Sexism haunts Cameron, Bullingdon dogs Osborne

Oct 2, 2011

PC gaffes cling to PM as new details emerge about Chancellor’s wild nights with Bullingdon club

WILL David Cameron's Tories ever shrug off their image as a millionaire boys' club? The PM used a pre-conference interview today to try to escape the stigma of sexist remarks he made months ago in the Commons - while another Sunday newspaper has revealed in embarrassing detail the moneyed excesses of Chancellor George Osborne's undergraduate days.

Cameron told the Sunday Times that he "screwed up" and made a "terrible mistake" on at least two occasions in the House of Commons when he made remarks at PMQs which could be seen as sexist.

Referring to the time he told Labour MP Angela Eagle to "calm down, dear", the PM said: "If I offended anyone, I am hugely sorry.

"That is not what I wanted to do. It was a light-hearted reference. Catchphrases stick with me."

As for the occasion on which he suggested that his colleague Nadine Dorries MP was "extremely frustrated" before seeming to join in sniggers at the innuendo, Cameron said he had simply got his words muddled up.

He said: "I don't go in there with pre-scripted lines and sometimes it just comes out wrong. That's exactly what happened.

"It just came out wrong, and then I couldn't get through the noise and the laughter. And maybe I should have done better. But, you know, I make mistakes."

The interview contains no admission of sexism – conscious or unconscious – but the Times still claims it as a "heartfelt apology".

At the University of Oxford, Cameron was a member of the notorious drinking, dining and furniture-smashing gang, the Bullingdon Club. His fellow alumnus, the Chancellor, George Osborne, a later member of the club, is the cover star of today's Observer magazine.

In a long profile which has already provoked legal action, one of the Chancellor's contemporaries spills the beans about what they got up to.

Among other claims, the unnamed source tells a tale of seeing a member snorting cocaine on an open-topped bus when Osborne was present. When told he was "stupid" because the drug was blowing away in the wind, the club member replied: "I can afford it".

He claims the club smashed up a Michelin-starred restaurant, writing a cheque to cover the damage, on an evening when they were sharing the dining room with Lenny Henry and his then wife, Dawn French. The actor apparently told the group to "sod off".

The source added: “There was a slight altercation when a member put a cigar out on someone else's lapel and it turned into a fist fight and furniture was broken. It was horrible, horrible. We used to smash everything up then pay a cheque saying: 'It's OK, we can pay for it'."

As for Osborne, the source says: "I think George was mildly alarmed [by raucous antics on a separate occasion]. He was enjoying the food and wine, enjoying watching the football, and I just remember him looking at me with raised eyebrows at what was going on. I never saw him take drugs."

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