age, the shock might have killed him. Straight up, Rupert Murdoch could have gone out like a light on learning that the rich and powerful can buy access to a Prime Minister. So praise be that his naive heart survived the epiphany, sparing him to confide his thoughts on the latest demi-scandal bedecked with the scintillatingly fresh suffix of "-gate". "What was Cameron thinking?" he tweeted. "No one, rightly or wrongly, will believe his story."
Frankly, I'm not sure what need anyone has for the PM's story regarding his entertainment of premier league donors in his flat above 11 Downing Street. One had assumed, with Murdochian innocence, that it was the old, old story of people purchasing a crack at influencing government policy for their own benefit. Among a recently released sheaf of Thatcher documents, for example, was a note from someone or other thanking Mrs T for feeding him at Chequers in 1981, a few weeks before her government waved through his bid for a newspaper group.
The name of the guest at a Sunday lunch that Bernard Ingham thought best kept secret escapes me. But I have the weirdest feeling that, years later, the same geezer was smuggled through Downing Street's back door to dictate British policy on Europe to Mr Tony Blair; and that, not long ago, his chief executive, and two of his children, had clandestine meals with Mr Cameron while he was after a 100 per cent stake in a satellite broadcaster.
Anyway, a dreadful shock for Mr Murdoch, as I said when he read these revelations in the Sunday Times, and... hang on a sec, wasn't that the paper at the heart of those secret Chequers discussions? If that guest was indeed Mr Murdoch, which in the light of his tweets is hard to accept, what explains his volte face on the propriety of covert prime ministerial entertainment? Might it, you wonder, be envy? He'll have had his roast sirloin and Yorkshire pud in the Chequers dining room, while on flying visits to No 10 he barely had time for a biscuit. Never has he had kitchie-sups cooked for him by the First Lord of the Treasury.
Francis Maude, who grandly excused the PM from revealing his guests because it was only "kitchen supper", doesn't get it if he thinks it only counts when it's a silver service dinner party, with Mr Hudson pouring the Lafite. Come into the kitchen, Maude, and you will see that this is where the faux-intimate grandeur now resides. Hence the willingness of those with the premier league donor's resources to pay huge premiums for the chef's table at our most-vaunted restaurants.
The cuisine at the soon-to-be Michelin triple-starred Chez PM is unknown – how we would love to see the menus – but it must be dazzling. Last summer, a celebrated American chef called Thomas Keller brought The French Laundry over from Napa Valley for a two week pop-up at Harrods, with a fixed price of £250 for the food alone. No one can say for certain that Mr Cameron's culinary talent is a thousand times greater than Keller's. But if the premier league deems his genius worth £250,000 a pop, he must make Heston Blumenthal look like Shughie McFee of the Crossroads Motel.
All of this offers a clear solution to this endlessly recurring, hyper-soporific party-funding debate. Last year, Mr Cameron spent £30,000 of public funds on doing up his main kitchen (and delightful in a faddish chrome-and-restaurant-sluicing-taps kinda way it looks, too), while the Camerons have a second, smaller kitchen in the flat. What a shameful waste not to use all that cooking space with so many plutocratic gourmets lining up to feast on his brilliance.
He would need "commercial user" to turn the flat into a restaurant (but since he is committed to simplifying planning applications, that should be no problem), and he has excellent suppliers on hand within his own circle. Premier league diners Sir Anthony and Lady Bamford own Daylesford organic farm near Chipping Norton, and would donate the meat and veg. Needless to state, Alex James would chip in the cheese. Lord John Sainsbury, another premier leaguer, might open a few wholesale doors at the family firm.
One boon of funding political parties like this is that it circumvents the rules on foreign donations. If Oleg Deripaska wished to gladden the heart of his Corfu chum George Osborne with a £1m gift, no one could object if he simply booked a table for himself and a few oligarchic mates.
Regrettably, this new system would place Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg at an early disadvantage. But Mr Miliband has Ed Balls, Labour's Giorgio Locatelli, to dish up the lasagne, while if Mr Clegg can't make a killing with the planet's first Anglo-Dutch-Spanish-fusion restaurant, who can?
The rubber chicken circuit feels risibly outmoded in this foodie age, and who wouldn't view the chance to sit at chef Cameron's table as cause to buy a Euromillions lottery rollover ticket? David, as the erstwhile MasterChef deity Loyd Grossman used to say on another show, it's eauver to you.
- More about:
- Department Of Finance
- Dining Room
- Francis Maude
- Newspapers And Magazines
- The Sunday Times
- Tony Blair
- Tv Programs