Some thoughts and recollections about the woman of the moment Sasha Swire, who’s book exposing the lives of top Tories has got everyone chatting – by Harry Mottram.
In a month dominated by Covid-19 stories about the lack of testing and the Rule of Six it’s been a blessed relief to read extracts in the press of Sasha Swire’s book Diary of an MP’s Wife.
Her expose of life in Westminster amongst the Camerons, Goves and the Johnsons of this world are marked out by her witty waspish notes, character assassinations and deadly one-liners. And they are all the more enjoyable because of the outrage they have caused to columnists such as Sarah Vine (Michael Gove’s Wife) and Janet Street Porter. Their faux-disgust is surely caused by not being privy to the events Sasha describes and thus unable to be able to pen their own tell-all political diaries. Janet Street Porter asks: “Does she have a sense of humour, or has she acquired a thick veneer of political correctness in line with the current craze for ‘cancelling’ anyone deemed unacceptable?” While Sarah Vine described Sasha as being ‘deeply disloyal’ and said of her broken friendship with the Camerons: “I don’t think she’ll be forgiven, certainly not for a while.”
Despite all their protestations and the denials of David Cameron and Co as to what was said and done in private, like the candid diaries of the late MP Alan Clark the Diary of an MP’s Wife makes for a juicy gossipy read. Far better than the usual censored and less than truthful political memoirs. She sees former chancellor George Osborne as a ‘caddish extra on Downton Abbey’ and of Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary arriving at a meeting ‘looking like he usually looks, sweaty, just out of the gym and wanting to kill people’.
Boris Johnson doesn’t do detail and is a fat blond Etonian who just wanted to be PM and David Cameron was apparently sex mad – but good for racy dinner party stories about the sex lives of French and Italian politicians – comments which prompt the line ‘it takes one to know one.’ Esther McVey, former Work and Pensions Minister is ‘more ladette than lady’, John Bercow the ex-speaker is ‘creepy’, William Hague was only interested in himself and Donald Trump is ‘a filthy, racist misogynist’. I don’t think many people would take issue with some of those comments.
The daughter of former defence minister John Nott during the Falklands War is a journalist by profession and during my time at the Express and Echo in Exeter would write her own husband’s weekly column for the paper. My job was to chase it up from time to time. I was under the illusion that Huge Swire MP for East Devon actually wrote it until I twigged during a phone call to Sasha. “I’ll knock it out now and email it over in time for your deadline,” she said.
Hugo Swire like several Conservative MPs I interviewed or spoke to over the years was often pilloried in the letters pages of newspapers for his less than 21st century views. But like the MP for Bridgwater Ian Liddell-Grainger who was hated by many of his constituents both men were easy to chat to and most importantly of all had a sense of humour. Unlike many other Tory MPs who were super sensitive to any criticism and were not particularly bright.
And yes I did spend the night with Sasha Swire while her husband watched – if only from time to time. It was election night in 2015 at the count in Sidmouth in Devon. We were all unsure of how the vote would go as the Independent candidate Claire Wright had been closing the gap on Hugo’s massive majority election after election. With one flick of her lustrous hair Claire could increase her vote by 10% at a time amongst men of a certain age, such were her seductive charms. And she was also a highly popular county councillor who had gathered support from all corners of the political spectrum by campaigning on local causes.
In the end Hugo’s vote just about held up on what turned out to be a good night for the Conservatives. I sat next to Sasha all night chatting away about life, families, Hugo and work as a journalist. Charming, fair and with a wicked sense of humour she was very good company. And Hugo wasn’t bad either – although he was on his best behaviour since the room contained several journalists.
I felt sorry for Claire who had made a spirited attempt to usurp Hugo’s very comfortable East Devon seat but Sasha wasn’t so compassionate. “All she wants to be is an MP,” she said, “she doesn’t care about anything else. Look at her counting up the votes as they come in. She’s not had a drink, a chat or a break. She’s obsessed.” Unlike her husband a very relieved Hugo of course who clearly didn’t want to be an MP as he worked the room thanking supporters and congratulating party members who were standing as councillors in local elections counted at the same time.
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