List kept then PM up to date on cost of beer, cigarettes and other goods but seems to have let him down on bread prices. By Anushka Asthana.
David Cameron was kept up to date on the price of 20 king-size cigarettes and a pint of lager during his time as prime minister, a civil service crib sheet has revealed.
The document, which has been handed to the Guardian, appears to have been designed to prepare the then prime minister for awkward questions from the media – with the price of bread, milk, coffee, diesel, unleaded and a single tube journey in central London also listed.
But the savvy officials made one mistake: they used average prices, which helps explain why Cameron once came unstuck over the price of cheap bread.
Asked the price of a value white loaf by LBC’s Nick Ferrari in 2013, the then Tory leader said it was “well north of a pound”. He made it worse by offering a “little plug” for Cotswold Crunch flour, and telling the presenter that he had a breadmaker “which I delight in using”. Ferrari told him that the price of a value white loaf was about 47p.
Why did the prime minister get it so wrong? Perhaps because the crib sheet said the average price of a white loaf was £1.23.
The document, called the data dashboard, also included information about other facts that any good prime minister ought to have at their fingertips – like the rates of VAT and income tax, fuel and tobacco duty.
Another page set out the disability living allowance, housing benefit and working tax credits, as well as GDP growth, unemployment rate and average earnings.
However, Cameron was not kept up to date on the names of foreign leaders. Such a list might have come in useful for Emily Thornberry at the weekend.
The shadow foreign secretary accused Sky News of sexism after presenter Dermot Murnaghan asked her to name the French foreign minister and the leader of South Korea.
“Don’t start pub quizzing me, Dermot,” she said, adding: “I’m not going to start answering your questions on this.
“Do you know what, what really upsets me about your attitude to me is that you do this with me. I don’t remember you doing it with anybody else, you know.”
Thornberry is not the only politician to have been embarrassed by her lack of general knowledge.
George W Bush was asked about the leaders of four world hotspots – Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan – in 1999 and could only name Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan.
Dan Quayle, the vice-president in George HW Bush’s administration, came unstuck on spelling, wrongly correcting a 15-year-old’s spelling of “potato” to “potatoe”.
In the UK, others have fallen in the face of maths questions. In 1998, when the then schools minister Stephen Byers was asked what eight times seven was, he replied “54”.
More recently, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, had to admit he did not know the price of a pint of milk when asked on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman.