- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

I had never heard of Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden until a few days ago. Which just goes to show how little I know. If I lived anywhere near the cutting edge of cafe society, I would have been aware that the viscount, who goes by the everyday name of Dan Macmillan, is a 28-year-old artist, clothes designer and socialite who runs a shop in Soho called Zoltar The Magnificent. It is, they tell me, one of the hot new bohemian places to be seen spending money.
Young Dan is not just any old aristocrat. As well as being heir to the Macmillan publishing fortune, he is the great-grandson of the former Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan. In other quarters, he is even better known as the former boyfriend of Jade Jagger, who is herself well known as, well, the daughter of a pop star. (Life behind the gilded door does have a habit of going round in ever-decreasing circles.)
Zoltar is not just any old emporium either. It is, according to one insider survey of cool retailers, a "men's and women's concept shop," which sounds to me like the kind of place where Francis Fukuyama and Gertrude Himmelfarb go when they want to try out the latest in designer theorems.
What "concept" really means in this case, it seems, is that you can admire fashionable art works at the same time as you are browsing through stacks of equally fashionable clothing. Dressed up in the cosily familiar idiot-savant style of Dadaism are images of McDonald's hamburgers covered in swastikas, the Stars and Stripes juxtaposed with Nazi regalia. Dollar signs adorn a poster with the legend "When Death Came." All the usual suspects are rounded up as part of Zoltar's ironically bold stand against the excesses of consumerism and globalization.
The word is that Macmillan hopes to launch a magazine that sounds suspiciously like the London party crowd's answer to George. On the other hand, he may be too busy partying to ever get it off the ground. (If the newspapers are to be believed, Jade is supposed to have broken off their relationship because of his passion for the nightlife.)
Bohemia must have become a very staid place if hamburgers festooned with swastikas are regarded as the last word in social commentary. Then again, in my darker moments I sometimes think that Dan the Dadaist's shop reflects the prevailing mood here on what looks like the eve of war: confused, sullen and weirdly inarticulate.
After all these months of debate over Saddam and the United Nations, support for Tony Blair's stance remains lukewarm. Even many of his Cabinet members manage to look like innocent bystanders. That Britain has gone ahead with deployments to the Gulf is a testament to Mr. Blair's courage in standing his ground and the idiosyncrasies of a parliamentary system that allows a prime minister so much executive power.
Even so, the government has been strangely diffident about putting its case across.
To witness Jack Straw's faltering performances is to be reminded of Dan Macmillan's great-grandfather's description of the daily routine of a foreign secretary: "forever poised between a clich and an indiscretion."
On the other hand, the anti-war lobby has shown little sign of advancing beyond slogans dusted down from the Vietnam era. A year on from Afghanistan, the tired jibes about George Bush being an illiterate cowboy are beginning (but only just beginning) to lose their force.
"It's all about oil" is the new chant, but the words have a half-hearted ring. Like Tony Blair, perhaps, the campaigners realize that events have gained a momentum of their own. The discovery of ricin in north London and the murder of a policeman by a terrorist suspect in Manchester ultimately may have more effect on public opinion than any number of Commons speeches.
My guess is that what looks to pollsters like unshakeable opposition to a war may simply be an instinctive reluctance to acknowledge the inevitable.
Of all of Winston Churchill's biographers, Roy Jenkins laid claim to being the only octogenarian to enter the list. The Liberal Democrat elder statesman, who died this month, takes an awfully long time building up to the Finest Hour in his thousand-page study, but the scene-setting is unfailingly elegant. As President Bush prepares to deliver his State of the Union address he can reflect on the reception of Churchill's epoch-making "Iron Curtain" speech at Fulton, Mo. Universally admired, of course? Not so.
The London Times, Mr. Jenkins informs us, was "predictably cool." The Wall Street Journal rejected the very idea of a western alliance. The New York Times' response was highly critical, while the Chicago Sun was so hostile to Churchill's "poisonous doctrines" that the Conservative leader pulled out of negotiations to serialize a collection of his speeches.
The pundits who ridiculed the "Axis of Evil" might just get their comeuppance too one day.

Clive Davis writes for the Times and The Sunday Times of London.



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