Richard Ingrams' Week: Dare we expect warts and all in Cherie's memoirs?

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The Independent Online

Cherie Blair has little in common with Oliver Cromwell, the man who famously told the portrait painter Peter Lely to make sure all his warts and pimples were included in the picture. By contrast the art of the airbrusher has seldom been seen to such good effect as on the cover of Cherie Blair's projected book of memoirs.

There is not a trace of a wrinkle, a worry line, let alone a wart or a pimple. It could be used as an advertisement for some new miraculous anti-ageing face cream.

Is that the best way to entice the book-buying public? Or might the punters think that the contents of the book will be similarly airbrushed? Might there be a long list of blemishes in the life of Cherie – the freeloading, the Bristol flats, the Mexican mud bath, Carole Caplin – that will go unmentioned just as they did in the TV programme she made shortly before her departure from Number 10?

This is the wife of a man who has just left office prematurely having perpetrated one of the great disasters of recent history, the invasion of Iraq, the consequences of which in terms of human suffering and death are still being reported day after day.

The damage to the Labour Party which she campaigned for in her youth and beyond has been incalculable. But, once again, any recognition of what has happened is unlikely to be written. The narrative (for which she is being paid £1m) will prove to be every bit as smooth and unwrinkled as the face on the cover. Will anybody want to read it?

Appearance is the only thing to go by

Such is our fascination with the McCann story that it is still occupying pages of fresh coverage every day in the press, even while the future of the capitalist system hangs in the balance. Most people's attitude to the McCanns – for or against – seems to be based solely on their appearance. We look at the pictures and decide either they look a bit shifty or they are haggard and worried and deserving of support and sympathy.

What is strange is that after so many millions of words have been written about the case we still don't seem to know very much about these two people. They are both doctors and they are practising Roman Catholics. And that's about it.

None of the details that would normally by now be public knowledge – family background, schools, previous relationships – have been forthcoming. Even their fellow holidaymakers have said nothing. All we have to go on is their physical appearance and those endless photos.

There may be an explanation for the strange lack of information. But without it it's hard to have anything more definite than a hunch. Most people will vacillate from day to day and I find I am no exception. But I have to say that I am a bit more suspicious of the McCanns now that they have hired a former BBC employee to act as their PR man, and the fact that Sir Richard Branson is spearheading the campaign to establish their innocence.



* The existence of something called BBC 6 Music came as news to me when it was named in the latest catalogue of the corporation's deception and deceit this week. I have searched the TV and radio schedules in vain to find proof that there is such a thing as BBC 6 Music but can find no trace of it.

The issue arises only because it has been shown that during an edition of the network's Clare McDonnell show, there were so few entries for a competition that the production team had to make up fictitious names.

Then there was another scandal on Tom Robinson's show when a competition received no entries at all. Again, a non-existent person was announced as the winner, although in neither case was the presenter aware of this. The BBC has apparently refused to comment on reports that up to 25 staff may be dismissed as a result of these and other irregularities.

Twenty-five? Could it be the case that there are more people working on BBC 6 Music than there are listeners?

How many people for that matter would be aware of the fact that BBC 6 Music had ceased to exist?

The explanation for the flood of stories of BBC incompetence and corruption is that it has expanded its operation to such an extent – launching more and more radio and TV channels and hiving off programmes to outside organisations – that the Director-General and his underlings can no longer control what goes on under their aegis. The only hope for the BBC is to start shutting down a large section of its operation. And they might start with BBC 6 Music.

* Many thanks to the two readers who wrote in pointing out that Ehud Olmert's remark "When America succeeds in Iraq, Israel is safer" was made in a speech delivered on 13 March 2007, not before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as I mistakenly wrote on 8 September. Click here for 8 September article.

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