They say that this is history, so I want to remember the week that was. I want to capture the Pepys-ian details before they vanish into the attic of memory like Moon Boots and exercise bikes. Unlike Pepys, my memories are once removed. I wasn’t standing in Westminster. My view of events was via a Sony Bravia television in a room that deteriorated as the election results and negotiations went on. After a while, it no longer seemed worthwhile to take the pepper mill and corkscrew back to the kitchen between meals. We settled in like refugees, our whole world within reach, a world explained to us with painstaking clarity by Nick Robinson. If there were three of us in this marriage, my husband never complained.
When forced to leave the house-walk the dog, feed the chickens-I took my mobile, so I could rush back to the ‘History Room’ at a moment’s notice. After days of sofa limbo, it was a text that announced the end: ‘Brown on his way to Palace. Come home.’ Thanks to the miracle of instant replay, I witnessed the reluctant farewell (10 times), words that help to redeem the complex man who seemed to have been in Downing Street forever.
But what I will remember is the dazed look on Sarah Brown’s face, the excitement of the two little boys, the sun coming out over Westminster as the Browns left, and the hint of a rainbow over Buckingham Palace as the Camerons arrived. And I will remember the persistent cold that acted like a melancholy condenser of the country’s apprehensions. Although the apple blossom seemed to say ‘cheer up-it’s spring and the world is still in place’, the Arctic wind echoed the climate of bewilderment.
In times of stress, I become compulsive. During the five-day wait, I bought every newspaper on sale at the post office in the manic belief that, by reading everything, I could delay or abate the worst. And just as my face was turning a ghostly white and my vision was starting to blur, everything changed. Against the most stupendous odds, David Cameron became Prime Minister Cameron, and Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister, the first Liberal in a Cabinet post since Churchill’s wartime government. It all seemed at once so simple and so obvious.
No triumphalism, no outriders and flashing lights escorting the new leader to Downing Street. An aide opened the new Prime Minister’s car door, but the PM walked round and opened his wife’s door, an act so touching and familial and non-sectarian that I gasped. The mood was gentle, and for one blessed day, we could all be proud citizens, chastened by the weeks-months-before, grateful that we had lived to see that dignity endures.
When the journalism settles into history, Mr Cameron’s remarkable speech the day after the election will be seen as the beginning of this new era. The press conference in the garden will be scrutinised and the ana-logies that this is a very modern marriage will tempt historians. Virginia Woolf said you should never get married unless you can’t believe your incredible good luck. I believe that, in this political marriage, both partners have been very lucky. Together, they can achieve things -no new runways at Heathrow, no ID cards-that already bring sunlight. The prenuptial agreement won’t prevent quarrels, but it provides time and, as history tells us, over time, dinosaurs evolved into birds.
Meanwhile, I’m telling the cynics who predict a quickie divorce to hush. I’ll line chests of drawers with last Wednesday’s papers so that future gene-rations can come across the photograph of a young Prime Minister nuzzling his wife’s cheek and patting her stomach as they enter Number 10. Great expectations. History.
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