Yet again, it is with distaste that we find portions of the press turning, like the feral beasts of his own depiction, on Mr Tony Blair. The latest torrent of scorn attends the keynote address of last week in which that most excellent man of peace called on the West to ally itself not only with his fellow-dove Vladimir Putin, but also with some of the more cuddly Gulf regimes, against such wicked emblems of Islamic extremism as the Muslim Brotherhood.
In The Independent on Sunday, Patrick Cockburn takes issue with this. Admittedly, his piece is so brilliantly argued that at first sight the analysis seems persuasive. Superficially, it does seem a little odd (if not “demented” as Cockburn puts it) for Blair to target the Muslim Brotherhood – which was democratically elected to power, however briefly, in Egypt – while implicitly praising Mr Putin and Saudi Arabia – where most expressions of political dissent have lately been criminalised – as worthy allies in the struggle to spread tolerance.
Yet, on reflection, the notion that Mr T directs his righteous wrath at the wrong target is wildly misdirected itself. If anything highlights his unerring accuracy, it is the valedictory feral beast speech he gave shortly before departing Downing Street in 2007. A less self-interested orator might have singled out certain tabloids, not all now extant, belonging to Rupert Murdoch, one of whose publishing firms had agreed to pay him a reported £7m for his memoir.
It took a man with both unimpeachable integrity and flawless perspective to identify The Independent as the bad guy (specifically, for its sceptical take on his approach to the Middle East). He was quite correct then, as he is now in lauding by implication the House of Saud’s impressively progressive values (theirs being the only nation, as Cockburn reminds us, in which women are not allowed to drive), and it ill-behoves anyone to call him demented.
The crucial thing is that the entire media, feral and house-trained, continues to treat his thoughts on all matters, but especially the region over which he has sprinkled the gold dust of peace these past seven years, with the reverence they timelessly demand.
Mildly insensitive? Hain’s not cowed by such thoughts
Very good to find one of Mr Tony’s trustiest lieutenants of old joining Andrew Marr on his sabbath sofa yesterday. Peter Hain, who as a cabinet minister underscored his genuinely heroic work fighting apartheid by cheerleading for the sanctions that killed untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, popped along to review the papers.
With Liverpool poised to meet Chelsea at Anfield a few hours later, Peter reminded viewers of Bill Shankly’s fabled dictum about football being not a matter of life and death, but a great deal more important than that. Now there are those who might have wondered about the timing of trotting that one out within a fortnight of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. In refusing to be cowed by concerns about seeming mildly insensitive, Peter showed a hint of the bravery that led him to support the sanctions which denied the young cancer sufferers of Iraq the drugs that might have saved their lives.
A change of heart – or an ear that needs syringing
Also popping up on the show was Jeremy Hunt and, having chatted with him about financial pressures on the NHS, Marr raised a more urgent issue than that. As a refreshing change, the Sunday papers were laden with speculation about the London mayor’s possible return to Westminster at the general election and, if so, what this may presage. “And you’re going to get Boris back in the House of Commons to lead you?” mused Marr. “Well, that would be wonderful,” said Jeremy.
Either he has jettisoned the exaggerated loyalty that saw him act as a human shield for David Cameron over phone hacking, and thus saw him promoted rather than sacked as he richly deserved, or he didn’t hear the question. If the latter, an emergency ear-syringing is indicated. This procedure, unlike certain breast cancer drugs, is available on the NHS.
It’s certainly a libel, but I’m not sure who against
My beloved mother became the latest to tell me that Googling my name brings up an entry about a slightly better known Matthew Norman – “an Australian citizen convicted in Indonesia for drug trafficking as a member of the Bali Nine. Born 17 January 1986 (age 28)” ends the blurb, beside which is a byline photo of your diarist. While serving life in an Indonesian nick may well be a little ageing, no 28-year-old on earth could possibly look like this without spending 11 hours being attended to by the make-up artist who transformed John Hurt into the Elephant Man.
“Isn’t this a serious libel?” asks my mother. It almost certainly is. The difficult question, should any libel lawyer among you care to offer a pro bono opinion, is – libel against whom?
It’s total politics between Boris and Govey
Our glorious Mayor of London has launched a subtly encoded counterstrike (see the decrypted version, below) against Michael Gove.
After having a few at dinner at Rupert Murdoch’s Mayfair flat recently, you may recall, Govey told the old sweetheart that Boris is far too lightweight to lead anything other than perhaps a conga.
In response, the high-minded Boris tells Total Politics magazine that he wants “to hear a lot less about what other Conservatives have got to say about each other, and much more about what we’re going to do to win the election”.
Or, as my Lingua Politico-English dictionary translates: “Shut your fat gob, you newt-faced Scottish twat, or I’ll come round yours with my mate Darius Guppy, and we’ll shut it for you.”
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