I can count on one hand the number of times I've met Sasha Swire, the wife of ex-Tory MP Hugo Swire, whose sensational memoir, Diary of a MP's wife, was the subject of an interview with her this weekend
I can count on one hand the number of times I've met Sasha Swire, the wife of ex-Tory MP Hugo Swire, whose sensational memoir, Diary of the MP's wife, was the subject of an interview with her this weekend.
But to be honest, once would have been enough.
She is one of those women who makes an indelible mark on the mind, a force of nature whose innate self-confidence and utter inability to censor herself make her the focus of attention at every social gathering.
She certainly made me feel a bit of a wallflower, and that's not an easy task.
I think a large part of it had to do with class: it has that effortless, unconscious claim that is common among the British upper classes, that unbridled sense of self-importance that comes with growing up for power.
And judging from the interview and the excerpts, she hasn't changed. Still as malicious as ever, still fond of her own opinions, and relentless in her criticism of those – almost everyone, without exception – who thought they were inadequate.
The daughter of former Secretary of Defense and former chairman of Lazard Bank, Sir John Nott (who happens to have form when it comes to racy memoirs and once admits that he thought Margaret Thatcher was rotten), is married to Old Etonian Hugo Swire, whom David Cameron dismissed as shadow culture secretary after suggesting that the Conservatives might end free museum entry.
At the time, Sasha was furious and made no secret of it – something I tend to respect her for.
But it was always clear that Cameron, an Etonian, would make it to his old pal Swire. He never made it to the cabinet – but Cameron knighted him on his retirement list.
Indeed, the Swires were an important part of the support network that the Camerons drew on after the aftermath of the 2016 referendum (Hugo toyed with the idea of getting out for Brexit but ultimately decided to support Dave instead). They were guests at the Cameron house in Cornwall just a few weeks ago.
How this book will go under in their immediate social environment is unclear. But judging by the news I had yesterday from various mutual friends, not exactly cheap.
Theresa May is described as "Old Ma May" while George Osborne becomes "Boy George" in the book.
One described it as an "act of social suicide", another as "confusing". Another said: “Sasha always had the feeling that Hugo should have been in the cabinet. She never fully forgave Dave for that. Maybe that's their revenge. "
Who knows. Maybe she just needed the money, but more likely, I suspect, is her desire to be seen as a writer in her own right. Having your picture taken next to a celebrity copy of Alan Clark's diaries will give you a sense of how she sees herself.
And she's written at least one literary novel (not bad by all accounts) that was never published, and when she was interviewed, she was dying to mention its existence. Perhaps she hopes this will see the light of day now.
Even so, it seems strange that someone whose position in society has always been paramount should choose to spill the beans so dramatically. I wonder if, due to the breezy trust her background put in her, she dramatically underestimated the ripples this could cause.
Swire himself grew up in London and lived in the family's big house in Chelsea, but also for a while in Admiralty House in Whitehall when her father was Secretary of Defense under Thatcher.
Another mutual friend said she had ambitions to be an "It girl". That never quite worked out, possibly because she's actually more country than town, a woman who makes a pair of rubber boots look incredibly sexy and talks enthusiastically about "bonking" – more Jilly Cooper than Candace Bushnell, if you know what i am mean.
I certainly always had the impression that she thought we were all utter fools and that she and Hugo were the only people who had any sense. And I'm not sure if Hugo was that sure at all.
If I remember correctly, the first time I met her was at dinner at the Camerons house, in their old place in North Kensington, probably around 2005.
These dinners were always quite sociable, relaxed, but I remember she was amazingly confident in her own opinions and seemed frank and unnecessarily combative to me.
She had a way of molesting people, especially men, who were somewhere between offense and punishment.
Poor things never knew exactly how to react to this fiery blonde with legs that seemed to go on forever.
Hugo would watch in bitter admiration as she stood over everything from welfare scammers to big society with airy confidence.
I haven't seen the book myself. In the excerpts published, she describes me as "always meddling," and she poof-poof my friendship with Samantha Cameron, painting me as some kind of willing skivvy and making fish pie while Samantha swims around to be glamorous.
Sasha Swire's open diary about her life as the wife of former Foreign Secretary Sir Hugo Swire is due to be published next week. In it she calls Boris Johnson a "calculating machine" and his partner Carrie Symonds a "hot young vixen".
I honestly can't remember ever making fish pie for Samantha. In fact, I don't think I've ever made a fish pie in my life (at least not one you could serve to guests at 10 Downing Street).
Yes, it is true that I helped Samantha – but only to the extent that good friends do it when life gets busy and complicated.
During those years there have been many who viewed our friendship as a threat to their own sphere of influence, and it appears that Swire was one of them.
But perhaps what is most disturbing – and many of those I spoke to about the book yesterday echoed that feeling – is the calculated nature of these journals. The idea of her recording events after every dinner party or weekend in a way that was clearly malicious feels a little scary.
Over the years people have often asked me if I kept a journal, but the truth is I didn't (fool me more if the rumors of the great advance she's received are true ).
I've done and witnessed some incredible things in my time, and while I always love to share some of the more innocuous anecdotes of my existence (often with readers of this newspaper), there are some that will forever be out of bounds to everyone but those concerned.
And that's the problem with memories like that: nobody is interested in reading about the good times; being nice doesn't sell.
To be successful, you have to describe the weaknesses of others as relentlessly and relentlessly as possible. And from what I've read so far, Sasha certainly did it.
No doubt these diaries will cause much calamity and scandal. There is inevitably a price to be paid, however, and as someone who has seen firsthand what rough old gambling policy can be, I hope, for Sasha's sake, that she has her tin hat on tight.
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