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In the days following the Grenfell Tower fire, when its blackened shell first stood out like a rebuke to the London sky, many victims took refuge at the Westway Sports Centre. Nearby, Scientologists dressed in yellow T-shirts pitched trestle tables and a huge yellow tent bearing the slogan of the Scientology Volunteer Ministers, ‘Something can be done about it’. They were offering massages to survivors.

‘I tweeted it because I was appalled,’ recalls The Guardian columnist, Dawn Foster, whose photograph of the scene went viral. ‘They had a lot of leaflets and were offering personality tests. People were shouting, “Why are you here? You’re parasites.” And, “Get out — pack up your tent”. I was there for about 10 minutes and saw about 20 people come up, all of whom told them to leave or shouted at them to f*** off. They were trying to defend themselves saying there are lots of Christians and people from the mosque, why shouldn’t we be here?’

But while other organisations offered food, cups of tea and clothes, at the Scientology tent victims were given not just water but leaflets, facemasks and a massage — delivered with one finger. Sarah Harvey, senior research officer for the Information Network on Religious Movements at the LSE, explains: ‘Part of what they were doing with the “massage” is what’s called an “assist”.’  This, she says, is ‘about their understanding of the human spirit’, which is at the core of the belief system developed by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in 1952. The Scientology Volunteer Ministers’ website, scientologyhandbook.org, claims these ‘assists’ can ‘help a person confront physical difficulties’.

Turning up in this way may sound like a desperate attempt to recruit new members — but the church’s involvement at Grenfell is something the media relations department for the UK church is proud of. It says that a team of 50 Scientologists were on the scene for more than two weeks. ‘We sorted many mounds of donated clothes, toys, etc, boxed them up and transported several tonnes of such boxes to storage facilities for distribution later,’ writes a Church of Scientology spokesperson, going on to add: ‘We gave out gallons upon gallons of water. We sourced hundreds of facemasks… Leaflets were on display describing free online courses on tools for helping others and specifically giving disaster relief training.’ A list of individuals who were ‘helped’ with ‘assists’ (including a Catholic nun) was also provided.

In fact, says Harvey, this is ‘something they’ve done for a long time’. In the wake of the 7 /7 bombings, for example, Scientologists offered police constables tea and biscuits outside Aldgate Tube station. But the headlines caused by their sudden appearance at Grenfell are not the first that the church has attracted recently.

Earlier this year, the Evening Standard revealed that 35,000 schoolchildren had been exposed to lectures inspired by Scientology, in the form of anti-drugs talks by an organisation called Narconon. At the time, hosts — including Camden School for Girls and Brecknock Primary School in Camden — said that they were unaware of the link to Scientology and that teachers supervised the talks, which focused entirely on drug awareness. Noel Nile, president of Narconon UK, rejected criticism, saying, ‘We’re in the business of saving lives. The lectures are not concerned with religion. They’re popular and successful because they communicate a clear message which is easily understood by young people.’

But Narconon is not the only Scientology front group apparently targeting young people. In July, The Underground Bunker, the website run by  American investigative journalist Tony Ortega, published an article claiming Scientology is shifting its strategy to make it all about ‘kids, kids, kids’. It pointed to a new website and social media platform allegedly set up by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organisation affiliated with the church whose website describes its purpose as ‘providing information that a multi-billion dollar psycho/pharmaceutical industry does not want people to have’. Called fightforkids.org, the new platform promises to ‘use innovative technology to create a global movement of advocacy and engagement for the love and protection of our children’. A spokesman for the church said he was not familiar with the platform.

Last year, the head of the church, David Miscavige, 57, unveiled Scientology Media Productions, an ‘advanced, multi-platform, totally reinvented and restored motion picture and television studio’ in Hollywood. The church’s website describes SMP as ‘the nerve center spreading the church’s message to the world’. And according to The Times, in 2015, he also promised to make Scientology texts readable by more than five billion people.

Meanwhile, the church is investing heavily in real estate. This year alone, its website documents four ‘grand openings’ of vast Scientology buildings in Copenhagen, Miami, Auckland and the San Fernando Valley. According to the Emmy-winning HBO documentary Going Clear, between 2006 and 2011 the church bought 62 properties in locations across the globe. In London, outposts include an enormous church in the City established in 2006; the former office of its founder in Fitzrovia; and a shop on Tottenham Court Road, which could be mistaken for a palm reader’s from the outside but looks like a sleek airport store on the inside. It also has a luxury compound HQ at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex — once L Ron Hubbard’s personal home.

