Last Night's Television: When Boris Met Dave, More4<br/>Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue, Channel 4

Still got those Oxford blues

Reviewed,Tom Sutcliffe
Thursday 08 October 2009 00:00
Comments

There can't be many people who don't have an embarrassing university photograph tucked away in an album somewhere, a callow notion of what was witty or stylish or cool curdling into silliness over the years. For most of us, they don't matter – but if you have ambitions to run the country they can come back to haunt you, as the now well-known photograph of Bullingdon Club members in their pomp has done for "Dave", the strategically declassed version of the silver-spooner who aims to become our next Prime Minister.

The picture is embarrassing because, as Rachel Johnson, sister of another famous occupant of that snapshot, said: "It looks what it is... elitist, arrogant, privileged and of an age that would have little resonance with people on low incomes who didn't go to Eton." The large question about When Boris Met Dave was whether exactly the same could have been said about this film – bliss, I imagine, for chaps and chapesses who were up in '87 but perhaps a tiny bit self-indulgent for anyone less besotted with the Oxbridge axis.

There was another problem too, which was that the relationship implied by that title – with its hint of twinned destinies – didn't actually seem to exist. A more accurate title might have been "When Dave Was in the Same Town as Boris", since it was the latter figure who dominated Oxford political life at the time and whose manifest ambition was apparent here. It was Boris who was caught trying to escape through a hedge at the Botanical Gardens after a bit of aristo hooliganry, it was Boris who hacked and schemed his way to the Presidency of the Union, it was Boris – allegedly – who led a baying pack of Bullingdon vandals into a newly elected member's rooms. David Cameron, meanwhile, on the evidence of this film, was playing air guitar in his room, watching quiz shows and working hard enough to secure a first.

I don't know whether the writers have backup for the air-guitar story because the dramatisations seemed almost wilfully determined to present Cameron as a kind of dreamy cipher of a character, even in the teeth of hard evidence. An old friend at one point described him as being "one of the hipsters", a fan of the Smiths who had a Bob Dylan poster over the fireplace in his college room. What you were shown though was Cameron pinning up the Athena tennis girl scratching her bottomn as though the documented fact wasn't sufficiently ridiculous to suit the drama. It's true that everyone was treated with pretty much equal mockery. Toby Young, who appeared in it and helped to write it, was shown as a hopeless klutz, while James Delingpole gamely presented himself as a pathetic Brideshead wannabe, seen skipping around the quads in a boater with a teddy on his arm. But the flippancy of those sequences seemed at odds with the more serious purpose, which was to suggest a the deep-seated rivalry between Cameron and Boris (we naturally first name one, while keeping our distance from the other), a contest between a sense of entitlement so quietly assured that it doesn't even come across as arrogant and a self-advertising elitist who thinks he deserves more than he's yet got. If it's true now, nothing you saw here suggested that it started in Oxford and the closing summary – "Boris might have been President of the Union but Cameron had already shown he had finely tuned political antennae" – was 100 per cent proof hindsight. He didn't appear to have had political antennae at all, finely tuned or otherwise.

The word that featured most frequently in my notes on Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue was "idiots", sprinkled across the page with a varying number of exclamation marks after it. I wrote it down when Kent and Claire said that they thought converting a run-down country house into an upmarket hotel "would be a lot of fun". I wrote it down when it was revealed that Kent (a music producer) had appointed himself as his own architect on the grounds that it wasn't "rocket science". And I wrote it down in capitals when Kent defended his somewhat casual approach to project management by saying, "It's a little bit like jazz you know... it's all come together in an improvisational way and that's how you get a place with real character." No, Kent, that's how you get to the bankruptcy courts. And how you make sure you get there even faster is by ordering hand-painted wallpaper for the bridal suite and then flying out to China to bring it back yourself. Watson helpfully pointed out that building a hotel that was all stage and no backstage was going to make it tricky to put on a good show (they hadn't planned for anywhere to do the washing up) and forced them to concentrate on trying to get a small trickle of cash coming in to balance the Niagara going out. Miraculously, they appear to be still in business.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in