At this stage, there may be many contenders for person of 2020, but perhaps only one for plus one of the year.
Barbara Ellen www.theguardian.com
Cue Sasha Swire, one-time journalist, daughter of former defence secretary Sir John Nott, wife of erstwhile Tory MP/minister Hugo Swire and author of Diary of an MP’s Wife, the tell-all on the David Cameron “chumocracy” that titillated the nation a few months back.
There was plenty to be titillated about, not least Cameron saying on a walk that he wanted to push Swire into bushes and “give her one”. Now she has reappeared to defend her book against charges of betrayal, while insisting that Cameron’s remark was a joke. As if people hadn’t already worked it out.
The point is not what Cameron said (save for confirmation that toff “bants” isn’t up to much), but that Swire desperately wanted people to know what Cameron said; to realise that she was once desired by a prime minister, albeit fleetingly and facetiously while chillaxing on a stroll.
Therein lies the issue. Not with the book itself, which is a spiky, pacy read. But not only does Swire now compare herself to Samuel Pepys, and chuck around thinly veiled threats to friends who may yet ditch her (she has other diaries, dontcha know!), she also tediously persists in affecting to hate all the attention (“I never had any desire to be in the limelight”) in the same way that a wicked Disney queen might simper that she doesn’t care who the mirror thinks is the fairest of them all.
This coy denial of her own industrial-strength ego was the central deceit of the diary and seemingly continues to be true of Swire herself. Far from being an astute chronicler of an elite political circle, she exudes the bottled-up fury and eternal ache of the wrongly miscast plus one. When I read the book, resentment, jealousy and yearning billowed from the pages. One almost expected to turn to a double-page spread of Swire screaming in extra-large bold print: “Why, reader, are you interested in them, when I (YES, I) am so much more interesting?” All of which contributed hugely to why I enjoyed the book. As much as it revealed about the chumocracy, it ripped the skin from Swire too.
Truth is, she wasn’t an honest, unwitting diarist; rather, Swire is a journalist who never stopped working but failed to alert those around her – and that was the betrayal, if there was one. That aside, a little self-awareness may be in order. It seems clear that a craving for the limelight was Swire’s true motivation. And what of it? It’s not a crime to refuse to be human wallpaper. As her 2021 resolution, Swire should drop the literary “What, little me?” act, bare her friend-feasting fangs and stand proud.