All this activity is notable since it hints at a revival after almost a decade of apparent crisis. In the UK, the church used to claim it had 118,000 followers. But during the last census in 2011, only 2,418 people described themselves as Scientologists — a figure dwarfed by the number who designated themselves Druids (4,189), Wiccans (11,766) and Jedi Knights (176,632). The church insists this number is misleading, saying: ‘Many Scientologists are also Muslims and Christians… Well over one hundred thousand UK residents happily receive our church magazines. So the census figure does not tell you very much — particularly when Scientologist was not even listed as an option. In the past year we have had more people attending our UK churches for services than at any time in our history.’

Yet, despite a starry following that reportedly includes Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Elisabeth Moss, star of The Handmaid’s Tale and Top of the Lake, recent years have brought a number of high-profile scandals involving allegations made about the church. In 2011, The New Yorker cited claims made to Florida’s St Petersburg Times about physical abuse allegedly carried out by Miscavige. At the church’s Gold Base compound in California, it has been claimed that senior members of staff were sent to ‘The Hole’ — a pair of trailers where they were made to confess day and night and fight over the right to remain. Previous claims of abuse had reportedly so concerned the US authorities that the FBI is said to have started an investigation into Scientology on grounds of human trafficking. Since religions and their practices are protected under the First Amendment, the investigation has since been dropped. The church has repeatedly denied both that any abuse has taken place and that ‘The Hole’ exists, insisting such allegations are unsubstantiated.

Then, in 2015, two films — Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie and Going Clear — shone an unflattering spotlight on the organisation. The latter concentrated on the origins of the movement and the alleged experience of those, such as Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis, who have since left the church. It also focused attention on the mysterious creation myth at the heart of Scientology, which it broadly characterised as: 75 million years ago an evil extraterrestrial overlord called Xenu lured his subjects in for tax inspections, froze them, shipped them to Earth, stacked them up near volcanoes and dropped hydrogen bombs on them, transforming them into ‘thetan’ souls which now get into our bodies at birth. Only L Ron Hubbard’s teachings can help us master these. And that can be a costly business, as the money needed to buy his books and invest in expensive courses can rapidly mount up. Steve Mango, an actor, told Theroux that he had spent $50,000 on Scientology instruction between 2009-2012.

This last point makes the church’s appearance near the Westway Sports Centre all the more curious. The survivors were left so destitute they made unlikely marks for a religion associated with recruiting celebrities and raising money. The church insists its purpose there was ‘helping in any way possible to somehow alleviate the suffering by those affected and their friends and families’. Others suspect more cynical motives. ‘My view is it’s not something that they would want to do, other than the fact that it’s public relations and gives them a bit of kudos,’ says Graham Baldwin, a counsellor who has been observing the activities of Scientologists for the past 25 years. ‘It’s hard to see why they would do it for any other reason.’ For their part, the church stresses that ‘the only purpose of the Church of Scientology… is to help people.’

Certainly, if its aim was to generate positive PR, it failed. West Londoners were having none of it. ‘It’s actually a disgusting way to treat vulnerable human beings on that day,’ says Yvette Williams MBE, of the Justice4Grenfell campaign group. ‘It’s not the time and place for that.’

ES Magazine

ES MAG FRONT COVERImagine a world in which you’re 90 years old and nowhere near middle-aged. An app on your phone has hacked your DNA code, so you know exactly when to go to the doctor to receive gene therapy to prevent all the diseases you don’t yet have. A microchip in your skin sends out a signal if you’re at risk of developing a wrinkle — so you step out of the sun and hotfoot it to your dermatologist. Every evening you sync your brain-mapping device with The Cloud, so even if you were caught up in a fatal accident you’d still be able to cheat death — every detail of your life would simply be downloaded to one of the perfect silicon versions you’d had made of yourself, ensuring you last until at least your 1,000th birthday.

This may sound like science fiction but it could be your fate — provided you can afford it. If current research develops into medicine, in the London of the future the super-rich won’t simply be able to buy the best things in life, they’ll be able to buy life itself by transforming themselves into a bio-engineered super-race, capable of living, if not forever, then for vastly longer than the current UK life expectancy of 81 years.

