25 MARCH 2006, Page 7



Panic and frenzy. Nigel is calling it Dave v. Goliath. Sebastian says if the first draft of Dave’s budget response is anything to go by it will be more like the ‘Ramble in the Jungle’.

Focus group findings pinned to every wall — ‘If Dave was an alcopop, which flavour would he be?’ ‘Er, chocolate.’ The flatscreen playing a constant loop of Bush v. Clinton debates for inspiration. Every few minutes Nigel walks past whooping. He is wearing a Yankees cap. He asked me to get him a cup of coffee and shouted: ‘Go, go, go!’ This must be what Dave meant when he urged us to look within ourselves and find a renewed energy and vigour.

PM Nigel has set up a Budget Day ‘holistic sub unit’ run by yours truly! Yes, I am in sole charge of a key part of the preparations for this week’s historic clash.

TUESDAY OK, so I am in charge of getting Dave fixed up with a new suit. But before everyone gets all high and mighty about it — Poppy is acting v superior just because she is working on growth forecasts — they ought to consider that while they do sums I am sitting outside a changing room where every few seconds the curtain flaps and I get a very clear if fleeting view of Dave. And, contrary to what he said on Radio One, he does not favour boxer shorts. Actually.

Nigel and Gideon agree that he can’t wear that old off-the-peg number that crumples round the hemline and makes him look like a Dixon’s trainee.

Why doesn’t Dave care more about clothes? It makes me sad. Nigel rang Sam in despair and she said, ‘Come over and go through his wardrobe if you want, you won’t find anything he spent more than £200 on. Tight... ’. Then she screamed and said she had to go because one of the nannies had just put Arthur’s bottle down on the Queen Anne table without a coaster.

PM Have had my brief expanded. I must ensure the stylist gets his hair to part, instead of sleeking back, which everyone agrees makes him look like a young Count Dracula.

Dave, who has actually spoken to me twice now, is veering towards a rather snug pinstripe. If he looks like a chav there will be the mother of all internal inquiries.

Worked late. Theresa Villiers came into the office at 8 p.m. tossing her hair about and demanding we make up snappy press releases on something called the ‘Output Gap’. Felt sorry for Poppy who I haven’t spoken to all week. Told her, ‘Just because she’s got a jaw that could crack macadamias doesn’t necessarily mean she is brain of Britain,’ which made Poppy choke on her smoothie.

WEDNESDAY I get to stand with Dave behind the Speaker’s chair before he goes on. It is just like backstage at a boxing arena. He is making little blowing sounds and bouncing up and down. Suddenly, his hair flops despite three and a half cans of strong-hold hairspray and he reaches up and swishes it back. The Count returns and half my portfolio collapses into failure. The horror.