Every few months, America’s four-star admirals and generals gather at a military base not far from Washington to participate in what General Martin E. Dempsey, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, calls his ‘strategic seminar’. The aim is to foresee the future, anticipating security challenges that the United States will face in the coming years, thereby enabling the Pentagon to prepare itself accordingly.
If Britain leaves the European Union, historians will say that 30 June 2012 was when the great exit began. That day, David Cameron was due to write an article for the Sunday Telegraph and his advisers were frantic. It was a last-minute idea, to balance out some loose talk from the Prime Minister at a Brussels press conference. The piece was being drafted by committee and on the hoof. Aides stood at railway stations and in airport lounges emailing a line here and a tweak there.
After a long wait in the visiting room of the maximum security wing of the ‘Gib Lewis Unit’, Rosalio Reta finally arrived for our interview. He was only five feet tall, but even so projected an air of menace. The demonic face tattoos helped. That face was the last thing many people saw before they died, I thought. When he started talking, his voice was soft and mellifluous.
Until his arrest in 2006 Reta was a sicario, a hit man responsible for at least 30 murders in the USA and Mexico.
‘They’re all bad, our politicians, all corrupt,’ said Maria, her cheery face dissolving into distaste. What about the new president, Peña Nieto? I ask. ‘That pretty boy? Ugh!’
It was late afternoon in Oaxaca’s central square, the Zocolo. Clouds were cruising in from the Sierra Madre and the dogs had begun to squabble and hump outside the cathedral. The news kiosk looked like a missing persons bureau, each front page full of mugshots: the latest victims of the drug wars.
In her early campaigning days as Conservative leader, Mrs Thatcher had the gift of being able to relate the national economy to the domestic finances of ordinary voters. The battle against inflation commenced with her and her shopping basket, nattering away with voters over the cheese counter. It is a skill which David Cameron needs rapidly to discover. Now, as in the 1970s, a political leader who doesn’t understand the personal finances of ordinary people is going to be in deep peril.
In the good old days of the gay liberation movement, in the 1970s and early 1980s, the excitement of challenging the orthodoxy attracted even the shy and apolitical to its cause. To those of us around at the time, it felt like a cultural insurgency: a rejection of compulsory heterosexuality and the lifestyle that accompanied it. But now battle, such as it is, has changed utterly. It seems to involve people like David Cameron inviting gay people to conform to what he rightly calls the profoundly conservative institution of -marriage.