The science of turning back the clock has never been more advanced. In Boston, a drug capable of reversing half a lifetime of ageing in mice is about to be tested on humans in a medical trial monitored by Nasa. NMN is a compound found naturally in broccoli which boosts levels of NAD, a protein involved in energy production that depletes as we get older. Professor David Sinclair, who headed up the initial research at Australia’s University of New South Wales, doses himself with 500mg daily, and claims that he has already become more youthful. According to blood tests analysing the state of the 48-year-old’s cells, prior to taking the pills Sinclair was in the same physical shape as a 57-year-old, but now he’s ‘31.4’.

Meanwhile, Hollywood stars looking for the elixir of youth might want to keep a close eye on developments at Newcastle University where last February Professor Mark Birch-Machin identified, for the first time, the mitochondrial complex which depletes over time, causing skin to age. Mitochondria are the battery packs that power our cells — so if we want to slow down ageing we need to keep them topped up; doing so would be transformative for our appearance. In the future, Birch-Machin believes, we’ll not only be taking pills and applying cosmetics, we’ll have implants in our skin. ‘Implants will tell us the state of it — how well our batteries are doing, how many free radicals, and will inform us how we are doing with our lifestyle,’ he says. ‘You can store it, log it, have that linked to your healthcare package.’

Such medical discoveries are being translated into treatment at an unprecedented rate. The day after the results of Birch-Machin’s study were published in The New York Times, his department was contacted by nine companies hoping to turn his research into revolutionary pharmaceuticals. In 2009, Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, won a Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres, the protective tips on our chromosomes that break down as we get older, leaving us prone to age-related diseases. Blackburn discovered an enzyme called telomerase that can stop the shortening of telomeres by adding DNA — like a plastic tip fixing the end of a fraying shoelace. Today, rich Californians now use telomeres therapy to prolong the life of their pets.

Last year, in Monterey, California, the start-up Ambrosia (founded by Dr Jesse Karmazin, a DC-based physician) began trialling the effect of blood transfusions, pumping blood from teenagers into older patients, following studies that found that blood plasma from young mice can rejuvenate old mice, improving their memory, cognition and physical activity.

Dr Richard Siow, who heads up the Age Research department at King’s College London, believes we may be soon reach a significant point in anti-ageing research because of the massive amounts of money allocated by governments and charities worldwide in the hope of making a breakthrough. Indeed, according to a survey by Transparency Market Research, by 2019 the anti-ageing market will be worth £151 billion worldwide. ‘Life expectancy in many countries has already increased from 65-68 all the way through to 70, 80, 85 because people are now surviving heart disease, strokes and cancer,’ points out Siow, who has been studying anti-ageing compounds found in Indian spices and tea. ‘We are now redefining what ageing means. How can we extend that period of health so we’re not a burden?’

It is in Silicon Valley, however, that the really radical advances seem likely to be made. Freshly minted internet tycoons appear willing to pay any price to prolong their lives and a critical mass of geeks is working furiously towards understanding our biology at an unprecedented rate. Take Dmitry Itskov, the Russian billionaire founder of the life-extension non-profit 2045 Initiative, who is paying scientists to map the human brain so our minds can be decanted into a computer and either downloaded to a robot body or synced with a hologram. Or Joon Yun, a physician and hedge fund manager who insisted at an anti-ageing symposium of the California elite in March that ageing is simply a programming error encoded in our DNA. ‘If something is encoded, you can crack the code,’ he told an audience which, according to The New Yorker, included multi-billionaire Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Goldie Hawn. ‘Thermodynamically, there should be no reason we can’t defer entropy indefinitely. We can end ageing forever.’

And then there’s PayPal founder (and Donald Trump supporter) Peter Thiel, who has a net worth of £2.1 billion and has reportedly invested in start-up Unity Biotechnology — which aims to develop drugs that ‘make many debilitating consequences of ageing as uncommon as polio’. Thiel has also offered funding to individual researchers, such as Aubrey de Grey, the Chelsea-born, Cambridge and California-based gerontologist who ploughed the £11 million he inherited from his artist mother, Cordelia, into founding the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Research Foundation in Mountain View, which promotes the use of rejuvenation biotechnology in anti-ageing research.

Of course, the best known element of the ‘immortality industry’ is cryogenic freezing. Despite its reputation as the last resort of wealthy cranks, it remains in business; at the Alcor cryonics facility in Arizona, 149 corpses have already been preserved in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of minus 196°C since it was founded in 1972. Worldwide there are thousands of people signed up for cryogenics services, including Alcor’s 28 clients in the UK. The service doesn’t come cheap (full-body freezing costs £165,000, while having your head cut off and frozen is around £60,000) but it has some impressive-sounding clients, including de Grey and Dr Anders Sandberg, research fellow at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute.

