Miles Kington Remembered: The strange case of the disappearing crime tsar</I>

12 June 2001
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The Independent Online

They said on the news this morning that they've found a middle- aged man wandering round Britain with total memory loss. All that is known about him is that he has a Yorkshire accent. When questioned about his past, he says that he only has a dim memory of being in a great disaster and has no idea what to do next. So far nobody has shown any desire to claim him...

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, What on earth is all this about?

Miles Kington writes: Oh, there was a report on the news today that a man who was found mugged in Toronto has completely lost all memory of who he is. One of the few clues they have to go on is that he has a Yorkshire accent. Well, it occurred to me that William Hague is in a similar situation. He has just lost his identity and is looking for a new life. And he has a Yorkshire accent. So...

A reader writes: So you thought you would write about one in terms of the other?

Miles Kington writes: Yes.

A reader writes: To what end?

Miles Kington writes: Well, to amuse you...

A reader writes: And you have failed. Not only did I not know about the man in Toronto, but I am less than fascinated by the fate of William Hague. Try something else.

Miles Kington writes: Oh... OK. Here we go again ...

The Tory party is pinning its hopes on an adaptation of the Survivor formula. In their version of the show, five candidates for the leadership will enter a committee room and one after the other will explain why they should take over the world as soon as the public tires of Tony Blair. One by one, they will be voted off by the viewers until the winner, the last one left, will become the new leader of the Tory party, and it will be his job ...

A reader writes: Or her job.

Miles Kington writes: I beg your pardon?

A reader writes: Or her job. The winner could be Ann Widdecombe.

Miles Kington writes: No, it couldn't.

A reader writes: Why not?

Miles Kington writes: Because she could never be anything but a sidekick. She is just right for the jolly, Dawn French-type, supporting role, not for best actress.

A reader writes: Talking of which, what's Dawn French been up to recently? She seems to have vanished...

Miles Kington writes: Ah! That gives me an idea...!

Where Are They Now? A regular feature which looks at those who were once on the front pages but have now vanished from the headlines. This week, we look at the recent careers of such forgotten people as Boris Yeltsin, David Mellor, Virginia Bottomley, Paddy Ashdown, John Birt ...

A reader writes: Good God, John Birt! I'd forgotten about him. The last we heard was that Tony Blair was making him his Crime Tsar. But that was years ago. Whatever happened to him?

Miles Kington writes: I don't know, but I feel another idea coming on...

I was quietly reading the paper in our rooms at 221b Baker Street (writes Dr Watson), when Holmes interrupted me with a question.

"Have you ever heard of John Birt, Watson?"

"I don't believe I have. Who is he?"

"He is the man who is known as the Tsar of Crime. Any crime that is committed in London is said to be his responsibility."

"Good Lord, Holmes! If he is so important, I am amazed I have not heard of him."

"Oh, he is an exceedingly clever man, Watson. Anonymity is his speciality. He has been known to worm his way to the top of a national organisation, take money out of it and leave it a shadow of its former self. His hand is everywhere but his fingerprint nowhere. He is quite capable of taking money even from the Government and remaining invisible in return. A master of disguise, he has been mistaken in the past for Chris Patten, Alistair Darling, even John Major..."

A reader writes: I'm not sure that this is getting anywhere, except towards the libel courts. I would advise you to try something else.

Miles Kington writes: We've run out of space, I'm afraid.

A reader writes: Well, see you again tomorrow.

Miles Kington writes: Me, yes. You, no.