Sketch: The Shoreditch plotters
Evidence of a major threat to the government is emerging from the darkened public meeting-places of east London. A secret society was addressed by its shirt-sleeved leader last night, outlining plans to seize power at the general election.
Known popularly as the ‘Conservatives’, it is anticipated this organisation’s rally held in an underground establishment in the depths of Shoreditch yesterday could be the first of many in the coming weeks.
It was the sort of place secret societies dream of, all Victorian brickwork and dark arches, as if the Tories had decided to consult Fagin on how best to cope with reducing the public deficit.
Was there a fear all those present would be roasted alive by Labour-loving Cockneys? This location was certainly very well-hidden. One end of the street was entirely blocked off. Only through persistent detective-work – involving walking around the block – was it possible to unmask the defences. It was the perfect gathering-place for a hunted organisation, which the Tories in the East End certainly are.
Once inside, the atmosphere could be cut through with by a knife – probably one of the knives being used to chop up the Gordon Brown’s Porky Pies on offer. I arrived moments before Cameron, leading to some rather disappointed looks by those nearest the door. A video showed Cameron throwing a snowball at the camera, shaking Maggie’s hand and pronouncing that “prudence is dead” over a thumping upbeat dance track. This was starting to resemble a better-dressed version of the Matrix’s awful tribal dance scene.
And so it was to cheers of adulation that the man himself bound into the throng. But wait! Where was his jacket? Where was his tie? Where were his cuff-links? We imagined them draped over the back of a chair in his Westminster office, Samantha Cameron gazing at them lovingly.
Back in Shoreditch, what was left of Cameron and his accoutrements were being gazed at lovingly by all those present. Not even those of sensitive tastes could tell this was in the slightest bit choreographed, for Cameron was making it very clear he was in rough-and-ready mode. “It is a really big choice election,” he said at one stage. The Tories probably shouldn’t use that as their slogan.
The muted response of the audience was, perhaps, the biggest surprise. No doubt the fervour of a Hayekian zealot burned somewhere beneath those besuited exteriors, but the most visible display of passion came when a persistent mobile phone ring disrupted proceedings. The City’s finest responded with a chorus of tuts and turned heads that would have done Middle England proud.
Out in the middle, Cameron was getting desperate. After a solid 15 minutes of earnestness he had not got much further than a couple of ‘hear-hears’, which is the political rally equivalent of first base. Given the feebleness of his one-liners he only had himself to blame. “I was worried I was going to get overshadowed by the wife!” This was poor fare. “Anyone who thought this was a nightclub, that’s next door!” And – write this one down: “I think Greece is somewhere you go for a holiday, not for financial advice!” Hardly vintage stuff.
In the end it took John Prescott to break the tension. There was no unexpected intervention by the Yorkshireman (how many Tories does it take to bring down a Prescott?) but instead one of his choice quotes, deployed in the nick of time. The trouble with good schools, Prescott had once said, was that “everyone wants to go to them”. A huge laugh roared from deep down in the bellies of the assorted Tories present, before lapsing into a liberating flood of sarcastic applause. Cameron stood there, waiting patiently with his hands on his hips. He probably didn’t expect the ex-deputy PM to get the first big clap of the night.