‘It’s a gamble but it’s still much better than being dead,’ says Sandberg. He envisages a world in which the brain is paramount, so when his is revived it could be transformed into a sort of computer programme containing all of his memories of life on earth. ‘If you actually exist as software you have a lot of options. I do enjoy having a physical body but why have just one when you could have lots of different ones?’

Of course, if such experiments do come to fruition, they could have far reaching implications for our society. Already, a rapidly ageing population is placing enormous stress on healthcare and pension systems worldwide. De Grey sees the problem of over-population being cured by a dwindling birth-rate. But he says little about the impact this would have on the young.

Then there’s the question of whether we will one day be living in a world defined by gaping differences in life expectancy — where the ‘haves’ live for 10 times longer than the ‘have nots’. ‘Mortality has been the great equaliser from beggars to kings to emperors,’ says Dr Jack Kreindler, medical director at the Centre for Health & Human Performance in Harley Street. ‘If people embark on really sophisticated, targeted therapies to repair damage to their cells… I think we’re definitely entering into “them” and “us” territory.’ As projected in Homo Deus, the best-selling book of Israeli academic Yuval Noah Harari, Kreindler adds, we could witness ‘a schism in humanity where we have some people so bioengineered that only the very, very rich can sustain the amount of maintenance required to look after their enhancements, while others simply can’t afford to do anything but be natural.’

Nevertheless, the quest to overcome mortality continues apace. Last year, at a TEDx symposium Kreindler convened at the Science Museum, Daisy Robinton, a post-doctoral scientist at Harvard University, put forward the theory that ageing should be considered ‘a disease in itself.’ She described the excitement in the medical community at the discovery of CRISPR/Cas9, a protein that seems to allow us to target and delete genetic mutations in our DNA. ‘Gene editing provides an opportunity to not only cure genetic disease but also to prevent diseases from ever coming into being,’ Robinton claimed. ‘To treat our susceptibilities before they ever transform into symptoms.’

If this theory became fact, dying of old age might one day seem as outmoded as being felled by one of the mass killers of the past for which we get vaccinated. If gene editing on this scale is possible, Kreindler says we have to ask: ‘Can your cells become immortal, can they live forever?’

At the Centre for Health & Human Performance, treatments may still be firmly rooted in the 21st century, focused as they are on helping athletes optimise their fitness and celebrities such as David Walliams complete gruelling challenges for Sport Relief. But Kreindler is clearly in awe of what the latest medical advances might mean for the future of the human race.

‘I don’t believe this should be only for the very rich,’ he says. ‘If you’re going to do things, don’t just do it for the billionaires, do it for the billions.’

Ordinarily I do not volunteer to stand up and make speeches in front of a room full of people but tonight I already look like a disco ball so I thought sod it. I need to stand up to declare my love for this woman. Who does things differently. And let’s bridesmaids get up and make speeches. Not just the best man.

I know you’re not mad keen on vows to God, Ariane, but I will love you from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – until death parts us. And I know that you are all here because you feel something like that for Ariane, who puts her heart and soul into absolutely everything, including today.

I feel I have a special bond with Ariane, however, because she and I share a certain temperament. I mean, of course, that we are both batshit crazy. She has traipsed for miles across London again and again because I was not well enough to leave my flat. With us, when things go badly, they go very very badly. And when things go well, we tend to be terrified. Life with Ariane can be like watching a high speed car chase – where you can’t see why on earth she is going so damn fast because no one actually appears to be chasing her. I often think it a mercy that Ariane can’t drive because if she did she’d go from 0 to 60 in a 20mph zone, and she’d like how the road bumps sent her flying into the air.

The speed at which Ariane does things has often left me bewildered. And a bit scared. And we did in fact fall out a few years ago over that. We had planned to spend Christmas together because I really rather desperately did not want to go home and she was without Lily… And then at the last moment she invited some chap I’d never met with the words, ‘You’ll hit it off – you’re of a similar height.’ And at the time I threw a fit and went home because I was not able to cope with strangers, and especially not men. And while I used to tell that story as an example of how Ariane moved too fast and was wrong it turns out she was absolutely right. Because the man she wanted me to spend Christmas with is now my Super Friend. And the all time most awesome person ever. So I just missed out on knowing him for three years.

