All men should be wary of Cleo Watson
SARAH VINE: All men should be wary of the wiles of doe-eyed lovelies like Westminster bonkbuster author Cleo Watson
Cleo Watson, former spad (special adviser) to Boris Johnson, who has just written a Westminster bonkbuster, is what my grandmother would have called ‘a piece of work’.
I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – if anything I admire her confidence and chutzpah. But she is emblematic of the kind of sexy, doe-eyed young women (and men) who trip up and down the corridors of Westminster with their slim hips and Colgate smiles – and whose youthful energy and enthusiasm can be dangerously seductive.
Spads are curious creatures. I’ve known a fair few over the years, and they tend to fit a mould. They are usually young, fit and unnervingly attractive (certainly from a politician’s spouse’s point of view).
They often come from wealthy or well-connected families. They tend to be well educated and often brighter (or at least sharper and more cunning) than the MPs and Ministers they work for.
They trade their way to the top by being useful and ever-present – and occasionally accommodating in other ways. They drink and party like animals. And they hold a surprising amount of influence.
Cleo Watson, former spad (special adviser) to Boris Johnson, who has just written a Westminster bonkbuster, is what my grandmother would have called ‘a piece of work’
I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – if anything I admire her confidence and chutzpah
For the most part, they tend to stay under the general public’s radar. You might catch a glimpse of one stepping out from the back seat of a Ministerial Jag, or clutching a Minister’s briefs. They hang around TV and radio stations, drinking nasty coffee and eating Bourbons while their wards duck and dive the difficult questions.
They lounge against back walls in meetings, taking notes or firing off emails to colleagues, sending bitchy WhatsApps about the need for this or that MP to lose weight/deal with their halitosis/do something about their nasal hair. Despite being just staff, these advisers often rule the roost. Especially if, like Cleo Watson, they’re the full package.
I think I first encountered her at a supper at my house. It might have been a fundraiser. I’ve hosted countless young lovelies like her in my living room over the years, fed them countless plates of shepherd’s pie, lasagne or Indian takeaway (the preferred sustenance for Tory kitchen suppers), filled their wine glasses and poured them into cabs.
The occasion that stands out was a few years ago, a thank you to my then husband’s political team. Dominic Cummings was there, as were several middle-aged men, a few younger male spads and my dear friend Simone (now Baroness) Finn who, as ever, arrived with absurdly generous amounts of wine and cheese.
Cleo stood out not just because of her youth, stature (she is stupendously tall, like a Welsh Jerry Hall) and fabulous blonde hair, but also because the room was entirely focused on her all evening. It was as though every other female (including yours truly) had become invisible.
The men clung to her every word, their chins resting on their forks as they contemplated this vision before them. They were drawn to her like moths to a flame, responding as though her every sentence was an unrivalled pearl of political wisdom. I looked on in awe (and some surprise) as Cleo skilfully reeled them in through a mixture of flattery, wide-eyed ingenuity and gentle coquetry.
But she is emblematic of the kind of sexy, doe-eyed young women (and men) who trip up and down the corridors of Westminster with their slim hips and Colgate smiles – and whose youthful energy and enthusiasm can be dangerously seductive
The next I heard she was working in No 10, answering to Prime Minister Johnson. With hindsight, that might not have been the best choice for Boris as Cleo was – and still is – fiercely loyal to Cummings.
It was particularly hard on Boris’s wife, Carrie, who had considered Cleo to be her friend, even taking her to Scotland to visit the Queen when Boris was elected PM. Such are feelings about Cleo that, when she left Downing Street, someone loyal to Boris sent her a cake ‘in the hope that she chokes on it’. Still, can you blame her, or others like her, if Ministers are so easily seduced?
And Cleo is far from the first of her kind, nor will she be the last. There have been many like her over the years, clever, bright young things who have held the reins of power at an astonishingly young age. By far the most impressive I ever knew was Rachel Whetstone, who worked for then Tory leader Michael Howard straight out of university. She’s now chief communications officer for Netflix.
Then there was Kate Fall, who worked for David Cameron. Again, men were obsessed with her (George Osborne in particular). Although she carefully befriended the men’s wives, some of those women were convinced that she secretly held them in contempt. I wish Cleo Watson well with her book. But it should stand as a warning to all MPs and PMs present and future: beware the wide-eyed ingénue carrying your cappuccino. Because you never know when she’ll throw it back in your face.
Prison officers have been told not to refer to inmates as ‘convicts’ as the word is deemed offensive. How absurd. If you don’t want to be offended by being called a convict, perhaps you shouldn’t have broken the law in the first place.
I’m an itsy-bit envious…
Did Myleene Klass, left, only sign up for I’m A Celebrity for a second time round to remind us all that she still looks as good in a minuscule white bikini as she did 17 years ago? If so, why not? If I looked like that, I’d do the same.
Myleene Klass celebrates being crowned the first ever I’m A Celebrity Legend as she presents her regular Saturday afternoon show on Smooth Radio
Robert De Niro has fathered another child at the age of 79. This message was brought to you by Pfizer, makers of Viagra.
Adieu, lady Adjoa
Such a shame the actress who is Lady Danbury in TV’s Bridgerton – Adjoa Andoh – had to be so snippy about ‘the terribly white balcony’ at the Coronation.
Arsema Thomas attends the Special Fan Screening and Garden Party for “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on April 21, 2023 in London
She plays one of the series’s best characters and I’ll now forever associate her with that stupid race-baiting comment.
Thank goodness for Arsema Thomas, who plays the young Agatha Danbury in the addictive spin-off, Queen Charlotte. Just as good an actress – and hopefully less chippy.
I couldn’t care less if Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby fall out. However, there’s nothing like a very public bust-up to get people tuning in on a Monday morning.
Don’t be soppy over sats
Parents and teachers have complained that this year’s SATs were so hard that some children were left in tears. Every year this happens, and every year it drives me crazy. The whole point of SATs is to identify gaps in learning. Parents should welcome them, not demand they be scrapped because poor little Johnny found them upsetting. Their job is to instill resilience, not give in at the first wobble of their child’s bottom lip.
How ridiculous the Archbishop of Canterbury was fined £510 and lost three points on his licence for doing 25 in a 20mph zone. When I learned to drive, you’d have got stopped by police for going that slowly. Now it’s just another opportunity for councils to fleece motorists.
Senior civil servants are reportedly cosying up to Labour in anticipation of Sir Keir Starmer becoming PM. Perhaps that’s why the party is now pledging to make working from home a ‘human right’. A case of you scratch ours, we’ll scratch yours…
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