NOW seems a good time to catch up with David Cameron. We go back a bit, Dave and me, as the framed newspaper on the study wall suggests.
This is a mocked-up front page of my old paper, presented six years ago on my departure. Such pages are a journalistic tradition and usually contain in-jokes. A strap along the bottom of mine suggests turning inside for “Julian’s David Cameron tribute column…”
You see, I had a weakness then for boring on about appalling Tory prime ministers (some habits never change).
After he left Downing Street while whistling, having brought Brexit crashing around our heads, the never less than impressively smug Cameron composed an account of his time in power. He was paid a reported £800,000 in a deal with HarperCollins to write For The Record. Mostly what people remember is that he spent a chunk of his generous advance on a shepherd’s hut in which to explain away his actions and say how jolly well he’d done.
I’ve not read For The Record but do cherish a photograph showing an unsold pile with a manager’s special offer ticket – reduced from £25 to £3.
Skimming over the reviews just now, here is Cameron on the Brexit vote – “My regrets about what had happened went deep. I knew then that they would never leave me. And they never have.”
Well, matey you were responsible for that shitshow, breezily assuming you’d win the vote and land one on Nigel Farage.
Call Me Dave will also be remembered as the prime minister who said he’d end the “who you know” lobbying culture – only to find himself in a lobbying scandal of his own contrivance, and all because of who he knew.
Fate can be unkind; then again sometimes fate kisses sweet.
Yesterday, Cameron was hauled before a committee of MPs to explain why he sent so many pleading emails and WhatsApp messages to ministers on behalf of the controversial bank he worked for – a bank that went bust, without the state aid Cameron was seeking.
The reviews from MPs were not glowing. He was told he’d “demeaned” the position of prime minister by lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital and that his behaviour had left his “reputation in tatters”.
Call Me Tatters was forced to deny his lobbying was driven by fears that an “opportunity to make a large amount of money was at risk”. He refused to say how much he stood to make from the bank, but told MPs he was paid “a generous amount, far more than I earned as prime minister”.
He also claimed he’d not done this for himself, but for the economy; otherwise know as the economy of me, perhaps.
This sweaty Zoom appearance offered other unflattering insights into a world of easy wealth piled upon easy wealth, of failure grandly rewarded. The one that sticks in the mind – and craw – is Cameron admitting he’d used the failed billionaire financier’s private jet to fly to Cornwall to visit his “third” holiday home.
He was hazy about how many times that happened, saying he did not have a “complete record”. Seeing as we’re drawing parallels here, I can tell you precisely how many times a billionaire’s private yet has whisked me off to Cornwall.
It’s foolish to envy other people’s wealth, but just how much money does David Cameron need? He was wealthy anyway, earned a good salary as prime minister, was paid a packet to write a book nobody much read, and still wants more.
So there he was yesterday, all sweaty and defensive, and exposed as needy too, an overprivileged man who went all the way from lobbying for the TV company Carlton to lobbying for a failed banker, with a spell as prime minister in between.
Still, we must all do what we can. While Cameron was earning a fortune for that book, I’ve eked out a freelance living, written books yet to be published, worked for two universities and the Press Association, then lost those jobs, and spent eight months working as a census engagement manager.
That census role disengages next week, then it’s back to whatever in a long stagger towards the finish line of retirement.
Still, at least I did get to write that David Cameron tribute column.