Ariane does not believe in doing anything because it might be – heaven forfend – sensible. No. Whatever she wants to do. She goes for it. She will do anything from sniffing armpits (which is how we reconciled), to very publicly shagging Jeremy Corbyn, to eloping to Las Vegas. And I sit and I worry about her – quite possibly more than she worries for herself…

I do not know how Ariane ended up being the absolutely wonderful person she is today. A lot of why I think we get on so well is because we’ve had a lot of absolutely rotten stuff happen in our lives – but Ariane’s makes my life look like an absolute picnic.

I do not know how she ended up such an angel. Still that is what she is.

But enough about Ariane. We are all assembled here today thanks to one man. And I think we should pause for a moment to remember him…

Frank was a German and he wore – I’m told, thanks to Ariane’s devotion to oversharing – a pair of very tight red budgie smugglers. On their second date, he arrived at her house with a bag full of tools and attempted to service her… boiler and spent – again I was told – roughly four hours failing to do so. He then announced that he was moving to Colchester and that he would buy her a railcard so she could visit him. When Ariane discovered a seasonal rail card to Colchester cost upwards of £5000 she told him this was much too much at which point he revealed that the railcard he had in mind cost £30 a year and entitled her to a third off all rail travel.

And so Auf Weidersehen Frank.

Then the real hero of our tale stepped in… Our Graham became so inflamed with jealousy at this tight, ineffective kraut … Knowing that he, Graham, was a far better man… Who knew exactly what to do with Ariane’s boiler… Well, to cut a short story even shorter… Almost three months on here we are.

Lots of people might think that going through a bad bout of Guardian Soulmates to married within 90 days is utterly and completely insane. But they do not know Graham – who is as cautious and careful as Ariane is faster than Ayrton Senna. He has been her one constant. The person who has always been there for her whenever anyone else let her down. Who she speaks to every day. And who has – along with her beautiful daughter Lily and her good friend John – helped to make up an unorthodox but very loving family that Ariane has chosen for herself.

I have only met Graham twice – but I thought I had him pegged from the first… It was half a decade ago at Ariane’s 31st birthday party (when Lily was a very, very tiny baby) and that evening I felt very sorry for him because to me it was completely obvious to me that he was very much in love with the woman who was then only his best friend.  Most men, you know, are not in the habit of compiling a game of 31 quiz questions – as he did that night – without serious romantic feeling. And that evening I felt desperately sorry for him. But today, never mind the scratchcards, he’s hit the jackpot…

Thank you Graham for always being there for our dearest friend Ariane. There is no stronger foundation for a marriage – I’m sure – than a deep and abiding best-friendship of more than twenty years. And today we celebrate both of you and your love. May it now endure – for the next 50…

In 2014, a year and a half before he finally lost his head, David Cameron threw a rave at Chequers. The Prime Minister danced, in an open necked shirt, to a DJ known as ‘Hard Bitch’, with film stars and a foul-mouthed TV presenter, on a dance floor set up in the Great Hall. A portrait of King Charles I stared down at him and if Cameron had met the glance of this melancholy van Dyck, he might have paused to consider how the mighty fall. Later on – when hestood accused of ‘acts of self-indulgence bordering on decadence’ – perhaps he wished he had. But the party raged on until 3am, as civil war brewed outside the doors.

A year on from the shock Brexit victory, half the nation is still violently unhappy at having to leave the EU. These are people who know how to ski, watch the BBC on iPlayer and agonise on Twitter – while the other half hates their guts. The Establishment is at war with the Peasants Who Revolted. There are fresh skirmishes by the day between those who drink Premier Cru and those who prefer lager. It’s Waitrose v. Lidl, ‘sofa’ v. ‘settee’, avocado on toast v. HP sauce, Eton v. the bog-standard comprehensive, Range Rover Woman v. White Van Man. Or to encapsulate the two sides in all their manifold complexity: Cavaliers v. Roundheads.

This terminology is borrowed from the English Civil War – the bloodiest conflict in British history. War broke out in 1642 when King Charles I declared war on his own parliament. ‘Cavalier’ derives from the Spanish word ‘Caballeros’ meaning ‘horsemen’ and applied to the aristocrats who fought for Charles. The ‘Roundheads’ (whose severe haircuts made their heads look round) fought for Parliament.

King Charles was keen on Europe (in the form of his very French queen), introduced unpopular taxes, manipulated the honours system, alienated the Scots, chillaxed too much and kept picking fights he either lost or failed to win decisively. As Theresa May might put it, ‘remind you of anybody?’

