Richard Ingrams: The mysterious case of the missing neocons


What people don't say is often more significant than what they do.

So it can sometimes be a useful exercise to flick through the index of a book and note those who don't get a mention. In the case of Blair's memoirs (now available at half- price in Waterstone's and WH Smith) I looked under N for neocons. They, after all, were a group of influential American politicians who were arguing the case for the invasion of Iraq even before 9/11. Any historian of the 2003 invasion has to start with them.

But there is no mention of neocons in A Journey, no mention of individuals such as Paul Wolfowitz, later president of the World Bank.

But the Foreign Office, and presumably Blair himself, must have known of their existence and their powerful influence. Blair's clever foreign secretary, Robin Cook, would almost certainly have known about them, and he, to be fair to Blair, does get a mention or two in the book.

I had hoped to find some explanation for Cook's surprise sacking as foreign secretary in 2001. But all Blair tells us is that, though he had done a good job, he had been doing it for four years, and that, in Blair's view, was quite long enough. He does not explain how the same rule didn't seem to apply to prime ministers and chancellors of the Exchequer who, unlike the foreign secretary, could soldier on indefinitely.

The real reason for Robin Cook's dismissal, I suspect, was that he was distrusted by Bush, Cheney and those unmentioned neocons. But Blair is never going to admit to that in a month of Sundays.

Some things we don't really want to know

Predictably Blair denies the now proven charge that Downing Street "sexed up" the famous dossier making the case for the invasion of Iraq, but can the same charge be made against his memoirs? Have they too been "sexed up" to make them more likely to sell in greater quantities than the bog-standard political memoir? Take the following truly cringe-making passage referring to Cherie: "That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me, told me what I needed to be told ... I needed that love that Cherie gave me, I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instincts, knowing I would need every ounce of emotional power and resilience to cope with what lay ahead."

Blair is no stranger to the world of fantasy, as we know, but I doubt if he is capable of writing such rubbish unaided. Would it be far-fetched to suggest that the chief sexer-upper Alastair Campbell lent a hand when it came to beefing up the narrative a bit?

After all, Campbell learned his journalistic trade writing for the sex magazine Forum and is a dab hand when it comes to describing steamy encounters in the bedroom. I suggest this only tentatively as I have no wish to suffer the fate of poor Andrew Gilligan.

Who's really guilty in the Tory camp?

Let's be clear, say the Tory critics of Mr William Hague. We are not for a moment questioning the Foreign Secretary's morals. It is a matter of judgement and Mr Hague's alleged lack of it that gives rise to disquiet.

This alleged lack of judgement is manifest, these unmanned senior Tories allege, not only in the sharing of hotel rooms but in Mr Hague's statement on Wednesday in which he gave the public intimate details of his private life. Intriguingly it was David Cameron's media adviser, the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who is said to have advised Mr Hague to make the statement on the very same day that Tony Blair's book was published, this being, in the famous phrase, "a good day to bury bad news".

Those senior Tories who criticise Mr Hague have nothing to say about Mr Coulson, let alone his master Mr Cameron. Mr Hague has given a job as his adviser to a seemingly unqualified young man of only 25. But Mr Cameron has given a job as his adviser to a former editor of a newspaper at the centre of a major scandal involving wide-scale and illegal phone tapping. If lack of judgement is to be the issue, which of the two, Hague or Cameron, wins the prize hands down?