Baroness Thatcher said of Lord Young: “Other people brought me problems. David brought me solutions.”
David Cameron clearly had the same view of the smooth Lord Young – until Thursday night. It was then that the prime minister’s new enterprise adviser became a rather big political problem in his own right.
Before the print was dry on the Daily Telegraph, Lord Young was offering his “profound” apologies, after claiming the majority of British people had “never had it so good” since the “so-called recession”.
He said complaints about government spending cuts were coming from “people who think they have a right for the state to support them”.
A spokesman for Mr Cameron said the prime minister was “very unimpressed” by the peer, whom he appointed as his enterprise adviser earlier this month.
The prime minister “believes at this difficult time politicians need to be careful with their choice of words – these words are as offensive as they are inaccurate”, said the spokesman.
The problem is that Mr Cameron has a carefully constructed narrative about the cuts: that he didn’t want to do it, but was forced to scale back the state because of the fiscal mess left behind by Labour.
Only by showing himself to be a compassionate cutter (protecting the NHS was a key part of that political message) can the prime minister hope to carry the country with him.
Labour believes this is phoney and that the Tories are cutting for ideological reasons. They are waiting for the Tory “mask” to slip.
Lord Young is not exactly a front ranking politician these days, but Mr Cameron knows he can ill-afford senior Conservatives using such blunt – and insensitive – language, just as the cuts are about to bite.