Eventually, Parliament chopped Charles’s head off. Some Cavaliers – like today’s City banks – fled England altogether. Others sulked – such as the ex-Chancellor George Osborne, who sits on the back benches, in an attitude of despair, ‘waiting for it all to go tits-up for Theresa,’ as one of his confidantes assures me it most definitely will.

Many Cavaliers felt frightened that the killing of the King would bring about the End of Days – much as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, predicts the economic Apocalypse.
The Cavaliers should have made mincemeat of the Roundheads. They had all the money, power and privilege on their side. But they were out of touch with the common people and had no idea how ferocious the Roundheads would prove in battle. Oliver Cromwell, like Theresa May, hadn’t started the war; but rose swiftly from MP to leader of a cavalry regiment to commander of Parliament’s New Model Army. He relied heavily on his allies’ messianic zeal, much as May depends on her special advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, whose ruthlessness helped her survive the Home Office, the graveyard of so many political careers.

Cromwell’s Roundheads were sober and serious and about as much fun as May’s grim-faced Chancellor, Philip Hammond, appears to be. Their rallying cry – for parliamentary sovereignty and individual liberty – is echoed by May’s Brexit ministers, David Davis and Liam Fox.

For a Cavalier to socialise with a Roundhead was unconscionable – and vice versa: the same is true today. Even on Tinder, ordinarily a sexual free-for-all, millennials often state if they were Remain or Leave so they don’t accidentally sleep with the enemy. In real life, it can be hard to spot your natural compadres. Expensive dress is not a reliable indicator. Our Roundhead PM, for instance, has been photographed in £995 gold leather trousers, and owns dozens of pairs of kitten heels. Haircuts are a more reliable indicator. Cavaliers were proud of their ringlets and today’s equivalent pride themselves on their floppy manes (both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, with their blond hair soufflés, reveal themselves as Cavaliers pretending to be Roundheads for electoral gain).

But while Cavaliers are ordinarily feckless, spendthrift and the life and the soul of the party -right now they’re in a state of shock. Whilst Roundheads, who tend to be dour, humourless and somewhat unimaginative are, all of a sudden, tremendously pleased with themselves. The clearest signal as to whether you’re speaking to a Cavalier or Roundhead is whether your interlocutor appears astonished and petrified – or smug and self-satisfied. If the former, then you are talking to a Cavalier, unable to believe in this sudden reversal of fortune; if the latter, you’ve unearthed a Roundhead rejoicing in Little England.

The difference between the two factions is most neatly encapsulated in the lives of their leaders: Cameron and May. The son of a millionaire, Cameron, as we know, was educated at Eton (and still demands that the crust is cut off his toast). At Oxford, he joined the Bullingdon Club. According to his arch-enemy Lord Ashcroft, it is possible he violated a pig’s head at a party. After getting his First, he swanked off into the Conservative Party Research Department, and then became a special advisor, before abandoning politics – very temporarily – for a highly paid job at Carlton Television where he learned the dark arts of PR. At every point in his career, he had his path smoothed by significant phone calls to significant people. His rise from stockbroker’s son to Prime Minister was inexorable.

Theresa May, by contrast, thrust herself towards greatness. The only child of a vicar, she won a place at Oxford thanks to her grammar school education. At Oxford, there are no wild tales of Theresa; when I contacted the press office of her biographer Rosa Prince in the hope of fresh revelations I was told, quite cheerfully, that there weren’t any. By all accounts, she worked hard and – in the words of one Old Wykehamist – felt fortunate ‘to meet the sort of people she never would have met had she not gone to Oxford’ – including her future husband, Philip May.

While Cameron is famous for his Notting Hill cabal, May made a few friends at Oxford who remain allies, like the Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, and the Minister for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs, Alan Duncan, but she’s never been a networker. At the same age as Dave was when he drank Bolly in the Bullingdon, Theresa was listening to visiting Tory speakers at the Union. (Certainly, she liked to go back and speak there herself. The Tory grandee Jonathan Aitken vividly recalls her wiping the floor with the hate preacher Abu Hamza in a debate some years before she deported him.) After leaving Oxford, May went to work for the Bank of England – so she has held down a ‘real job.’ She first went head to head with David Cameron in 1994, when they both sought selection for the safe Tory seat of Ashford, and were both beaten – by Damian Green.

