Sarah Sands: The true message of Dave's Christmas card

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The Independent Online

The Boden winter catalogue is a reminder of life's verities. It is always funny to wrap bright, knitted scarves round snowmen and old school ties round dogs. Young mothers should always have long, glossy, straight hair, scrubbed faces and coltish figures. Holidays do not require sunshine. Boden people paddle hilariously in Boden boots through rivers and run across beaches in woolly hats. Children scramble on to the bonnets of Land Rovers. If I buy Boden please, please can I be Samantha Cameron?

The Camerons' family Christmas card reminded me of the ones I receive from Condé Nast staff. It is not political to send Christmas cards of your family – it is Bodenesque. If you have a fit wife and happy children, why would you not celebrate it? Chronic self-doubt is a bit common.

The choice of Christmas card is, of course, a statement of values. Mine this year is creepily correct – recycled paper, tick, a charity that is not too familiar and popular, tick, a faux naïf picture that could have been done by a child or an impaired adult. It looks pretty dreary alongside the large, heavy cards from Boden folk.

David Cameron disarmed a New Labour strategy by refusing to apologise for his Eton education. He said that he was grateful for it. Because he did not mind it, neither did the electorate. They did not think, "Bastard." They thought, "I wish I could send my own children there."

Cameron consistently scores highly on personal qualities. It is his policies that are floundering. What can he do when the public fearfully clings to Gordon Brown, as the man who can get out us out of a mess that he probably got us into?

The Boden family on holiday was successful in the summer for Cameron and can do no harm now. It is British based and recession friendly. Those of us checking out the Cameron North Kensington living room for Stuff could see only a Cath Kidston watering can on a shelf and the shadow of a potty. This had the ring of authenticity. Friends of the Camerons say that there is an unfussy atmosphere to the house.

The portrait of the family may be authentic but is it cynical to display it in a Christmas card? Reactions separate on party lines. Guardian internet comment is broadly sceptical, while Conservative sympathisers are grateful to see married parents with their children as a public statement.

A friend of mine who works in the arts asked me the other day if politicians were as calculating as suggested in David Hare's play Gethsemane. I answered that I had not heard politics discussed in such naked terms. My friend then referred me to a recent lunch at which David Cameron had spoken, in which the Tory leader wondered at Barack Obama's naivety in appointing his rival Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. My friend was shocked by Cameron's political arteries. Could he not allow that Hillary Clinton was a formidable figure, worth appointing for her talent?

American commentators point out that Obama is from Chicago, where rulers are taught to hug their enemies close. With good politicians it is difficult to tell what is sincere feeling and what is calculation. Sometimes it can be the same thing.