Jeremy Clarke

Low life | 9 June 2016

The White House man thought Trump a shoo-in for the presidency; the gambler cared only about the stakes

Low life | 9 June 2016
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Showered and shaved and wearing a stiff new Paul Smith candy-stripe shirt, I took an Uber to the party. I love London and it was grand to be back and to be driven through the sunny streets by Yusef, one of the many new arrivals adding vibrancy, energy and diversity to our great city. Diversity is strength! Diversity is our greatest strength! (I used to believe that unity is strength, but I have lately recanted of this foolish and evil idea.)

‘Will you be voting in or out, Yusef?’ I said in a comradely manner, as one perplexed citizen to another.

‘I think stay in, sir,’ he said. ‘Better for the economy.’

‘What economy?’ I said. ‘The global economy is a parasitic Ponzi scheme and the EU is already hollowed out. The gulf between the haves and the have nots is already in the realms of science fiction. Why stay in and be part of a collapse?’ Yusef pondered this provocative, apocalyptic, perhaps slightly deranged statement. Then he said: ‘I went to the cinema the other day and saw a film in which all the rich people lived in beautiful palaces in the sky and the poor people lived on a rubbish heap on the ground. It was a beautiful film, sir. And as I watched this film, I thought, “Yes! This is possible.”’ So we settled on this. I was out, he was in; but in the long run we both realised that the outcome was largely irrelevant in a world that was changing more quickly than either of us could imagine.

The party was held in a basement bar in Soho. Wine was free, warm bottles of lager cost £5.50. The young staff seemed oddly ill disposed towards their customers and were watching like hawks for signs of moral turpitude. I sensed that a number of eyes had singled me out as one to watch. We had gathered to celebrate the leaving of the legendary Spectator advertising executive Mr Nick Spong. For 16 years Spongy and those working under him have made The Spectator a fun place to work and I shall sorely miss him.

I took my wine glass and joined a conversation about the EU referendum between an ardent Remainer on the one hand, and on the other a chap with more relevant information at his fingertips than anybody I have heard speaking on the subject so far, but who made no final prediction and stated no preference for either side. The Remainer’s argument appeared to be founded upon his self-interest (an out vote might cost him a few quid at the beginning) and upon his moral vanity (his socialist, anti-racist principles forbade him to vote any other way). The great majority of Remainers with whom I have spoken have been left-liberal virtue signallers like him — well-off, and worried only about their pockets. Those wanting to leave have tended to be have nots aghast at the annual number of migrants coming to Britain. The Remainers’ strange and unreasonable contempt for the Brexiteers seems to border on hatred.

After about an hour, I slipped away for a bite to eat with a former Nixon adviser and a professional gambler. The table talk between these two Americans was Trump rather than Brexit. The former White House man was stone-cold certain that The Donald will be sworn in as president in November. Whether he thought this would be a good thing or a bad thing, he was too well mannered to say, or even betray with a facial expression. Perhaps his feeling was that a Trump presidency would be just another ingredient in a flammable mixture that was already beyond good and evil. The gambler was interested only in the betting market, patiently explaining how we could each make an easy 20 grand by backing Trump today at 7–4, and laying off that bet with a smaller bet on Hillary nearer voting day, when the odds will inevitably have shortened.

Then I returned to the leaving party. When two of our number were thrown out by the eagle-eyed management for some infringement of their petty rules, we moved on to a flat in Edgware. Here another socialist gave me half an hour on his motive for voting to remain (his pocket, basically) and seeing that my powers of endurance had come to an end, he kindly dialled me an Uber.

I sat up front next to Roy, a big, cool black guy. I couldn’t speak. Roy intuited the cause and was non-judgmental and companionable, even in our silence. But I must say something, I thought. Summoning all that was left of my physical powers, I said, ‘In or out, Roy?’ He looked at his lap for inspiration then out of his side window. ‘I’m 50-50,’ he said. Then we relapsed into friendly silence for the rest of the journey.