‘It is not the prize. It is a means to the prize.’ This is how one long-time political ally of David Cameron described the Tory leader’s entrance into Downing Street at the head of a coalition government. The deal with the Liberal Democrats which has put Cameron in Downing Street is, as this Cameron ally admits, ‘an arranged marriage not a love match’. In the run-up, the bride’s family was trying to negotiate a better dowry from an alternative suitor, and many in the groom’s family were praying that he would be jilted at the altar.
Labour has to reinvent itself to fight the next general election, says Phil Collins. The leadership contenders must look to the party’s radical rootsSo, they were looking in the wrong place all along. For years now the Labour party has been seeking a steely assassin to deal with its unelectable leader. Finally, where James Purnell failed tragically and Geoff Hoon failed farcically, Nick Clegg has succeeded.
‘Heroin?’ I say to Simon Russell Beale. ‘Sorry?’ he says. ‘To relax after a show. To come down off the high. You take heroin?’ ‘Oh yes, yes,’ he says. ‘Yes… if only. Well, as you can probably tell from my shape I like my beer. I can’t imagine a performance without a pint or two afterwards.’ ‘Which brand?’ ‘Oh cheap stuff. Stella or Export, yes, cheap as chips, cooking lager.’ The man widely regarded as the finest theatrical talent of his generation has surprisingly simple tastes.
It’s a dirty business. When you’re on top, everyone wants something from you; when you’re not, well, as Billie Holiday says, ‘God bless the child that’s got his own.’ It is a business of sharp elbows, few loyalties, and one in which winning is all that matters. That’s how Rod Serling describes the boxing racket in his Requiem for a Heavyweight. He could just as well have been describing politics. Tony Blair might have been the Labour party’s meal ticket (as Margaret Thatcher was the Tories’) through three general elections, just as Serling’s boxer was the meal ticket for his managers and entourage.
Why can’t Alastair Campbell understand that proper journalists aren’t partisan and malevolent, asks Rod Liddle. Most of them just genuinely want to uncover the truthWho were you rooting for in the real political battle of the week, Adam Boulton of Sky News versus Alastair Campbell? It didn’t quite come to a ruck, which is an enormous shame, but Adam did pursue Campbell in the manner of one of those inexplicably angry men you sometimes meet in a kebab shop at two in the morning, driven by a splenetic fury and a sense of implacable self-righteousness and with sputum dribbling down the front of his nursery-coloured acrylic leisurewear.
The French president’s chances of re-election look bleak. But the problem is not his politics, says Patrick Marnham, so much as his embarrassing personal lifeGordon Brown is not the only European leader who is regarded as an electoral liability by his own party. With two years to go before France’s next presidential election Nicolas Sarkozy’s chances are not looking good. He is entitled to run for a second five-year term, but in 2012 it will be 24 years since the French chose a president from the left.
Ferdinand Mount mourns the passing of his friend and colleague — and a former Spectator columnist — whose wit, humour and clarity of expression remain unrivalledAs Alan Watkins lay dying last Saturday, his younger grandson Harry recited to him the passage from Macbeth he had just learnt at school. It was an apt send-off for the most enchanting political commentator of his day, as meanwhile in Downing Street Birnam Wood was inching closer to Dunsinane (though to be fair to Macbeth he did not claim that he was merely ‘securing a progressive coalition’).