Max Hastings once told me about a lunch he'd had with Ken Clarke when Clarke was Chancellor. Clarke was late and Max took a call in the restaurant from a flustered Treasury official desperate to get hold of his boss. Where was he? Did Max know? No he didn't. It turned out that Clarke was in his own car, driving himself to lunch, listening to jazz and with his mobile switched off.
Hastings uses the story to illustrate how human Clarke is, and I thought of it this week when reading about David Cameron's capacity to chill out and enjoy himself or chillax' as we call it now. The reports about this, in a new biography of Cameron by Francis Elliott and James Hanning, serialised in The Times, didn't please everyone.
"Maybe if the Prime Minister raised his eyes for a moment from playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad," fumed Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail, he would "look behind him and worry". Cameron, says Phillips, should be working harder than he is to deal with the threat of a resurgent Labour Party.
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Maybe he should, though I prefer prime ministers who know how to relax, even chillax. Give me a Harold Macmillan reading Jane Austen in the Downing Street garden of an afternoon, rather than a Gordon Brown biting his nails about politics all day long. Can a chief executive really function effectively if he does nothing but work?
No danger of that with Cameron. "If there was a gold medal for chillaxing' he would win it," says one of the PM's allies. "He is capable of switching off in a way that almost no other politician can. The political mind is still working. He tends to get up early, look at the Sunday papers, check a few things online, the phone might ring and he'll deal with that. But he doesn't go back to obsessively checking the computer or rewriting the speech, or worrying about what [Matthew] d'Ancona really means. It's I've absorbed the information, I have taken an action I will now go into the vegetable patch, watch a crap film on telly, play with the children, cook, have three or four glasses of wine with my lunch, have an afternoon nap, play tennis.'"
There is a karaoke machine on which he can belt out the Smiths and Pink Floyd, and a machine that serves high-velocity tennis balls at him he nicknames "the Clegger" after a hard-fought tennis victory against his deputy.
What's interesting, as The Daily Telegraph says, is how conventional Cameron's hobbies are. Some of his friends think he could be bolder he's always had a tendency to "coast", says one. I agree; but at least he's human. Gladstone felled trees while he was PM, Churchill built brick walls in his garden.
If Cameron likes to sing along to the Smiths or rustle up a carbonara in front of The Killing, it doesn't mean he's lazy. "It's true hard work never killed anybody," Ronald Reagan once observed. "But I figure, why take the chance?" Cameron works harder than Reagan, and Reagan, let's not forget, was a very effective president.
Tabloid money the delusionals with more money than sense
Victoria Beckham and "other wealthy delusionals" are "paying up to £320 to have sheep placenta facials", says Alison Phillips in the Daily Mirror. And "they're not any old placentas either, they're flown in specially from New Zealand where they've been untouched by the modern world But it's not just Victoria. Simon Cowell has taken to breathing canned oxygen and Demi Moore has used leeches to purify her blood all to stay young. It's ultimate proof that you can have more money than sense. In these cases, a whole lot more money than sense."
Tamara Ecclestone, daughter of F1 billionaire Bernie, says that, "out of respect to her mother Slavica, she won't be attending his third marriage to a woman nearly 50 years his junior," writes Jane Moore in The Sun. "As she lives in a 50 squillion home bought by daddy, it remains to be seen how far her disapproval will stretch. To paraphrase Zsa Zsa Gabor, not enough, one suspects, to give back his diamonds, cars and designer clothes."
"Students at posh Brasenose College, Oxford, have been asked to ditch their pyjamas and wear proper attire' at breakfast time," says Katie Price in The Sun. "Stella McCartney has told everyone jim-jams are the height of fashion this season and has been seen out and about all over London in them. In fact she is flogging them in store for approximately £865. That's proper all right a proper rip-off.
Personally I prefer my £4.99 PJs from Primada', says Price that's Primark. But most Oxford students can afford a bit of Stella in their wardrobe, so if they want to slob out over their Shreddies, they can at least do it in style."
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