WHAT THE PAPERS SAID
NICHOLAS FEARN REVIEWS THE WEEK'S PRESS
Sunday 02 August 1998
History may be kinder to Mr Davies, judging by the homages paid to Tiny Rowland, himself once famously described as "the unacceptable face of capitalism". The papers all recognised his faults, with Tom Bower in the Mail reminding us that Rowland's empire was built on "lies, bribery and the charm of a super salesman". But to the former Zambian President, Kenneth Kaunda, he was a man "full of compassion", infused with "love for fellow human beings". Moreover, according to Nelson Mandela, "He made an enormous contribution, not only to South Africa but to the whole of Africa. We will remember him as a long-standing friend in the struggle against apartheid". Somewhere, far away, camels were stampeding through the eyes of needles.
"Speak no ill of the dead," quoted Nicholas Morrell, Vice-President of Lonrho. No such constraint can be expected of the dead themselves, however. Certain victims of the Cabinet reshuffle wasted no time in apportioning blame. Frank Field pointed the finger at Gordon Brown for the failure to reform welfare. To this responded the Mirror's Paul Routledge, "Nothing shows the nature of a man more than his leaving of a job," and "In his self-pitying display of petulance, Frank Field showed why he is not the man to reform the welfare state".
The Conservative press remained loyal to the ex-minister. The Times said that "Mr Field's resignation may be represented as an act of pique at not securing a seat in Cabinet.
It was, however, a principled stand rare in contemporary politics". The Telegraph reported Mr Field "striding purposefully" into Downing Street and complained that "the most important appointment is a disappointment, with the departure of Frank Field".
If only Derek Draper were still on hand to report from "Inside the mind of New Labour". Instead, the press had to impute the motives of the baby- faced executioner.
For the Mail's David Hughes, the Prime Minister's primary aim was to curb the power of the Chancellor, and he "used not so much an axe as a scalpel to cut Gordon Brown down to size". Peter Oborne in the Express called the reshuffle "a cold, methodical and chilling retribution upon Gordon Brown". The Chancellor's ally, Nick Brown, found himself "promoted" from Chief Whip to Minister for Agriculture. As Oborne pointed out though, "When Stalin ran Russia, out-of-favour ministers were despatched to run power stations in Siberia. In modern Britain they get promoted to agriculture".
But what of the future of welfare reform? To the Telegraph's Janet Daley, "The myth of Blairite radicalism is extinguished. To smash any remaining hope of serious welfare reform, Alastair Darling will now presumably run the Department of Social Security on approved Brownite lines".
David Aaronovitch in the Independent acknowledged that perhaps "a more incremental approach headed by the new, cool, silvery Social Security Secretary, Alastair Darling, stands more chance of delivering real change," but asked whether the latter "believes, as Mr Field did, that there is something called 'welfare dependency'?" Frank Field not only believed but also cared, and it will be difficult for Mr Darling to measure up to him on that account.
Great fun was had by all following the deal made by Monica Lewinsky to trade a full testimony on her alleged relationship with Bill Clinton in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Clinton's reaction was subject to much speculation, but few saw a clear escape route for the President.
The Independent outlined several future histories, including: "Clinton the lying perv. A vindicated Lewinsky holds a publishers' auction of Monica: The Untold Story, with Hollywood queuing up to make the movie. Clinton retires to write his memoirs; Hillary is professionally more successful than ever".
This permutation may be less likely given that it first required the President to confess to the nation. We will have to wait and see whether he takes the advice of the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland: "He might argue that, under his definition, oral sex is not sex at all - and that therefore he never committed perjury. It would be an eerie parallel of Clinton's 'I didn't inhale' defence on dope smoking".
Whatever happens to Clinton, he will still be forgiven in shorter time than the 45 years endured by the family of the executed Derek Bentley. As Bentley was belatedly cleared by the Lord Chief Justice Bingham, the Express called the case "The worst miscarriage of justice in history". But as one person is forgiven, another is blamed.
For Bernard Levin in the Times, the culprit was the original trial judge, Lord Goddard, calling him "a savage man". The Independent fingered, among others, former Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who turned down calls for a pardon in 1993. The Guardian led and, on behalf of everyone, finished with the moving account of Bentley's final hours written by the hangman, Albert Pierrepoint. It began: "When you go to hang a boy of 19 years old, it does not matter that he is tall and broad-shouldered, for at nine o'clock on the morning he is to die, he still looks only a boy".
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