Andy Stowe read (most of – before giving up in disgust) the sensational political diary of the year so that you don’t have to.
We know so little about what happened in previous centuries and millennia. Most of what does endure tells only of the rich and powerful. If Sasha Swire’s new book Diary of an MP’s Wife is the only thing that is retrieved centuries hence, the archaeologists of the future will conclude that the major political crisis of 2015 was her husband’s attempt to get a rose named after the king of Bhutan and the worst thing that happened to anyone was a pair of posh curtains being taken from her castle bedroom by someone higher up the Tory food chain. They might also end up believing that if your mother really loved you she’d give you a field with a pond in it as a present.
Everyone reading this is guilty of some horrendous failure of musical or literary judgement, having been swept along by the hype. Maybe it’s that Killers album you gave to a church jumble sale after two listens or you went to see Tenet.
Swire, who had a “low-level depression” after Thatcher died, has written a book very much in that category. The Times carried articles like “Behind the cock jokes and red trousers, Sasha Swire’s diary is a chronicle of the Tory party’s ruin” and “Cameron clique bashful after Sasha Swire book’s lurid claims of sex and booze”. The Guardian called it a thrillingly indiscreet political memoir”.
Wrong, unless you are suprised to find out that the average Tory activist hates “in equal measure: foreigners, Europe, defence cuts, gay marriage, Liberals, the BBC, Germans, the Japanese, the coalition and garlic”. It’s inconsequential tittle tattle from start to finish and no more useful than an account of the grudges and vendettas of your local drug gang as one faction fights another over the turf.
Swire is the wife of Hugo Swire, one of those Tory MPs only his own family and political journalists find of significance or interest. He ended up with a couple of minor ministerial roles in David Cameron’s coalition. His main qualification for the posts was that he was a Tory MP who happened to be a longstanding friend of Cameron’s. In case you cared – the informed speculation is that Mr and Mrs Swire are paying him back for not giving him more senior jobs because he was too posh and white for the Cameron cabinet. It’s reminiscent of Paulie in The Sopranos wondering why he wasn’t promoted to something more lucrative and high status.
Rich Tories are obnoxious shocker!
What makes it of some passing interest is the insight it gives you into how Tories think and behave when they sense no one is watching. This reviewer was shocked to find out that they are utterly obnoxious.
The Swires dine with a Scottish landowner called Moran who intimidates the tenants on his estate, brags about not putting baths in their homes and knocks down a farmer’s barn overnight because it spoils his view. There is some bad news for Patti Smith fans. She is also one of their dining companions, something to bear in mind the next time you hear People Have the Power.
A 2014 fund-raising auction at which the audience is comprised of rich lobbyists, hedge fund “grandees” and Russian oligarchs finds someone willing to pay £15 000 for a jar of honey. You read that correctly! £15 000 to Tory funds for a single jar of honey. Their main concern is to make sure the story doesn’t hit the press. Sasha Swire’s view on austerity was that the medicine has to be harsh, but mainly that it must be administered by a very narrow tribe and their hangers on. This means her, her husband, Cameron and Johnson, that Tory caste which controls every aspect of British political life.
It’s not just Tories. You probably thought that Kate Hoey was a bit dodgy because of her dalliance with Farage. You are not wrong, but she has quite a reactionary hinterland and threw jobs to people because of their family connections. “His son is married to the Duchess of Cornwall’s daughter; his wife, Sarah, is an Astor, and was High Sheriff of Devon. One of their daughters works for Kate Hoey”.
Hoey commented at the Devon County Show “It’s absolutely extraordinary. I haven’t seen a single face belonging to the ethnic minorities since coming here.” You can see why she got on so well with Farage.
There are a couple of redeeming nuggets. Swire is sympathetic to the Palestinians. She is frank that most of what was said about Corbyn was lies though concludes that if lies are needed to destroy him that’s fair enough. It’s a shame he lacked the ruthlessness of his enemies. Oh, and Tony Blair is obliged to travel the world as though he were a war criminal, albeit a very rich one always looking for ways to get richer.
This book is potentially a perfect Christmas present. That’s if you want to kill someone with very high blood pressure and would prefer to be able to plausibly deny the crime. Anyone trudging through it becomes an incandescent mass of class hatred.