Two hits for the price of one today: David Cameron talking to himself and the truth about Ed Stone.
Last Autumn, David Cameron – you know, prime minister of this country, chief architect of cuts to local councils up and down the land – wrote in his capacity as an MP to the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire county council to complain about cuts to services in his constituency, saying that he was “disappointed”.
This story first surfaced in the Oxford Mail, and then went national. There was something pleasingly insane about David Cameron ticking off a council leader for the cuts he himself had made. This raised the frankly terrifying prospect that there might be two David Camerons in a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.
Now Cameron has once again warned his local council against making cuts, telling them to “look again”. In turn the council leader, Ian Hudspeth, tells Cameron his authority will have to make more than £69m of extra savings, including cuts to children’s centres – on top of cuts worth £292m already agreed between 2010 and 2020. Mr Hudspeth says his council has been “badly hit” by the government’s new funding formula.
Here we find David Jekyll talking to Dave Hyde. Please press OK to agree that you are over 18 and unlikely to be disturbed by this scenario.
David Jekyll: “Now Dave – and is it okay if I call you Dave? – I understand that you are upset about cuts to your local council and that the good folk of Witney might be up in arms.”
Dave Hyde: “Too right I am, David. I’ve already told that useless bunch to make back-office savings.”
DJ: “And what are back-office savings, Dave?”
DH: “Ah, not rightly sure. You’d need to ask George. He handles all the back-office stuff. Look, all they need to do is lay off a few unimportant people, you know, that sort of thing.”
DJ: “But don’t you feel at all responsible for cuts made by your own government?”
DH: “Who, me? I am the prime minister, I’m far too busy running the country to worry about something like that. Nothing to do with me, David, it’s all the fault of those local councils. We have made the cuts democratic…”
DJ: “Passed the buck, you mean.”
DH: “Look I don’t have time for any of this. I’ve got to dash off to Davos and put on my sad but reasonable face – and then bore the arse off all those Europeans until they get so sick of me moaning on and on they just agree to my demands.”
DJ: “Don’t go just yet, Dave. We’re still talking about the cuts in your own constituency caused by your own government – which is to say you.”
DH: “Me? Oh this has nothing to do with me. Look I’ve already told that fellow – damn fool is meant to be in the same party as me – that we have made it possible for councils to sell property assets and use the capital to invest in transforming local services – and ensure future savings.”
DJ: “And what on earth do those words actually mean, Dave?”
DH: “Haven’t the foggiest. George told me to say that. He’s big on selling things off is George. He’d put me on eBay if you gave him half a chance.”
DJ: “So what are you going to say to your constituents about the cuts?”
DH: “Constituents? Oh I’m far too busy to talk to them. They can go and moan to that council leader. All his fault. Nothing to do with me…”
Interestingly, when Robert Louis Stephenson wrote Jekyll and Hyde one of his interests was said to be the concerns over the divide between public and private selves in Victorian Britain. A similar divide seems to exist in David Cameron’s head.
Now let’s roll onto that stone. The Ed Stone was a two-tonne slab of limestone on which Ed Miliband had his election promises carved. This was by general agreement one of the worst gimmicks ever dreamed up by a politician (second only to Donald Trump’s hair). How many meetings did that idea go through; was everyone asleep?
After eight months of speculation, Labour officials have told Bloomberg News that the stone was smashed up shortly after the election. Presumably by applying it with force to the head of whoever had the idea.
Incidentally, Ed Stone is also a character in the York Theatre Royal panto, which ends an enjoyable run at the National Railway Museum tomorrow. So good I saw it twice.