David Cameron was in the north-west, visiting a youth project in Salford, Greater Manchester. On the face of it, the trip chimed with his passion for "social enterprise", but as Cameron well knew, his destination was a local holy-of-holies: Salford Lads Club, the local Victorian landmark where the Smiths were photographed in 1986 for the inside cover of their finest album, The Queen Is Dead. In PR terms, the visit was thus a "twofer": a chance for Cameron not only to push the new compassionate Toryism, but to once again yak on about one of his supposedly favourite rock groups and thus remind us that the Conservative party is now groovier than anyone could have imagined.
The plan was for him to have his photo taken in front of the building à la the Smiths, but the local Labour party got wind of the script, and dispatched a pack of activists to foil him. Their placards featured such slogans as "Salford Lads not Eton snobs" and "Oi Dave - Eton Toffs' club is 300 miles that way", and they would not be moved, so Cameron went home without his snap.
Just under a fortnight ago, Salford's MP, Hazel Blears, the doughty secretary of state for communities and local government, recounted the tale at Labour's spring conference. It was, she said, "a story from a great city". When her comrades had got wind of Cameron's plans, they had been "incensed" by the cheek of a Cameron visit to an area that had "80% youth unemployment when the Tories were in power". They had spent "all night" getting ready to protest.
"And on the day," she said, "Cameron was bundled in the back door, and bundled out of the back door. And he never got his photograph! And that night, I couldn't resist it: I sent him a photo of me outside Salford Lad's Club" - and here she laughed like a triumphal drain - "and I wrote, 'Dear Dave, Sorry you didn't get the picture, all the best from Salford.' And when I saw him at the next PMQs [Prime Minister's Questions], he said, 'Hazel - I will get my photograph.' And I said, 'Not on my watch, you won't, Dave.'"