The defining Cavalier characteristic is a love of the good life. Crises often hit Westminster during the summer and Cameron’s MPs would complain that the only way to get hold of him was ‘to hire a Cornish ice-cream van and set up on the beach.’ In the summer of 2013, a humanitarian crisis was escalating in Syria. There was no time for chillaxing. And yet that July, an image surfaced of Cameron, on Instagram, fast asleep on a four poster bed with a Red Box by his feet. Earlier in the day, he’d apparently left the same box unattended on a train while he nipped off to the buffet car. That August, Cameron was hoping to persuade President Obama into military intervention but he failed to put in the necessary effort to win over parliament. When the vote was held in the House of Commons, the government was defeated on a matter of war – for the first time since 1782.

But Cameron simply couldn’t resist taking time out to socialise. He loved nothing better than hanging out with his fellow Cavaliers – and has now swanned off into the sunset with them. On New Year’s Eve, David and Samantha Cameron decamped to Burford Priory, the home of the multi-millionairess Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of Rupert, who threw a party that involved ‘an entire theatrical set, complete with revolving floors, an entrance made of flowers, cocktails on tap and roving graffiti artists spray painting the toilets mid-party with guests’ names,’ and reputedly cost half a million pounds. ‘Nobody is not a celebrity,’ Jonathan Aitken told me. ‘[Cameron] is in his element.’ The Camerons’ love of partying in a circle that included the disgraced former News of the World editor, Rebekah Brooks – alarmed even their Cavalier friends; Lord Ashcroft’s controversial book ‘Call Me Dave’ labelled them ‘the Chipping Snorton’ set.

May, however, barely socialises at all. She is always at work: even on Christmas Day, when she doesn’t eat her dinner until she’s gone to the old folk’s home in Maidenhead to raise a glass of sherry with the residents. Even at the Conservative Party Conference, ‘when most politicians were out courting newspaper editors,’ the LBC radio host Iain Dale recalls, ‘Theresa May was in Cafe Rouge, having dinner with her husband.’ Aitken recalls inviting May, then Home Secretary,
to visit a charity in Maidenhead called Blue Sky, a rehabilitation scheme for ex-offenders, during the New Year recess in 2011.

‘The date suited nobody except those who had to be there,’ he recalls. ‘Everyone else was off skiing or on holiday and it was the filthiest day I can remember. The wind was blowing and the rain pouring – we might as well have been in a trawler on the North Sea. All she needed to do was stay inside and say a few words but she spent no less than an hour and a half going round talking to ex-cons, asking questions such as ‘how deep is that ditch?’ And I’ve never seen anyone do it better – there was not a scintilla of artificiality about her.’ When I ask Aitken how May compares to that other Tory Roundhead – Mrs. Thatcher – he says it’s too soon to say. ‘On that day, she was almost like the Queen.’

Cavaliers believe above all, that they are born to rule; Roundheads take advantage of insurrection – mounted by furious plebs. The Brexit vote was, in the first place, an act worthy of Charles I himself. Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings while Cameron seemed to believe he was entitled to premiership. First, he promised a vote, to appease his backbenchers. Then, when he won an unexpected majority at the 2015 election, he rushed into holding the vote even though his most trusted advisor, Chancellor Osborne, advised him very strongly against it. Privately, Cameron assured EU leaders, ‘we’re going to win – maybe 70-30.’

Throughout his entire political career, Cameron behaved like a cocky undergraduate, so sure he’d ace the test, he didn’t bother to cram until the very last moment. And this technique had worked so many times – most nail bitingly in the Scottish referendum. When he lost he resigned in a fit of pique, allegedly demanding of his aides: ‘Why should I have to do the hard shit for someone else, just to hand it over to them on a plate?’

Certainly, ITV’s Robert Peston caught Cameron on camera outside Downing Street ‘humming a Winnie-the-Pooh style hum as he says goodbye to the cares of office.’ While that other Cavalier ex-PM Tony Blair has returned to urge fellow Remainers to ‘rise up in defence of our beliefs’ Cameron has stayed schtum. Had not his wife, Samantha, popped up to give so many interviews to promote her fashion label, Cefinn, one might have assumed he’d come to as sudden an end as Charles I himself.

Theresa May, it must be remembered, did not want to leave the EU – much like Oliver Cromwell had not wanted to start a civil war. She voted Remain and must now do her best to clear up the mess her predecessor created which she is doing with teeth gritted. Of course, she is helped by the fact that she faces no domestic opposition. She has either purged or handicapped her Cavalier rivals – Chancellor Osborne was dispatched with particular brutality while she has stripped her Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, of his grace and favour home and two of the key responsibilities of his office – forcing him to share both with Liam Fox and David Davis. But she was equally merciless to her Roundhead opponents – she finished off her old enemy Michael Gove and political insiders claim he’ll never recover.

