The Star in the East

5 mins. to read
The Star in the East

As Mr Cameron sits down to Christmas lunch at Chequers this year he will try to put aside his feelings of foreboding about the year ahead. On a personal level, I certainly hope that he enjoys a restful and happy day with his family. He has, it is said, like Napoleon, an uncanny ability to detach himself from the fray: to enjoy a quiet glass of wine or take a nap while mayhem reigns around him. That is a great quality in a leader.

Despite some of the unkindnesses that I have bestowed on the Prime Minister over the course of this year, I unhesitatingly acknowledge that he is a thoroughly decent man, with (as a certain tutor, one Dr Bogdanor, by whom he and I were both taught at Oxford, might say) a first class mind.

(That’s the really great thing about Oxford: boys and girls from totally contrasting backgrounds are taught by the same old farts).

The problem for me, and many others like me, is that Mr Cameron is not a very good Tory.

It is not exactly that he is basically a liberal. Full marks for the conviction politics of driving through gay marriage (now standard across Europe and large parts of the US anyway); but where was the conviction politics in delaying a vital decision on increasing airport capacity in the South East? We know that he was elected to make difficult decisions – even if it offends the eco-establishment (which numbers an increasing number of touchy pseudo-Tories: you know of whom I speak).

It’s not exactly that he is a toff. A Downton Abbey fan, I know that he can charm the socks off any working class geezer that he meets down the pub. Honestly, he wears his privilege lightly.

It is not exactly that he is fundamentally agnostic on Europe – neither a Europhile nor a Eurosceptic. He obviously loathes the bi-annual, all-night torture of the jamborees in Brussels; and he detests the overbearing mandarins who run it. Who wouldn’t? Except a Euro-weirdo like J-C Juncker? But he also fundamentally believes, like the Heseltine Tendency, that Britain could never afford to upset the fetid French and German political elites.

And in this respect, he is out-of-touch with rank-and-file Tories. Namely those, often from unassuming backgrounds, who have managed to prosper outside the welfare state; who have accumulated assets honestly; and who fear that the emerging European State is a threat to their hard-won prosperity – and freedom.

These people believe that we are still a very significant nation, both in terms of hard power and soft power. They know that we have a simply unparalleled English-speaking global network which consumes our media, travels here, and generally (despite occasional Aussie barbs – and the ghastliness of Ms Sturgeon) wishes us well.

I suspect – we will not know if this true for many years – that Mr Cameron already knows that his strategy of renegotiate-and-decide was a high risk answer to an intractable problem that, once unleashed, would soon escape his control. He is now beyond mindfulness therapy; he is already mentally writing some fabulously self-exculpatory memoirs. This will consume him during a (very modest) post-prandial brandy.


After a splendid, but not excessive, Christmas lunch, the Prime Minister will watch the Queen’s Speech. This is important for him, as for so many of us. He admires HM greatly, but he will not stand up for the occasion like his late father. Metropolitan modern that he is, he will have a child on his lap.

As he absorbs the Christian message (delivered so much more convincingly than most vicars could ever hope) he will reflect that his own church is unruly. Like those three influential cabinet ministers who came to him, over Champagne, at the party in Number Ten party last week. The ones who told him that, whatever the Poles and the Hungarians might agree to, the final deal will be a totally pointless damp squib. And that they have already decided that they will campaign on the other side.

Then there is Boris, who has been very quizzical of late. His Christmas card was inscribed with a Latin quatrain by the First Century Roman poet, Martial. Something about how, to the victors go the spoils. He was always enigmatic, Boris. (Another first-class mind.)

He will ask himself, once again: What is the endgame? Has George really thought this through? And, as for many people, Christmas Day will not be without those stabs of sadness that creep up on us surreptitiously on ostensibly happy occasions. And then he will feel a kind of glow in anticipating his impending retirement.


Meanwhile, deep in Islington, where he has managed to get though a lentil cutlet and a glass of beetroot juice quite alone and without interruption, his only concession to merriment a crepe paper Lenin hat, Jeremy Corbyn will be plagued by a series of irritatingly repetitive texts from John McDonnell.

They’re on the run. Big cabinet beasts about to turn on PM. This will be Labour’s year…

And so on. Should I just not turn the wretched thing off? thinks Jeremy. Then he scrolls down to see a previous text from an influential advisor: HB confirms that the Parliamentary Labour Party will formally split in February…

Jeremy begins to nibble pensively on a lozenge of raw carrot…


Late on Christmas Day evening, during that quiet time when the children have at last been put to bed and the TV has finally been extinguished, the open fire reduced to embers, the Prime Minister will be surprised by one of those secret service types. Often seemingly acting as flunkies, they leap into action at odd moments with either an automatic weapon or an unexpected mobile telephone.

Telephone call for you, Prime Minister. It’s President Putin. He says it’s important – and that he has a very interesting idea that might help your situation…


In my essay in the January edition of the 2016 Master Investor magazine I will be expressing my profound concerns about 2016: The Year of Living Dangerously. I hope to unlock some tangible indicators of where the markets are heading.

Meanwhile, to all Norwegians: God Jul! If you happen to be of Christian heritage, Happy Christmas! If you are not: Namaste/ Shalom/ Salaam! Peace and blessings. It’s all the same bloody thing, God dammit.

See you in 2016.

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