Baron Bell of Belgravia is no stranger to the UAE. "I've been coming here for 30 years, since I first advised Sheikh Zayed, and I've watched it grow. I've only ever seen things getting better," he says.
When he first came, he was plain Tim Bell, best known as the communications adviser and election strategist for Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister for 11 years.
Over dinner at a swanky restaurant in the Dubai International Financial Centre the other night, he would return time and again to the achievements of her premiership, and compare her time in office to the "dismal" current condition of British and global politics.
His list of gripes about the modern world is long: the current British government ("appalling"); the US election ("it was a battle for the soul of America, and the soul of America lost"); Europe ("so depressing"); regulators in general ("they think the answer to everything is a level playing field").
So many opinions, some unpublishable, flowed from him across the dinner table it was difficult to eat, drink, listen and write it all down. He has lost none of the edge of the Downing Street years.
He was in the UAE to look after one part of the public relations business he has run since the end of the Thatcher era, and which has been through some change in the region recently. Long-time clients, such as Emirates Airline, have gone, as have some executives of his company, Bell Pottinger. It's a challenging time for the company in the Arabian Gulf.
Emirates was a client for 11 years, and some in the PR business thought its loss earlier this year would be a big blow. But Bell Pottinger replaced it quickly enough by signing Etihad Airways as a client, for its UK and European communications.
"It's a brilliant airline that believes in old-fashioned things like customer service," he says, before singing the praises of James Hogan, the Etihad Airways chief executive. "He's a frightfully intelligent Australian."
He contrasts the condition of both Emirates and Etihad ("the two best airlines in the world") with that of British Airways, which he agrees is in "terminal decline".
The reason for Lord Bell's visit to Dubai was to sign a deal that has caused some muttering in the emirate's catty PR industry. Bell Pottinger's deal with Tecom, the business parks arm of Dubai Holding, brings a seriously big client on board. The competition gossiped Bell could only have won it with a significantly lower bid.
"We have to make money out of it, and we've explained to the client how we arrive at the fee. All clients have their own tests. If you don't perform, you get fired."
Tecom, a valuable cash generator within the indebted government-owned Dubai Holding, will be served by a 10-strong team in Dubai, which Lord Bell is in the process of putting together, with strategic input from the London headquarters.
"I don't believe in the necessity of having an enormous operation on the ground, especially in the age of modern communications," he says.
"I've been very impressed by the management at Tecom, and the collegiate atmosphere there. They've hired us not just as foot soldiers, but as part of that team."
Tecom will probably have a higher profile in the near future, but "we won't overstate, hyperbolise or exaggerate," he says.
The UAE business is the biggest Bell Pottinger has in the Gulf, but there are other significant operations that also require some attention.
Some of the business in Bahrain has been scaled back since the protests began there last year, but the Bahrain Economic Development Board is still a client, and Lord Bell is committed to the place.
"Do you give up and run away, or do you fight the good fight? They have a difficult economy in trying times."
Qatar is also a focus. Bell Pottinger advises Qatar Holdings on business outside the country, and was involved in the Qataris' £1.5 billion (Dh8.76bn) purchase of Harrods, the luxury London retailer.
"Qatar is very interesting, the emir is a wise man who has made the right decisions, and has a very sensible attitude towards foreign partnerships. And Al Jazeera has been a phenomenon, a much-needed outlet to the world."
There are also other interests to look after, in a client list that has sometimes been criticised in the western press for the inclusion of some of the world's more troubled regimes, such as Belarus ("no longer a client - they didn't keep their promises").
The Russian oil giant Rosneft is probably the biggest in a list that includes a handful of corporations from former Soviet countries.
"I do believe in globalisation, but I don't believe in going round the world telling people how to organise their politics, or to tell them to adopt western ways," he says.
"As I see it, the Gulf states spend lots of money on the well-being of their citizens, and they are loyal to their friends."