The Third Leader: Family silver

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The Independent Online

Quite often, I know, you will read a news item in this paper and then turn here hoping for some guidance. Just how significant is the event described? Is it a straw in the wind, a storm in a teapot, a shot across the bow, or a flash in the pan? Today, you'll want to know whether the publicity surrounding the sale by David Cameron's parents of some of their furniture is simply the product of the present preoccupation with their son, or a sign of something deeper.

Hmm. Furniture is very important in the Conservative Party. You will recall Michael Jopling's famous judgement on Michael Heseltine, that he was someone who bought his own furniture. Nicholas Soames is often described as a large wardrobe with a small key. Further back, the Earl of Chesterfield (sofa) was a Whig, but one with Toryish tendencies, and Wellington had a chest named after him as well as the boots.

It's about permanence and provenance as proof of pedigree; without it, you're likely to end up with the son of a circus performer, or, worse, a grocer's daughter prepared, in Macmillan's words, to sell off the family silver.

So it could be that the decision not to buy, but sell off, the family furniture is a cleverly coded signal about the new leader's similarly implacable determination, despite his particular pedigree, to throw out the past, no matter how cherished; or it could be that his parents wanted to sell off some furniture.

Tricky, especially as things didn't go that well. So, sorry, but I'd need more, such as a snatch picture of David studying a MFI catalogue, with or without a tie, before offering anything definitive.