Why Labour are calling David Cameron 'Flashman'

Over the last few months Labour MPs have taken to shouting “Flashman” at Prime Minister David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Question Time. But who is Flashman and why are opposition MPs identifying him with Cameron?

Harry Paget Flashman is a fictional character, first appearing as a school bully at Rugby in Victorian novel ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ by Thomas Hughes, but who became much better known as the protagonist and narrator of George MacDonald Fraser’s series of novels about him.

In ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ Flashman is the school’s arch bully – inflicting terrible physical ordeals on younger pupils and eventually expelled for drunkenness.

Flashman – as depicted by Fraser – is an anti-hero. A cowardly, lying, womanising, self-promoting sadist who somehow always seems to come out smelling of roses and getting the girl – typically through lying, flattering, luck and climbing over other people to get there. His only two skills are horsemanship and a facility for languages, although he’s a strong swordsman, decent shot and good bowler in cricket.

Despite his reluctance to ever risk his own skin, he does show considerable bravery (when forced to), compassion (generally, but not always, when it costs him nothing) and deeply loves (although is not faithful to) his wife.

He romps through Victorian history, meeting everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Wellington and Queen Victoria herself (on several occasions). For this reason, many fans of the series warm to the character despite his obvious and numerous flaws (especially as he is utterly honest about them).

Labour MPs identify David Cameron as Flashman initially for reports he is seen as bullying. In May Labour leader Ed Miliband responded to a comment from the Prime Minister with the statement "Flashman is back".

It’s now seen as a rallying cry whenever Prime Minister Cameron is seen as being overbearing.

Ironically, the fictional character – as depicted by Fraser – is rather popular with readers and certainly a lot more glamorous and possibly more charismatic than David Cameron. And associating the Prime Minister with this popular character from the height of the British Empire might end up doing him no damage at all.