A best man’s speech without the jokes…

The pig isn't the most surprising revelation from Lord Ashcroft's biography of David Cameron.


Forget the pig, says Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Mail. What's really striking about Lord Ashcroft's new book on the prime minister is David Cameron's gilded youth. Future historians, thinks Sandbrook, will be "astonished by the fact that in the second decade of the 21st century, Britain a supposedly diverse, dynamic and meritocratic society was led by a man who was sent to boarding school at the age of seven and later, at Oxford, joined the Bullingdon Club, which required him to spend the equivalent of £1,200 on a special tailcoat".

Mary Riddell in The Daily Telegraph compares Jeremy Corbyn to Cameron, saying that many people will ask themselves "whether a leader who conducts Prime Minister's Questions in a jacket two sizes too large is not a welcome change from a PM who moves in the louche and overprivileged circles" describe by Lord Ashcroft.

Will they? I wonder. Yes, the prime minister has had a comfortable, indulgent youth, as he's often acknowledged. But won't future historians judge him on his policies, rather than on what he did at university? We've heard about Cameron "hosting parties where drugs were in open circulation', his being born with two silver spoons' in his mouth and an implausible ritual involving a dead pig", says Fraser Nelson, also in The Daily Telegraph.

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"So today, the prime minister stands exposed as precisely the sort of person that people have thought he was for the past ten years." The excerpts of Ashcroft's biography in the Daily Mail were like a best man's speech without the jokes. "There is no smoking gun; there isn't even much smoking Very rich chap enjoys gilded childhood and attends lavish parties: who'd have thought it?"

Much more damaging, says Nelson, is another recently published book, Cameron at 10, by Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon. They paint a picture of the same man: "relaxed, uxorious, unideological, utterly loyal to his inner circle". But while these may be the qualities you want in a friend, do you want them in a prime minister? Isn't Cameron's style of governing a bit over-relaxed?

This, too, is a familiar charge: the charge of laziness. Last week I put it to a friend of Cameron's who lives near his country pad in Oxfordshire. Nonsense, said the friend: "I sometimes walk past his house at 5.30am at weekends and there's invariably a light on and he's already up and working".

What Nelson is driving at, though, is intellectual laziness. Issues aren't always properly thought through, such as the NHS reforms or the bombing of Libya. On this, Cameron's humanitarian instincts prevailed: the result, as we know, was "a power vacuum" in the country and a tragedy that's still unfolding.

But the Cameron style of governing also has its upside he tends to hire good people and lets them get on with their jobs, which has led to Michael Gove's education reforms, Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms, and falls in crime and taxes. No PM is perfect, and I doubt Ashcroft's book will do much harm to this one.

Tabloid money: Arthur Daley has nothing on Volkswagen

As a result, they end up "bed blocking". So "saving" the £16 an hour cost of a visit from a care worker ends up costing the hospital £250. "Care provision is a multi-billion-pound business" but it "is also a shambles".

"I thought the East End second-hand car dealer who flogged me my first sports car was dodgy," says Richard Madeley in the Daily Express. But he must have gone on to "hone his little scams at Volkswagen". While everyone knows that official figures for car emissions are mostly "a blend of wishful thinking and statistical spin", it's quite different to find out that "we were being actively conned".

This is "staggeringly dishonest" and "demonstrates a breathtaking, cavalier contempt for public health". The "anti-capitalists' mantra" that large firms are "inherently evil and corrupt" may be tiresome, but this scandal proves "they have a point". It's an example of "naked corruption that beggars belief".

I know some people "who pay more than £1,700 a month for a pokey, damp-up-the-walls... smelly, two-bedroom flat in south London," says The Sun's Kelvin MacKenzie. Worse, "the landlord refuses to spend a penny putting the joint in decent nick". The government should "force these money-grabbing landlords to do the right thing". Specifically, "all estate agents should have a licence under which they will be legally obliged to make sure the tenants have decent conditions and their complaints are listened toTenants must be protected."