sat 31/10/2020

When Boris Met Dave, More4 | reviews, news & interviews

When Boris Met Dave, More4

When Boris Met Dave, More4

Toffumentary

This review cannot start without a confession. More of a disclaimer, in fact. What you are about to read will not by any reasonable definition pass as a balanced critical response. I began my time at Oxford University in exactly the same week as Boris Johnson and indeed Toby Young, one of the makers of When Boris Met Dave. As a student, I knew or met half the talking heads who took part. As a journalist I know or have met most of the others. They all, to a man (and woman), sound like Prince Charles. So was it any good, this playful account of the birth of the modern Tory party in the cauldron of Oxford in the 1980s? Hard to tell when you’re watching through your fingers.

But timing is everything. When Boris Met Dave was precision-scheduled to detonate on the eve of Cameron’s Harry, England and St George speech at the last party conference before he puts himself at the mercy of the electorate. Would you seriously, it asks, want to put a cross next to this man or anyone associated with him? I was mystified to scan the credits and find no reference to A. Campbell. If Labour could show this as their party political broadcast the night before the election, all bets would be off. Luckily for the Cameroonian tendency, More4 is maybe not such a big player in the swing constituencies.

Dick-holding, comrades, is very much on the next cabinet's to-do list.

The thesis of this documentary with dramatised inserts is that back in the mid-1980s, when Boris Johnson and David Cameron overlapped as members of the Bullingdon Club, it was the future guest presenter of Have I Got News for You who looked like the anointed one, while Cameron was a bit of a blur. They were both Eamonns (“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Eamonn." "Eamonn who?”  “Eamonn Etonian”), and arrived at the dreaming spires - like all of their tail-coated tribe - oozing a primordial sense of entitlement. “Weren’t you at school?” one Eamonn will ask another he vaguely recognises at a party, as if there's only one alma mater. Or as an Eamonn author put it, evidently scarred with self-loathing, Etonians derive such a deep sense of identity from their schooling that they spend the rest of their lives, and I quote, "holding on to each other’s dicks”. And dick-holding, comrades, is very much on the next cabinet's to-do list.

From the look of the interviewees who knew Cameron at the time, even they seem shellshocked that it has come to this. “It looks what it is,” says one of them of the famous Bullingdon Club photo featuring Cameron and Johnson in dining club livery. “Elitist, arrogant, privileged, and of an age that would have little resonance with people on low incomes who didn’t go to Eton.” This from Johnson’s sister Rachel, by the way. With family like that, who needs Mandelson briefing against you? Not that Eamonns weren’t conscious of a vague need to meld into society. “Everybody was trying to pretend they were black,” added the Mayor of London’s sister. “We spoke in patwah.”

The programme had very little to say about Cameron, which kind of says everything. His first act of Machiavellian calculation was to slip quietly away on the infamous night other Bullers fetched up in the clink. Either that or, in some blue-blooded equivalent of the Blair-Brown deal in Granita, the rest of the club are still sworn to cover for him nearly a quarter of a century on. Vote Cameron, this programme seemed to argue, and you might as well vote Camorra. “It wasn’t that bad,” observed one witty bystander. “It wasn’t as if they were buggering chickens.” Do we know this for sure, sir?

If I might add a personal character reference, the Bullers really were - and I’ll put this as politely as is humanly possible, for potential inclusion in the Tory manifesto - tossers of the absolute first rank. That much was suggested by the deliciously Woosterish re-enactments, with an actor called Christian Brassington (which I sincerely hope is a stage name) doing a lovely turn as Boris. These scenes were all filmed, either by accident or as the result of the innermost of arcane in-jokes, at Harrow School. Don’t ask me how I know. I just know. OK?

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