WE lead such busy lives today. Between standing in queues for Covid-19 tests, applying for jobs, and generally fretting about the future for your family, it can be difficult to find the time for the lighter things in life. Like the diaries of Sasha Swire.

Who is she, you cry as one? She is the wife of Sir Hugo Swire, former MP and for a spell a low-ranking Minister in David Cameron’s Government (Northern Ireland then the Foreign Office). This time next week she officially publishes her memoir, Diary of an MP’s Wife: Inside and Outside Power. Don’t worry, you need not buy it. A newspaper has been good enough to run extracts, so the essentials are out there already.

It has been ages since a good set of political diaries came along. Tony Benn’s tomes were the Harry Potters of their day, with fans treating the publication of each set as an event not to be missed. How they stormed the bookshops for the chance to read what Harold said to Barbara about the NEC. For sheer waspishness and copper bottomed snobbery there were Alan Clark’s diaries, ruminations about Margaret Thatcher’s well turned ankles and all.

Though hardly deserving of sharing the same bookshelf as either of these writers, never let it be said that Mrs Swire’s efforts are without merit.

There is the light she shines on the sex drive of the modern Tory male, for example. To set the scene: it is August, 2011, and the Swires have gone on holiday to Cornwall with David and Samantha Cameron. “The day we leave, we go for a six-mile walk with a load of coppers swarming behind,” she writes. “At one point … he asks me not to walk ahead of him. ‘Why?’ I ask, and he says: ‘Because that scent you are wearing is affecting my pheromones. It makes me want to grab you and push you into the bushes and give you one!’”

Lest you think Scotland is left out of the fun, Ruth “Don’t Call Me Baroness” Davidson pops up in an anecdote told by Dave; the one where she refers to herself and a Labour MP as “two shovel-faced lesbians”. How they laughed.

Three years later and Mrs Swire is at a Downing Street dinner, sitting next to another PM, Boris Johnson. “I look at his rotund build, thick, creased neck, pale, sweaty face; he looks back, as if he is working out if I’m shaggable. He’d probably do the same if a sheep walked in the room.”

Just one more, this one a touch spicier politically? What happens now Mr Johnson has won the leadership race, our diners wonder. “’Prorogue,’ I whisper in his ear. ‘Yes, prorogue, I agree,’ he whispers back.”

She finally concludes that Mr Johnson, “for all his hinterland and hot young vixen [Carrie Symonds] and his agile mind”, the new PM is desperately unhappy. To what extent Mrs Swire’s company contributed to his state of mind we shall leave hanging in the air, like the smoke from the fat Cohibas “Dave” chomped on to console himself after losing the EU referendum. Booze also helped.

The Camerons have refused to comment on the book’s allegations, but others have taken offence on their behalf.

One is Sarah Vine, wife of Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. She features in the diary as having a “set to” with Samantha Cameron over Brexit. While confirming the argument happened, the Mail columnist has called the book in general a “betrayal”.

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You may be wondering why any of this matters. Can hardly blame you – I thought much the same at first. Who cares about gossip from a junior Minister’s wife about events that in the main happened long ago? It is hardly on a par with back to basics, cash for favours (even then the Conservatives were drawn to a three part slogan) or MPs expenses. In any league table measuring hills of beans it would rank among minor, pimple-like eruptions.

For all that the diaries are piffle, it is piffle that matters. By taking the reader back to the Cameron years they remind us of the airhead government he led and what an empty vessel he turned out to be as a Prime Minister. A PM who took the bait of Nigel Farage and his ilk and called a referendum he then proceeded to lose. For a sizeable part of the mess we are in now, look to Dave and his chums (which back then included the Lib Dems, of course).

The “boy George” of whom Mrs Swire speaks? He’ll be the same George Osborne, architect of austerity, the one who in the diaries spoke about renovating Dorneywood, one of several country bolt holes the taxpayer kindly lays on for Ministers, while arguments over the bedroom tax and other benefits cuts raged.

Then we come to Mr Johnson. Plotting the proroguing of parliament, that constitutional outrage, as if it was no more than a jolly jape.

The reason the diaries are damaging to the Conservatives, and worth noting, is that they take us back to the Tory psychodrama that so dominated politics in the UK and continues to exert a poisonous effect. Above all, they remind the reader, should any prompt be needed, of what a heaving clown car of fools and second-raters we have had, and continue to have, leading the UK.

Usually this would not matter too much. There have been clowns in government before. Life bumbles on, the Civil Service keeps the show on the road, we all continue paying our taxes and, before you know it, it’s Christmas again.

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But then you arrive at times like these. Moments in history when you need the best people for the job, not the ones who joined the right clubs at Oxbridge. Ministers who can plan ahead as carefully as they plotted their paths to power. Advisers who get the Civil Service on side in the fight against a common foe, instead of childishly baiting them and causing disruption for its own sake. Any of this remind you of anyone?

The Conservative Government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis will come to be seen as one of the biggest scandals of our time. It has been the greatest test of government outside of war, and we have had the misfortune of being led through it by one of the worst administrations in living memory. So yes, silly diaries matter, if only to remind us that bad jokes can have desperately serious consequences.

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