Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Whilst we seem to be focussed on the formative years of David Cameron, let's see what we can find about his unauthorised biographer, Lord Ashcroft.

Born out of wedlock in digs in Chichester in 1946, his mother and Army father married just before the family went out to Nyasaland in 1947, for a job with the Overseas Colonial Service. In 1953, the next posting was British Honduras - the family travelled on a Fyffes banana boat out of Liverpool, and then flew from Jamaica via the Cayman Islands, in a journey lasting a month.

East Nigeria beckoned in 1956, but 10-year-old Michael was sent as a boarder to King Edward VI Grammar School, where he was remorsely teased for his Caribbean inflections. In summer holidays, he made the long flight to his family, via Rome and Tripoli.

Father left the overseas life when Michael had completed eight O-levels, eventually buying a house in Maidenhead, and Michael transferred to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. He'd got an offer to study mathematics and psychology at Reading, but only passed Maths A-Level.

In later life, Michael self-diagnosed the problem as ADD - "excess fidgeting, lack of concentration, clowning around, excessive talking, short attention span and engaging in high-risk activities. I recognised each of those characteristics in myself."  The next educational step was an HND in business studies at Mid-Essex Technical College in Chelmsford.

There, Michael confesses to new vices: "pretty girls, beer and a short-lived twenty-a-day smoking habit". Social life revolved around the Railyway Tavern. He learned to drive and acquired a mini. He "managed" (drove round) a local rock and roll band, Trident. He touted tickets for London cinema screenings of Muhammad Ali fights. He worked as a life-guard at Chelmsford's open air swimming pool: "The job had one notable perk: it was useful for admiring and, occasionally, dating the local talent."

In the holidays, he returned to Maidenhead to serve frothy coffees at El Toucan, in the High Street, owned at one stage by Diana Dors, sometimes billed as "The Coffee Bar Jezebel". He also played bridge for 6d per 100 points, against older ladies at the Maidenhead Conservative Club, usually ending up in profit.

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