David Cameron and William Hague are discussing the pitch for their “people-empowerment” agenda. They want a popular frame of reference that'll get across the idea that individual citizens can make a difference. The remake of the cult sixties series "The Prisoner" is about to appear on television. Could it offer an avenue worth exploring?
Hague: Of course the line that everyone remembers is, I am not a number.
Cameron: (Laughs) I am not a number. Yes. Love it.
Hague: Classic line. Has resonance even today David, does it not?
Cameron: It does. Everyone knows what it means
Hague: ... People quoting it on television
Cameron: That might be to do with the remake, of course.
Cameron: (Smiles) You're not a number, are you, William?
Hague: Me, David? No, most definitely not. I am most definitely not a number.
Cameron: Me neither, William. One thing Eton taught one was that one is not a number.
Hague: And even with my state education, I can quite categorically say that one is not a number either.
Cameron: You did do your thing, your speech, didn't you? You know, party conference back in 1976, as a wee nipper. Some might say that you were already a career politician back then. The party hierarchy already had your, er, number, if you like
Hague: (Chuckles) Very funny, David. But in all earnestness, I would say that my appearance at conference back then would actually prove that I was an individual - even as a wee nipper, as you so appositely put it
Cameron: In a tweed jacket was it not?
Hague: Well, yes, David. But that just shows once again how much of an individual I was. No one in my school would have been caught dead wearing a tweed jacket back then. One would have been the laughing stock.
Cameron: I'm sure one would, William.
Hague: Anyway, we're straying from the point if you don't mind my saying.
Cameron: Of course. Your point...
Hague: Which is that this government under Gordon Brown treats people as numbers. This lot, they eat sleep and dream numbers, statistics, numerical analysis.
Cameron: Not wrong there.
Hague: So, this is what we need to be getting across, in my view. We could even test out the campaign slogan perhaps: "I am not a number."
Cameron: "You are not a number?"
Hague: No, I just said, Dave. I am not a num...
Cameron: No, I meant as a slogan.
Hague: Oh, I see. Yes. You mean, we say in our presentation, "You are not a number."
Cameron: Exactly. That's what we say: "You are not a number."
Hague: Although, we do have to be careful there. We can't TELL people that they are not numbers. Telling people that kind of thing is what Gordon and his lot would do. You know: You are NOT a number. I'm telling YOU. YOU are NOT a number!
Cameron: Fair point. Mind you, just imagine what a nerve it would be for Gordon Brown to quote from "The Prisoner", what with his record on civil rights. Remember Damian Green, for example? Not to mention databases, ID cards, 48 days detention etc etc.
Hague: It would indeed take some chutzpah were he to do that David. But I wouldn't put it past him.
Cameron: No, you're right. I wouldn't either... Well, maybe we ought to start using this quote pronto, before he has the chance to get it out.
Hague: Good idea. We'll get it out before he does. Then he'll look stupid if he starts telling people that they're not a number, after we have already told people they're not a number.
Cameron: Or that they are not numbers, to, you know, use the grammatical...
Hague: Yes, I'll correct myself, if I may... That they are not numbers.
Cameron: Anyway at least that means we'll steal a march on him, if he does think of making any references to "The Prisoner" when the remake launches, whenever that is.
Hague: I'll talk to Pickles about it immediately. See how he might want to play it.
Cameron: Good man, William. I really reckon that this could pay dividends.
Hague: Indeed it could, David.
(The two sit back and reflect for a couple of moments)
Cameron: Of course... You know, one thing worries me though, William.
Hague: What's that?
Cameron: It's the fact that we are all, in a certain sense, prisoners nowadays. Politicians included.
Hague: Yes, David?
Cameron: Yes, we're all having to play the same game.... the same consensus game. It's the fight for the same old middle ground, the fight for the same old hearts and minds - for which New Labour originally fought... We're all prisoners now. We can't do anything in politics anymore without it having some kind of popular... some kind of middle of the road frame of reference.
Hague: Very true, David. And you have to ask yourself: Why is that? Who started it all?
Cameron: Well, I suppose it was, I don't know, we politicians who started it all?
Hague: Exactly, David. It was down to politicians in the first place, I do believe, that one, that one and all are... are? is? (Looks confused)
Cameron: Are, William. It's are!
Hague: Yes, that one and all are effectively numbers nowadays.