Mistress Quinn and Consequences thereof

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The Independent Online

In my last Paper on the present State of Affairs I gave my Prediction that anno. 2004 would see a very surprising Fitt of frosty Weather, which would last nine Days, and also that there would be a great Scandal in the Ministry; both of which turned out to be true, except that, with respect to the Scandal, my Account was out of necessity couch'd in the most generall Terms, partly owing to my proper Concern for the Honour of a Lady, and partly to the Limitations of my optick Glasses, Astrolabes, &c., &c.

The Lady in question, Mris. Kimberly Quinn (or Fortier, as she used to be) hath granted her Favors, not only to Master David Blunkett, that was a great Figure in the Ministry, enjoining all those who would listen to him to lead a godly, righteous, and sober Life; but also to divers Figures of Pomp and Power in Grub-street, some of 'em highly placed in the Television; with the Consequence that a great Fear hath taken hold of the whole Race of Scribblers, who look to Mris. Quinn (or Fortier, that was) like a Village of Peasants expecting an Attack in the Night by a ravening Wolf from the Hills.

As to which, I will say nothing farther at this Juncture, for fear of causing Offence, which it hath ever been my great Purpose to avoid; except to note that the kindly Knight, Alan Budd, that is the Provost of The Queen's Coll. in Oxford, hath made a great Report into the Affair of Master Blunkett, Mris. Quinn and her Maid- servant from the South Seas, in which he concludes, by the infallible Application of the Laws of Logick and the Rules of Evidence, that, on the one hand, Master Blunkett may have committed a grievous Errour, of which he is deserving of the most condign Punishment (altho' the gentle Knight does not go so far as this); but that, on the other hand, Master Blunkett may have done nothing of the kind; or, if he did, 'twas from the purest of Motives, to test the System.

In much the same Way would a Thief say that he had committed a Robbery to test the Vigilance of the Constabulary: in all this the Question of the Hour being, not whether Mr Secretary Blunkett, as he used to be in happier Times, did right, or wrong, or, to say the truth, neither, but, rather, whether Master Anth. Blair, without great Inconvenience and Cryes of Shame (a quality in which Master Blair is deficient), will be able to bring Master Blunkett back into the Ministry as Leader of the Commons-house or to occupy some trumpery Position beforehand in the great Contest for the same, that is due in May anno. 2005, or so 'tis universally predicted by the wise; altho' my optick Glasses provide no clear Guidance.

To state the Case differently: the great question is not whether Master Blunkett did right, or wrong, or neither, but, to use plain Language, how much Master Blair can get away with, without drawing down on his Head the Wrath of the Daily Mail (The Sun, for these Purposes, being firmly in Master Blair's Pocket, like a Rabbit in the Bag of a Poacher, together with all the other Sheets that belong to Master Rupert Murdoch). But, for the moment, Master Blair must needs shift as best he can with his Replacement in the Ministry, Mr Secretary Charles Clarke that was in controull of Schools, Colleges, and other Places of Learning, a full Account of which would be taedious.

But of Master Clarke himself I will now tell you more. He is a Son of Sir Richard Clarke, that was a great Figure in the Treasury in the Days of Mr Secretary Harold Macmillan. He was known to his Friends, and to others who wished to show a familiarity with the great World, as Otto Clarke: but the Reason for this strange Appellation, or Nickname, I do not know; otherwise I would give it, as the Reader's due.

Sir Richard, or Otto, was among the Figures of his time in White-hall that were written of in Terms of the highest Admiration by Master Anthony Sampson, that last week was call'd by his Maker to a better Place aet. 78. He wrote of his diamond-hard Brain, with other Conceits and Parallels too numerous to list conveniently, in Words which the ancient Greeks, in their Wisdom, reserv'd for the Gods on Mount Olympus. But alas, all turn'd to Dust and Ashes, with a Run on the Currency, savage Cuts, &c., &c.; altho', to say the truth, Otto was no more to blame than any other Denizen of White-hall.

His son Charles was at Highgate-school in London and at King's Coll. in Cambridge, where he studied naturall Philosophy; but thereafter chose a different Means of Advancement in the World from his father; becoming, first, a benefic'd Agitator, and then, Chief Factotum in the Office of Master Neil Kinnock in the Days when Master Kinnock was Leader of the People's Party; so following the same Path as Master Peter Mandelson and Mris. Patricia Hewitt who have, like Master Clarke, prospered mightily under the new Dispensation of Master Blair.

Master Clarke now faces a Difficulty, like a Huntsman that sees a flowing Stream before him and, after that, a Pit cover'd over with Brambles, viz., the decision of their Lordships' House in the case of the Mohamedans incarcerated without Charge or Trial at Belmarsh Jail in Kent. Their Lordships have made a Decision, my Lord Bingham well to the fore, that the Prisoners are held unlawfully on account of a Breach of their human Rights (so-call'd) and have left it at that: with the Consequence that there are two Schools of Thought, one being that Master Clarke or some other Servant of the Crown should give an Order for their immediate Release; the other, that Parliament hath made its Decision on behalf of the sovereign People, altho', to speak the truth, the Decision was made by Master Blunkett, whom the Members of the Commons followed, like Sheep going over a Cliff, a course which they pursued on Monday likewise.

In accordance with the Fashion in the Ministry, however, there is supposed to be a third Way, viz., that the Mohamedans will stay where they are, slowly taking leave of their Senses, but that Parliament (which is to say, Master Clarke and his Friends) will seek a Means of changing the Law in such an ingeniose Manner as to satisfy their Lordships.

As to the Chances of Success of this dubious Enterprise, I leave to the Reader to decide, but will conclude with one Reflection. When my Lord Irvine of Lairg brought in the Human Rights Act anno. 1998, he made sure the senior Lord was my Lord Bingham, so putting the Nose of my Lord Browne-Wilkinson out of joint. 'Twas thought in the highest Places in the Land that my Lord Bingham would be, as 'tis said, sound on human Rights, i.e., not unhelpful to Her Majesty's Government. Now see where their Tricks have landed 'em! God save the Queen.