David Cameron cold-shouldered the Chancellor by going to Iceland….

Sir John Chilcot announced that his report into the Iraq war will be published in June of next year. Or possibly July. Let’s not push our luck. Anyway, this news has set up a race to see if Chilcot gets there before David Cameron reveals his conditions for supporting Britain remaining in the European Union. Chilcot is bogged down in a process known as “Maxwellisation”, which roughly means checking that no one is going to be offended by what he has to say before he says it. The Prime Minister is engaged in “Maxwallisation”. This entails checking that no one is going to think he is too much of a comedian from what he is asking for, before he asks it.

In his ceaseless – and, so far, largely fruitless – search for allies, Mr Cameron travelled this week to the far north. Being a lad from Chipping Norton, what sounded like a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon, turned in to the need all the way to Reykavik to find another group of leaders whom he could infuriate by not saying precisely what it is that he wants. The PM’s dance of the seven hundred veils continues.

The event he went for was something called the Northern Future Forum – not on this occasion one of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s press releases – but a powerful gathering of countries clustered around the Arctic Circle, who like to get together at this time of year in order to say goodbye to the sun. It used to be called the Nordic-Baltic Summit until it became clear that Britain wanted to join in. The Chinese President may get away with claiming that Britain and China are on the same continent, but in Whitehall although geography is one of the lesser humanities, they do not like to see it ransacked entirely.

After exhaustive seconds of internet research, I can reveal that it is not the first time that David Cameron has rocked up at this gig. In 2011, the Arctic axis located itself in London and listened to a speech by Mr Cameron that began with one of those stories along the lines of what it would be like to live in a world where the French did the cooking, the Italians made the clothes and the Germans forged the emissions tests. The “good life”, claimed their host, lay in bringing together all sorts of Nordo-Baltic characteristics, including Lithuanian levels of internet access, female participation in Iceland and the Norwegian understanding of energy storage. No doubt this had them nodding along and it did the trick because the PM got invited back. Even so the Icelandic prime minister, cunning fellow, took precautions against too much speechifying by giving everyone some Lego to play with and telling them to make a duck. Mr Cameron’s duck, we are told, came out looking like a dog, suggesting that he might have lost the pub sign artists’ vote next time round. At least it, however, it was some sort of tangible outcome. One is bound to wonder too whether the Congress of Vienna wouldn’t have had a happier long-term legacy if only it had been presided over by Iceland’s premier.

No closer to being able to say exactly what it is Britain wants from its renegotiated relationship with the European Union, the Prime Minister at least told us what he doesn’t want. In a word:  Norway. Notwithstanding the deep insights they have developed into batteries, the Norwegians, according to Mr Cameron, have got themselves a bum deal as far as the EU is concerned. They are a slave to the rules, yet deprived of the privilege of being in the room making ducks from bricks while unintelligible men from Brussels set out what the rules are going to be. This was interpreted as a rebuke to those of Mr Cameron’s Parliamentary party who rather fancy having a bit of what Norway has got. They have a romantic view of the place, all Vikings, Greig and non-Icelandic levels of female participation; the reality, the Prime Minister explained, is rather more taut and tortured, like a play by Ibsen.

Another reason for going to Reykavik was for the Prime Minister to put a lot of distance between himself and his Chancellor. Mr Osborne had one of those weeks that caused the political commentators that flutter around him to execute a sharp but shameless handbrake turn. The clumsy reverse that the Chancellor is about to perform so as to back out of his tax credit hole, is as nothing compared to the volte face that the pundits have been making in their estimation of Mr Osborne’s capabilities and prospects. It helps when they do this that political hacks possess the memory recall of goldfish. When, earlier in the year, they were heralding Mr Osborne’s certain ascent to the premiership, and lauding his mastery of the Westminster village, they conveniently forgot that only two years ago they were writing him off as the pasty tax numpty. Now, once again, everyone is wondering how it is that such a political master strategist could make such a mess. It never seems to occur to the goldfish that perhaps he is not quite the master political strategist even they can remember saying that he is.  The Chancellor himself simply flails on. He overcame the Omnishambles Budget by losing weight and buying trousers that were endearingly a little too short for his legs. It is unclear what he can do to recover this time round, especially since in Jeremy Hunt’s NHS the surgical removal of smirks is strictly rationed.

The vote by the House of Lords to delay the implementation of the Osborne tax credits policy provoked, according to the most splenetic commentators, a constitutional crisis. The crisis is that the Conservatives do not have a majority in the House of Lords. This, according to the reactionary faction, sins against the unwritten constitution. Downing Street ordered a review, amid mutterings that the answer may be to flood the Lords with enough new Tory peers so as to return the situation to The Way Things Have Always Been. The problem with this approach is that you can never tell where it will end. Already unusual in the world in possessing an unelected legislative chamber, Britain could soon stake a claim for true uniqueness by having the only Parliament where there are more people sitting in its upper house than outside it. That could only end badly.  There will come a time when we will have to order a cull, and start harvesting their lordships for their ermine.

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