Cristina Odone

Journalist, novelist and broadcaster

A black sheep in the family would give Cameron a lift

May 5, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

Lauren Booth, Cherie Blair's half-sister

Lauren Booth, Cherie Blair's half-sister

Peter Wilby, my editor at the New Statesman, came up with the inspired idea: to sign up Lauren Booth to write a weekly column. This was 1998 and New Labour looked impregnable, Tony Blair invincible, and the one true Labourite, Gordon Brown (whom the magazine championed), was relegated to waiting and waiting in No 11.

The PM risked growing smug and forgetting ordinary people. Who better to pull Tony the Tiger’s tail than his exhibitionist sister-in-law? Lauren Booth, Cherie’s half-sister (actor Tony Booth fathered both), was a larger-than-life blonde with a sense of mischief. She shrewdly guessed how to get attention. She told readers that New Labour was a dud project and Tony Blair had to go. She marched against the war in Iraq and spoke out for the Palestinian cause. Soon she was on Have I Got News for You? and I’m a Celebrity.

Since those heady days, Lauren has kept in the public eye by rowing with her husband over a Facebook entry in which she declared their marriage was over; writing about falling out with Cherie; and converting to Islam. Now, after advertising on Facebook for a devout Muslim husband, Lauren plans to marry Sohale Ahmed, a divorced Muslim from Stockport. Many articles on her newfound happiness are bound to follow.

From the safety of No 10, David Cameron is heaving a sigh of relief. Thank goodness he has no embarrassing in-laws, dodgy brothers or spivvy uncles. Sam’s stepfather may have been guilty of an indiscretion with a young Cameroonian, but the affair was dealt with in a civilised way (she got married and moved to America). And George Osborne’s doctor brother has converted to Islam – after once being suspended for six months for prescribing drugs to a prostitute lover.

Cameron is wrong to congratulate himself. A relative who shows the chink in the Camerons’ armour-plated respectability is exactly what’s called for. Surrounded by regulation Old Etonians, the PM looks bizarrely complacent, a carefree Adam in an Eden infested with dangerous snakes. How much better if, at the back of Downing Street group photos, (the Bullingdon Club, 15 years on), an odd figure stood out: wrong clothes, silly expression, and something reckless in their demeanour.

The media would pounce on the PM’s inappropriate relative, hoping to have found Cameron’s unguarded flank. They’d court the relative in the hope of discovering a rent-a-quote like Terry Major-Ball. John Major’s brother used to wax lyrical about the family business in manufacturing garden gnomes and his DIY projects. He lent an air of earthiness to a premier the media found uninspiring and (wrongly) straight-laced. Terry also distracted the snoopers – knowing, I suspect, that by concentrating on some malapropism of his, they’d fail to notice his younger brother’s affair with Edwina Currie.

Similarly, President Jimmy Carter came across as insufferably pi, the man who admitted to adultery – but only in his thoughts. Thankfully, brother Billy, an irrepressible motor-mouth whose business deals were investigated by the IRS, introduced a note of greedy vulgarity to the po-faced Carter White House.

Even the perfect Middletons have an embarrassing relation, in the portly shape of uncle Gary Goldsmith, who boasted of knowing just the man to procure ladies of the night; and invited Hello! to his home in Ibiza, to show off his gold thrones and giant orange Buddha. With his wince-makingly bad taste, Uncle G serves as lightning conductor for the accusations of crassness levelled at sister Carole’s family.

What Cameron needs is a vulgarian: someone boozy, big-mouthed and politically incorrect who watches Coronation Street and sounds like a Ukip reject. Time to start trawling the family tree: better to show your own Achilles’ heel than let your enemies find one.

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