David Cameron, why oh why are you still talking?
In one sense, it was a surprise to find David Cameron saying arrogant and tin-eared things overseas this week: that’s Liam Fox’s job, and has been ever since he was restored to cabinet, in the greatest political comeback since Lazarus was found sharing a tomb with his self-styled adviser.
Yes, ever since the trade secretary took office and promptly stuck up a portrait of Cecil Rhodes in his office, Fox has been flying round the world in the service of pipe dream-traffickers. He’s basically a bad ideas mule, a globetrotting repository for a hundred condoms stuffed with imperialist soundbites and meaningless generalities. The unpacking of them is never a pleasant operation. Something something “post-geography world”; something something “France needs high-quality, innovative British jams and marmalades.”
Fox was aiming his brain-cannon closer to home this week, alas, and we shall return to him shortly. On the world stage, it was Cameron’s turn to lay it on thick. The former prime minister was one of the keynote speakers at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul. Amazingly, the title of his speech wasn’t Just in Case Any of You Guys Are Thinking of Having a Referendum for Party-Political Reasons. Nor was it I’m Sorry, I Was Looking for the Hot-Stone Spa and Seem to Have Exited the Lift on the Wrong Floor.
But obviously, we ought not to delve too deeply into the oration’s contents. These days, there is only ever one acceptable response to a David Cameron speech, and that is: “Are you still talking? Wait – how is it that you are still talking? How is it possible that you seem to pop up several times a month, either in your guise of Captain Hindsight, or hawking yourself round the after-dinner-minted circuit?”
Seemingly every week, Cameron can be found lecturing an audience too bored, blase or beaten to call bullshit
I mean, the one merciful thing you can usually say of pilot error disasters is that they tend to claim the lives of those who made the cock-up. Yet seemingly every week, Cameron can be found on some lucrative platform or other, lecturing an audience too bored, blase or beaten to call bullshit. For the rest of us, it’s like hearing someone who ploughed an Airbus 380 into a music festival talk about what albums he’s currently listening to.
According to Cameron’s spokesman, the former PM “never discusses” the size of his payment for this service. What he did discuss in Seoul was his austerity pay cap, explaining that those who criticised austerity were cavalier and “selfish”. And as time goes by, I’m sure people will be ever more pleased to take lectures from him on the costs of recklessness, when his own party-political decision will be paid for by their schools and hospitals and whatnot.
In the meantime, it’s one thing Cameron taking the enormous fee, presumably to make some auto-satirical point about the obscene rewards of failure. But it’s quite another to imagine that, from that platform, you can pontificate about anything that so much as loosely pertains to the likes of nurses and firefighters. That, surely, is the point at which a lack of self-awareness tips over into sociopathy.
Remember when Liam Fox said the UK was entering a ‘post-geography’ world? About that …
Struggling public servants, “selfish”? Thanking you, Scary Antoinette. But from you, a period of wordlessness – if not headlessness – would now be most welcome. I don’t mean that literally, of course. Come my magic-realist revolution, Cameron would be eternally imprisoned in a single Instagram shot of his own pedicure.
As for Liam Fox, the trade secretary this week decided to tag-team on some recent BBC bashing by Andrea Leadsom. Just don’t call it a brains trust. According to Liam: “It does appear that some elements of our media would rather see Britain fail than see Brexit succeed. I cannot recall a single time in recent times when I have seen good economic news that the BBC did not describe as ‘despite Brexit’ …” Player Two has entered the game.
No doubt we shall see more of this as the reality of Liam’s task becomes slowly clearer to him – the excuse that Brexit would be marvellous if only various types of British people weren’t so lacking in some way or other. We’d totally win Brexit if businessmen weren’t so fat and golf-obsessed, or the BBC weren’t so negative.
And yet, this is a level of sub-analysis that even most angry, one-eyed England football fans have outgrown in recent years. You no longer hear people explain that England would win the World Cup if only the media would “get behind the team”, or the side played with more “passion”. Most people accept the reality that England are not very good, and appear to have some sort of psychological collapse every time they pull on the shirt.
Still, great British minds think alike, and it was only the other week that Andrea Leadsom was on Newsnight explaining: “It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic.” “Sorry,” queried Emily Maitlis. “Are you accusing me of being unpatriotic for questioning how negotiations are going?” Oh, Emily! You can’t get into that one with Andrea. She’s Brexit’s little ray of sunshine. It would be like explaining quantum mechanics to Scrappy Doo.
Even so, you may find yourself chillingly mesmerised by the fact that Andrea always smiles when she’s delivering these assaults. She has that homicidally saccharine smile you normally see in customer services operatives who are administering a knockout financial blow. She’d be amazing on the Ryanair baggage desk.
Unfortunately, she seems to have her eye on another job with travel perks: to wit, foreign secretary. According to a Times report this week, Andrea declined Theresa May’s attempt to demote her in the post-election reshuffle, instead demanding to be made home secretary. Though she’d settle for foreign. Ouch.
Having to listen to Brexit’s Oxo mum tell you she wants to be foreign secretary and still not being able to sack her: Theresa May has now entered that phase of slow death that Gordon Brown once did, where the indignities are so excruciating that even sanguine observers slightly have to look away. I know she wanted to bring back bloodsports, but this is a bit much.
Still, with both Leadsom and Fox presumably mulling leadership bids, there is plenty more to come from the Tories in the months ahead. Don’t ask how these selfless public servants will find time for Brexit. In fact, it is your patriotic duty not to even wonder.