Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: George Osborne

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: George Osborne

Article excerpt

We Citizens of Nowhere have made our home in Davos this week. Where else? Those who think we're a remote global elite hiding away behind barbed wire in a luxury Swiss ski resort have decided to travel all the way here to tell us. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell is braving the Glühwein to lecture us on Marxism. Theresa May is back, flush from her successful outing last year when she warned the audience here that they'd lose elections unless they understood how out of touch they'd become. Donald Trump is swapping cheeseburgers for Swiss fondue on his mission to put America first. They are all welcome. Davos Man understands that the struggle takes many forms.

One ritual at Davos remains the annual fondue dinner generously hosted by my friend Michael Spencer in a restaurant, and usually attended by David Cameron, myself and others. It started in opposition, continued throughout government and has survived life after office. Because various prominent broadcasters and editors also came along, it never leaked out -- the media never rats on itself. Except one year, when a Greenpeace activist stumbled into the room by mistake and found Boris, David and me laughing away. It became known as Pizzagate. That's because our expert spin doctors managed to persuade those in the British press who weren't invited that we'd only been eating pizzas and had next to nothing to drink. It was an early example of fake news. Another year, the editor of a highbrow magazine (not this one) managed to set fire to his napkin with a candle by mistake, and then, in a panic, threw the burning napkin away -- on to David's lap. He then threw it on to mine. More panic ensued, before it was eventually put out. But for a moment it looked like we'd delivered the dream headline: government goes up in flames.

Just sometimes, members of the elite prove to be surprisingly capable -- as two terrific films I've just seen show us. Darkest Hour is a reminder of the singular role Winston Churchill, grandson of a duke (and son of a young chancellor of the exchequer) played in ensuring Britain fought on against Hitler in 1940. The Post is a story of how the heiress of the Washington Post defied her (all male) advisers, and risked alienating her social circle, to publish the Pentagon Papers and expose lies about the Vietnam War. Gary Oldman is rightly tipped for an Oscar for his spluttering, irascible, anxious and vulnerable premier. …

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