Diary: Nice speech David, but do learn when to stop
Monday 13 June 2011
We all make painful sacrifices for our work, but few half as excruciating as reading The Speech David Miliband Never Gave in its entirety, as I have done to spare you the misery. This is of course the address David would have given in September had he not lost the leadership by a whisker; the tour de force of forensic pyrotechnics which someone – and it seems futile to guess who – leaked at the very moment the Volvo Plot was causing his brother such grief. Don't believe a word, by the way, about David being a sour, embittered grudge-nurser who lives only to replace his ousted sibling. For buried amid all the Blairishly verb-less verities lay one gleaming gem of wisdom. "A family," David would have said, "is a covenant of love." Oh but it is. A scared, unbreakable bond. "A party," he'd have added, "is a covenant of trust." Again, uncommonly true. Where would Labour be today were its senior figures riven by mutual distrust? Yet for all its magnificence, the speech contains one caution for David's admirers. Where Ed's victory address lasted barely 10 minutes, David's, at almost 6,000 words, would have endured an hour at least. Being the Fidel Castro to Ed's pithier Raoul has many charms, but David does seem slightly ill-suited to the soundbite age.
* There are those, however, who will wonder whether this is the real speech at all – or a newly revised, lengthened version designed to make David look smart and prescient at Little Ed's expense. Cobblers. If anything it has been shortened. Is it conceivable that he would have spoken for an hour without a single word of tribute to the brother he had just defeated? Whatever a family may be, David, it cannot be a conspiracy of silence.
* Splendid, as ever, to find Mr Tony Blair popping over, this time to plug the paperback of his memoir A Journey. "I haven't seen him playing me," he told the Observer of Michael Sheen. "I know I'd just be screaming at the TV: 'It wasn't like that at all!'." Indeed it was not. In The Queen, for example, Helen Mirren's monarch tells Sheen's newly-elected Blair: "You are my tenth prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born." Writer Peter Morgan says he made this line up ... yet somehow it made it, virtually verbatim, into A Journey. Not that Mr B saw the film, of course. Just an eerie instance of life imitiating art imitating life.
* I am distressed to find the Father Ted co-writer Graham Linehan taking umbrage at being "ambushed" on the Today programme. Already livid at being joined by a theatre critic who disputed the wisdom of adapting an Ealing Comedy, what caused this least pompous of chaps to flip was Justin Webb asking if he had changed it much. "Have you changed it much?" repeats Graham with explosive scorn. "Basically, asking if I'd transcribed the thing." The liberty. This is the most grotesque case of gotcha journalism since Sarah Palin was asked which papers she reads. How Graham avoided lapsing into Father Jack by telling Webbo to "feck off" I will never know.
* Meanwhile, contention surrounds another adaptation of a movie classic. Stephen Fry is reworking The Dambusters, and comes under fire for changing the name of Guy Gibson's dog from Nigger to Digger. Historian Jim Shortland is unhappy at this substitution of "historical accuracy for political correctness, in particular for the American market". He is absolutely right. The word would cause not one iota of offence over here, and we can't forever be sacrificing our heritage on the altar of American prissiness.
* I am startled to discover that others are less taken with The Times sportswriter Simon Barnes than myself. The paper's Feedback column dwells on a complaint from reader John Hortop, who reports that one Simon piece alone sent him thrice to the dictionary ("whiffling", "benthic", and "tulgey"). I will not tolerate the slur that he can veer towards the pretentious. It was he who described Roger Federer as "every bit as myriad-minded as Shakespeare", and nothing less can be said of Simon himself.
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