While politicians grapple for early advantage in the referendum campaign, emitting strange noises as they try to choke each other, let us consider for a moment the part played by their families. Rachel Johnson today offers a dramatic, first-hand account of her brother, Boris, holed up like a rustic statesman in his farmhouse, awaiting the call that is bound to come from the editor of the Daily Telegraph to save the Fatherland, or at least to file his copy, but meanwhile “almost incommunicado, hammering away at his hot laptop, frying sausages”.
Her account is strong on the foodstuffs consumed during this time of of crisis, and much of it deserves to be reproduced word for word in the TV mini-series which must surely follow. “‘Never mind you,’” Rachel says at one stage, as Boris havers and she works her way through a box of chocolates in order to relieve the tension:
“‘Just text Dave back and tell him he’s got me,’ I said, choosing a white truffle.”
The writers of the mini-series will be grateful too for the account by Sarah Vine of the dinner she and her husband, Michael Gove, attended at the house in Islington of Boris Johnson, here appearing in his capacity as urban statesman, and his wife, Marina Wheeler. Just as the meal is served, “a senior Cabinet minister, accompanied by a lawyer, came on speakerphone to discuss the complexities of law in relation to sovereignty”, but as Vine says:
“I, too, listened dutifully for a few minutes, but it really was a very lawyerly conversation, and the aroma rising from the slow-roasted shoulder of lamb was getting to me. I tucked in.”
Wheeler has contributed in recent weeks to the Spectator and The Times, and only three days ago reiterated, in a letter to the editor of The Times, that “there is a crisis of judicial legitimacy at the heart of the EU”: a view which her husband has acquired from her, for he has made it with uncharacteristic precision in his various accounts of why he has joined the Leave campaign.
But since Wheeler says not a word, in any of her articles, about the food consumed during these stirring days, one hardly expects her account will bulk very large when the drama reaches the small screen.
Nor has Samantha Cameron been as helpful as she might have been. According to an account in today’s Mail on Sunday, “At London Fashion Week, Sam Cameron told nosey inquirers her main role in the campaign is to ‘help Dave de-stress’.”
Nothing, again, about the food, and we do not even learn whether she has a pet name for her husband. Lucy Baldwin’s somewhat incongruous name for her husband, Stanley Baldwin, leader of the Conservative Party from 1923-37 and three times Prime Minister, was “Tiger”, and she was known at times of acute pressure to spur him on, as W.F. Deedes not so long ago reminded readers of the Daily Telegraph.
It would be a great help to the scriptwriters if the present Prime Minister’s spouse could in the near future come up with something similar, but if not, they will just have to think of a suitable animal.