Toby Young Toby Young

Status Anxiety | 10 October 2009

Don’t be misled by their Bullingdon days: Boris and Dave are masters of re-invention

Don’t be misled by their Bullingdon days: Boris and Dave are masters of re-invention

Last night, More4 broadcast a 90-minute drama-doc called When Boris Met Dave that I helped to make. It documents their Eton and Oxford years and I hope they saw it — or, at least, recorded it on Sky Plus — because the impression given in the press is that it was a spiteful hatchet job designed to cause them maximum discomfort. In fact, it was nothing of the kind. On the contrary, when we handed the film in to Channel 4 I was worried they’d think it was a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Conservative party.

The film was actually a fairly straightforward attempt to find out a bit more about the two most prominent Conservative politicians of our era. How did Boris and Dave manage to overcome the electoral handicap of being toffs? And what is the source of the rivalry between them? The film contends that you can discover the answers to both of these questions by examining their early years. In the course of making the film we interviewed dozens of their contemporaries, including Boris’s sister, Dave’s former flatmate, several of Boris’s Oxford Union stooges, an ex-girlfriend of Dave’s, James Delingpole and the foreign minister of Poland. All of these people appear in the film, along with Boris and Dave’s biographers, offering witty recollections and valuable insights, most of them pretty favourable.

So why has When Boris Met Dave been portrayed in the press as a demolition job? The answer’s simple: the Bullingdon Club. We included a handful of dramatic reconstructions in the film, including one of the Bullingdon running amok, and any reference to the Buller is automatically seen as an attempt to embarrass Boris and Dave.

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