Sunday, June 26, 2011

A "swell" party

By Quentin Letts

Social diarist Betty Kenward having long retired, allow me to bring you an account of two parties this week at 10 Downing Street, which Mrs Kenward might have described as 'the enchanting London residence of Mr and Mrs David Cameron'.

On Monday drinks were served from 5.30pm (they start early, those Camerons) to Tory MPs. Among the charming guests was Mrs Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Environment, Rural Affairs and Political Balls-Ups. Oh dear.

The gracious host, Mr Cameron, began by glad-handing some of those assembled. He then made a short, frisky speech. How easily Mr Cameron sometimes slides the dagger between a colleague's ribs.

His remarks contained two jokes, both at Mother Spelman’s expense. The first had a punch-line about the recent foul-up on forests. The second concerned the Government’s difficulty over bin collections.

Both mishaps fell within Mrs Spelman’s purlieu. Mrs Spelman was standing near the door. She left the room immediately after Mr Cameron’s speech, her face like a bruised peach. The party continued for at least another half hour. Great was the gaiety!

On Tuesday night Mr Cameron again played the expansive host, this time to all members, past and present, of the 2001 intake of Tory MPs (all, that is, bar Col Patrick Mercer of Newark, who might sooner break bread with Lucifer than dine with David). The starter was eggs and bacon.

Mr Boris Johnson, arriving late, was consigned to a distant end of the table. Mr Johnson, seldom at complete ease with MPs (he fears they can see through him), grunted: ‘When’s the recovery coming?’ Mr George Osborne, in a flash: ‘Next June.’

Merriment all round, for next June, you see, will come just too late for Boris’s re-election campaign for the London Mayoralty.

Boris: ‘How about some tax cuts?’ Mr Osborne: ‘We’ll save those for when WE need re-electing.’

Shortly before 10pm the party, almost as one, uprooted to the Commons for a vote. The journey was undertaken on foot, the PM bowling down Whitehall in a phalanx of his ruby-faced swells. I understand his police bodyguards were not best pleased.


That last paragraph is quite a vision -- JR

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