He was fresh faced and looked eager and willing to please. His body language oozed confidence. But then you would hope it would, with his background. But there was a friendliness. Easy to see and sense. The suit was sharp, but not too sharp, well fitting, nicely cut. Probably dark blue with well polished and clean shoes. His tie sat well. His parents would have been proud of him. His hair was still thick and his face had that cheery smile. There was clearly a lot of charm ready to be used. As he walked, he held his hand up to his face in front of his face. You all must have seen the gesture?
It was late evening and the hall was not yet quite full. It was warm and muggy but there was no sign of the shiny forehead. He was cool and seemingly confident. But there were lots of noises. Loud voices, chairs being scraped on the floor, metal boxes hitting tables, gaggles of conversation, fragments drifting across from Police radios. Officials busy with their papers, as only officials can be. The hustle and bustle of the system as it went about its business. And the atmosphere in the air, defeat or victory, depending on which side you were. As the local, I knew about defeat after defeat. For us the place was steeped in it. History, relentless, the same old story. The mantra, always next time. The future, the next campaign. But this could be the night. The night of the great change. What was odd to me was that he was walking around by himself.
Normally candidates have their close colleague or agent with them, or some of their close friends, or even family. Someone clutching papers, pens, papers, clip boards. Other people looking important. But, no not him. Quietly and keenly he walked around by himself. He obviously thought he had won. His new wife was in the background. She was attracting a lot of interest and not from her own side. This was a lady who seemed confident, easy going and not over awed. She had a genuinely sounding nice laugh.
So he approached me. I was rather a Billy no Mates as well. By myself, enjoying my own company, watching and observing. Was I sat or stood up? It is not that long ago but I can’t honestly remember. The night of 1997. I stood up and said his name and held my hand out and offered mine. We shook hands, a firm hand grip as if he meant it. He was surprised I knew who he was. But I said, after all this time one would hope I knew who he was. I remember he grinned about that. What he didn’t know, but why should he, was that I knew him rather well. I had read all the briefings. So we both stood and chatted. He was pleasant and easy going. The conversation flowed. He seemed reluctant to move on. I suggested he should go and rescue his wife from the interest of some of his opponents. But what was odd was what he said. He really thought he was going to win.
And as we all now know, that would not be the last time he was wrong about something that was so important. But I said quite kindly why he wasn’t going to win. The sitting MP had buggered off to a safe seat, no local candidate had been chosen in his place, and as I looked around I told him there was no one from his Association whom I could recognise. Surely that told him something? Without being unkind to him, he looked as though the thought had never occurred to him. Why would it. Success seemed to come to him quite naturally. Plus I added, there was the national situation, which needed to be taken into account. I suspected this had never crossed his mind. I also felt slightly uncomfortable because he had no idea who I really was. I knew almost everything he had done during his short career. Also, he had attended an education debate, and I had crafted the subsequent Press Release which accused him of arriving late and playing “Truant”. I know it needled him. Because subsequently he told his best friend George. And in a lift in the House, when the man who beat him entered by chance, he introduced him to George, as the man who said he played “truant”. He laughed about it apparently, but there was an edge. I actually liked him. He was personable and almost fun. I would have liked to have met him again. Perhaps we might have become friends.
Our backgrounds were certainly very different, opposite Parties, different backgrounds and schools and so the list goes on. But I genuinely liked him. There was something about him. A boyish enthusiasm, eager to listen, keen to discuss. Good company. When he achieved high office I wrote to him. I said he might not remember, I outlined the circumstances, our conversation, the “truancy”, but I wanted him to know if I could ever help, or perhaps if he needed to use some advice from an ordinary person or take advantage of my skills to let me know. Sadly he never replied. Why would he? His office would have been inundated with post. He had just won a great victory and held the highest office in the land. He probably didn’t even remember me.
And this Friday. A man who I actually quite liked, just resigned. Out of the blue. I was so surprised. Gob smacked even. I never saw that coming. He might have just lost. But to leave us all in the lurch. To let the markets scare themselves silly. Why? Where had the fresh faced enthusiastic young man I once knew, gone? I know, the pressures of office, the pain of defeat, one’s colleagues, the long bitter campaign and the sense of rejection. But he should have stayed and fought our corner. Just like he did after his election defeat in 1997. Then he went on, fought and won. Became leader of his Party and then won the highest office in the land. That is what I would have said to him. You gambled, you lost, but for all our sakes, sort it out. That is what I would have expected you to do.
One final thing, when I met him that night, he said “David”, there was none of this “call me Dave” business. But was that ever true? In a way, I will miss him, a man I seemed to know quite well, but never had the chance to really know. And more to the point, what is going to happen, who is going to steer the ship through these difficult and treacherous waters, now, Mr Cameron? You showed your steel and purpose after 97, why not once again in 2016?
Don Quixote © h/t Don’s old man