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11 December 2008

Obama and Dave

The Nudgeocon

By Gideon Donald

Will this year never end? It seems scarcely credible that a little over three months ago we were all holidaying in Cornwall (the sacrifices made by those on the cusp of power!) and hanging out at Rick’s in Padstow discussing who would be the main players in our very own Cam-elot. Now, nothing makes sense. One minute all is well with the world, the next, Damian Green is in chokey. We were calling out for a hero and we were given DG II, a perfectly nice man but one so lacking in personality that he lags behind Dominic Grieve in the initialisation stakes.

To escape the lunacy, I have been lying low at various Spectator parties. Not a week goes by without the dread words “Speccy do” looming out at me from my diary. The venerable magazine seems to have become less a vanguard for Tory thinking and more a dating agency for those who are vaguely right of centre.

Of course, it hasn’t been the same since Jeff died, but even so . . . If I have to endure Andrew Neil’s anecdote about being stuck in a lift with Emily Maitlis one more time I fear that I will cancel my (free) subscription.

However, last week’s effort (a joint 200th birthday bash with a men’s magazine at Brown’s) was, counter to the form book, genuinely entertaining, not least because gossip reached me that one of the hosts, the man who would write the legend of the new British Camelot, has seriously blotted the old escutcheon.

It all started with Michael Gove’s frankly bonkers plan to establish “connectivity” between Dave and Obama, and Colonel Fawn’s attempt to arrange a joint best-dressed-man cover for his gentlemen’s quarterly. As I reported, and much to Dave’s anger, this did not come to pass. And Dave’s ire only increased with the revelation that the president-elect considers Dave to be something of a lightweight. The second last thing a man who has scraped a First in PPE wants to hear is his intellectual credentials being questioned by a professor in constitutional law.

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The last thing he wants to hear is that the Colonel (author of Dave on Dave, lest we forget), in attempting to mend bridges, has succeeded merely in blowing everything sky-high. According to a delighted David Davis, Fawn, desperate to be restored to the good books, hightailed it off to Washington to finagle “some quality one-on-one time” with the president-elect. A bold plan, executed so faultily that Obama now considers Dave to be lighter than lightweight. Which, of course, is bad news for a trimmer like Gove, but not for those of us who believe a Tory party should have no truck with Democrats.

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This is becoming one of the fault lines in modern Tory party thinking. There are those at the weightier end of the party who think that right is right and that we should choose our friends based on political convictions rather than ephemeral election results. Then there are those at the flakier end of things (Caroline “Nanny Knows Best” Spelman, Andrew “Health Service” Lansley and Gove) who want to cuddle up with any leader, regardless of political persuasion.

This is short-termism gone mad. We are Atlanticists, but only when the right man is in power across the Atlantic. In the 1930s, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain had not given their endorsement to Roosevelt’s crowd-pleasing New Deal economics and their reputations are all the stronger for their constancy. Equally, now is not the time for Dave to be seen sitting at the feet of a socialist Democratic president who thinks the man destined to be our next PM is a lightweight.