Like most citizens, I’ve enjoyed hearing all about David and Samantha Cameron’s “date nights” – when the prime minister puts aside the cares of high office to spend an evening of quiet quality time with his loved one. Thankfully we are spared the full itinerary of the evening – like a 1950s movie, the depiction of the PM’s date night stops short of the bedroom door – but it often appears to involve cooking dinner for each other.
It isn’t just the Camerons; the Obamas and, it turns out, lots of world leaders are doing this, often with their own wife. Date night, apparently, is integral to a healthy marriage, although not as popular as “collapsing on the sofa having finally got the kids to bed” night; “oh soddit, I thought you were booking the babysitter” night; and “I’m too tired to cook, let’s get a takeaway” night.
But, shamed by our leader’s example, my wife and I have agreed to follow his lead. Now we have our own monthly prime-ministerial date night. The kids are packed off to bed early and we set about rekindling our relationship the “Sam and Dave” way. First, we decide which one of us will be prime minister for the evening. Typically, we scatter a few red boxes around the lounge and I phone a puzzled BT operator and tell her to hold all my calls for the next few hours. If the phone does ring, I look exasperated and say, “I’m sorry darling, that’s that call from Hillary Clinton I said I would have to take. I’ve told her to keep it brief.”
We also like to keep the prime-ministerial theme running through the evening. I might, for example, dodge her suggestion that I load the dishwasher and then, when she asks me a second time, refer her “to the answer I gave some moments ago”. One of my press aides later produces a chart showing my annualised dishwasher-loading performance.
After dinner we relax on the sofa while I call the Home Office and order them to sort out the queues at Heathrow. It’s up to you how far you go with this; we’ve stopped short of hiring someone to dash into our bedroom saying “I’m sorry to disturb you, but there are reports of an explosion in Manchester.”
Of late, we’ve been wondering whether to experiment with other formats, such as Premier League footballer date night, in which she comes home to find me in bed with her best friend and we have an argument, during which I get drunk and bitch about her on Twitter, quoting Nietzsche about how a woman’s love involves injustice and blindness.
Naturally, the Camerons do not engage in any of this tomfoolery, since they are attempting to create and – cynics might say – project normality in their life, especially since David was mocked as an out-of-touch posh boy. The sad thing, however, is the extent to which Mr Cameron has bought into the idea that he has to demonstrate his ordinariness. I’m sure it’s very touching that the First Lord of the Treasury can rustle up a super coq au vin for his wife, but culinary talents are not one of the primary requirements of the job. It’s why Loyd Grossman doesn’t chair election night special: “Well, for your main course you’ve come up with a Basildon triumph, served with a surprise in Birmingham Edge Hill, a Salford and Eccles topping and a delicious Rutland and Melton jus. All accompanied by a wee dram of Thirsk and Malton. That may get you a coalition but I’m not sure it’s an outright win.”
Normality in a prime minister is, in any case, overrated, especially since no one actually thinks politicians are normal. We may like to see the common touch but voters don’t want the country run by their next-door neighbour. I wouldn’t trust mine to fix his fence; I certainly don’t want him reforming the benefits system. Stuff ordinary; we want extraordinary.
In any case, I’m thinking of knocking this prime-ministerial date night lark on the head. Last week it was my wife’s turn to run the country, and she hired a rather athletic-looking bodyguard who barred my access to the prime-ministerial bedchamber. I feel it’s putting a serious damper on the underlying principles of the evening; you can take this kind of thing too far.