Richard Ingrams’s Week: We could all do with a little dignity in these hard times

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The Independent Online

Dignity is doing well, say the reports – Dignity in this instance being the name of a large undertaking business quoted on the stock exchange. Whatever may be happening in other sectors, plenty of people are still dying and being treated to expensive funerals by their loved ones.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland Dignitas, the name of an assisted suicide clinic, is also thriving, despite the recession or perhaps because of it. It appears that more and more of us may be feeling inclined to end it all. And, meanwhile, the campaigners for euthanasia stress the right of everyone to die in dignity, though personally I have never thought of dying as a very dignified affair.

Dignity is also something cherished by Sir Max Mosley, who appeared before a House of Commons Committee to outline the case for a new privacy law. His dignity, he told the MPs, had been permanently lost to him by the disclosure in the News of the World that he engaged in S&M orgies with prostitutes – in a thoroughly dignified spirit, we imagine.

Some observers were puzzled by the deference shown to this multimillionaire pervert by the assembled MPs. But the explanation is simple. Though perhaps not S&M orgyists themselves, they feel a natural sympathy with any public figure like Mosley whose private misdemeanours have been revealed in the press.

They would not say so publicly, of course, but they too would very much welcome a state of affairs where they could feel free from possible exposure in the tabloids, whether they were fiddling their expenses, conducting extra-marital affairs or doing any of those shameful things that MPs are regrettably prone to do.

Beware the dangers of email

We are heading for a world in which it will be very difficult and/or expensive to send written messages other than by email. But the perils of emails, which are virtually indestructible and also comparatively easy for hackers to uncover, don't seem to deter people from sending them. Emailing has become something of an addiction.

Tony Blair's head of the Cabinet Defence Secretariat, Desmond Bowen, must be wishing he had spoken in person or on the phone to Sir John Scarlett when he was preparing his dossier on the proposed invasion of Iraq in 2003. As it is, his email has now been published and gives perhaps the clearest proof yet of the Blair government's substitution of propaganda for truth. "In looking at the WMD sections," Bowen emailed, "you will clearly want to be as firm and authoritative as you can be. You will clearly need to judge the extent to which you need to hedge your judgements with for example 'it is almost certain' and other caveats."

The message behind those weasel words is clear. Scarlett is being told that it would be inadvisable if he were to qualify the intelligence about WMD which we now know to have been flimsy in the extreme and to present it as hard facts. Bowen goes on to emphasise that if there are too many examples of what he calls "hedging", they will be used by opponents of the invasion to attack the Government.

So much for the insistence by Blair and his foul-mouthed henchman Alastair Campbell that there was no pressure put on the intelligence chief by No 10 when it came to the wording of the dossier. So much for John Scarlett's pathetic assertion that it was all his own work.

Spare the Army – but don't call them heroes

It seemed indicative of prejudice and ignorance on the part of anti-army Muslim demonstrators (pictured) who disrupted a victory march in Luton to refer to the troops on their placards as "the butchers of Basra", when the people doing the butchering in Basra have generally been Muslim butchers butchering their fellow Muslims with various degrees of savagery and a total contempt for human life.

But if butchers was a misnomer it was equally unhelpful for sections of the press to refer to the parading soldiers as "heroes", when for the past year or so most of them have been sitting in Basra airport polishing their boots or whatever soldiers do nowadays to pass the time.

Soldiers in Northern Ireland would seem to have even less to do than their counterparts in Iraq. They don't seem to have to wear conventional uniforms; they are free to send out for pizzas, and they have even been excused from guard duty – a task that has been outsourced to civilian personnel armed only with pistols.

Questioned about this particular innovation following the murder of two soldiers by the Continuity IRA, the brigadier in charge said it freed up the Army to do more vital tasks. But it wasn't made clear what these tasks were or, for that matter, 12 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, what the Army was doing in Northern Ireland at all – apart that is from providing soft targets for the butchers of Ulster.

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