May – like Cromwell – has also been lucky in some of her battles. Labour is currently in an unelectable state thanks to its leader Jeremy Corbyn (who ought to be martialling the Remain-ing opposition but is, instead, making out like a militant Puritan.) Meanwhile, potential Charles II’s – the Tory Tom Tugendhat, a dashing former British army officer, who some fancy as Cameron’s heir – keeps very quiet on the backbenches and Labour’s great Cavalier pretender, the handsome, voter friendly, Tristram Hunt, has surrendered his parliamentary seat to become director of the V&A. In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that May enjoyed a 17 point lead in the spring polls.

Cavalier forces needed to regroup – and urgently – if Remainers were to exert any sort of influence on May’s Brexit deal. But they are too easily distracted by the finer things in life… Cameron’s disappearance, for instance, is largely to be accounted by his need to make money – he had often complained that he’d paid for his love of politics ‘with a pay cut before I even started.’ On standing down as an MP, and not having to declare his income in the Register of Members’ Interests, he hit the lecture circuit hard. ‘His agent told him he’d be the most wanted speaker in the world,’ a gossip tells me. ‘But only until January 20th – and then Obama would be… So he made a whole bunch of speeches for a lot of money but no publicity. He has to, because he does hang out with this group of very rich people. And money is how you keep score.’

Cameron was one of many Cavaliers who came a cropper during the 2009 expenses scandal. (Despite his private wealth, he claimed more than £80,000 on his second home, plus a £680 bill for clearing wisteria.) Roundheads – including, one doesn’t doubt, Theresa May – were appalled. She was one of the very few MPs to emerge almost utterly unscathed. The Telegraph’s report on her was three un-damning sentences long: stating that she’d claimed £15,000 in mortgage interest to which she was perfectly entitled.

But Cameron’s most blatantly Cavalier act was his dabbling with the honours system. He awarded OBEs both to the woman who put his Chancellor on the 5:2 diet and the stylist who picked out his wife’s clothes. One cannot imagine May doing this: she’s formidably trim and chooses her own outfits. Like one of Cromwell’s Ironsides, she knows her armour is vital. Many have sought to gain insight into her personality by examining her shoes. (As Iain Dale observes, it’s quite incredible that ‘after 19 years she’s still an unknown quantity.’) But far more can be gleaned from the state of her fingers. May is adept, tough and entirely self-sufficient: she never goes to a manicurist because she’s learned to paint her nails immaculately herself.

The perception is that she ‘is very middle class,’ as Dale explains. ‘But – anecdotally – she has an appeal for working class voters that David Cameron never had. He always seemed that little bit slippery. But callers to my show say they trust her. Even Labour voters trust her.’ In fact, May has been far more radical than she is perceived – and so suits the Roundhead masses. It was she (not Cameron) who first urged the party to modernise in 2002, telling the Tories that they were unelectable because voters thought they were the ‘Nasty Party.’ She also came up with the idea for an ‘A’ list of potential MPs because she knew how difficult it was for female and ethnic minority candidates to gain selection for Tory safe seats. She helped host a launch party a fortnight before Cameron became leader. (Steve Hilton, then Cameron’s strategist, said it was the first party he’d attended ‘full of normal people.’)

Even last year, May did not win any plaudits for introducing the law against coercive control – even though it was astonishingly popular, thanks to a controversial domestic abuse storyline on Radio 4’s, The Archers. May may not shout about her feminist credentials but she’s always done her bit for the Sisterhood.
She has, though, now reached a critical moment – and Cromwell’s reign, it must be remembered, was exceptionally brief. May was welcomed into Number 10 because of the reputation she had built as Home Secretary as ‘the safest of safe pair of hands.’ Yet all of a sudden – in January – her right one was grasping the tiny hand of Donald Trump – horrifying pretty much everyone. No one knows what kind of deal she’ll manage to cut with the EU.

Most famous for claiming that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ she is also fond of the phrases ‘negotiations are negotiations’, ‘you will see what we publish when we publish it’ and ‘I gave the answer that I gave.’ Chequers, under May, will never – but never – witness another rave. But this summer it is likely to be used to host something far more ruinous to any Prime Minister’s reputation: a politician who transcends all historical precedent or description – President Donald Trump.