Richard Ingrams' Week: Meaningless lectures by men of straw

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The Independent Online

People have such short memories these days. So I wonder how many Europeans would recognise the figure of our Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as he lectures the Iranians on the perils of nuclear power.

Some would, one hopes, seeing Straw on the telly answering questions from journalists, ask themselves: "Isn't that funny-looking chap the same man we saw warmly embracing Colin Powell at the United Nations in February 2003? Wasn't he the fellow seen earnestly nodding his agreement when Powell dramatically held up a little phial of some supposedly poisonous substance which he said could result in thousands of deaths?"

One thing is certain. It would never for a moment cross Jack Straw's mind that, in view of his prominent role in the great Iraq disaster, he was possibly not the best qualified person now to warn the world of the dangers posed by the government of Iran.

Protected as he is like most politicians by a cocoon of self-esteem, it would not begin to occur to him that the warning might be more convincing coming from somebody who had not been discredited by his previous warnings of Saddam's nuclear threat.

Of course it is perfectly possible that Iran poses a threat in the way Saddam did not - though personally I doubt this very much.

But if it is indeed the case that the Iranians are a danger to world peace then Straw could end up just like the boy in the fable who cried wolf.

One can only once again express amazement that nearly all those British and American politicians responsible for the Iraq fiasco are not only still in office but are also still in the business of seeking to make the world "a safer place".

Prince Charles has a new political double

There is a general view that David Cameron is a kind of imitation Blair, a Blair Mark II.

I think myself that Cameron is a lot more like Prince Charles. He has that same slightly condescending air of the wealthy patrician wanting to do his bit to help the community. The sort of person who in the old days might get involved in youth clubs and try to get young hoodlums off the streets and playing ping-pong.

Nothing wrong with that, except that in both cases they bypass the conditions that have put the hoodlums on the street in the first place and which can be dealt with only by radical political measures.

Both men have taken to expressing concern about green issues, energy saving, etc, partly because these are issues where there is limited scope for controversy. We are all in favour of saving the planet, aren't we?

Cameron's reliance on Zac Goldsmith, the multimillionaire son of the late man-eating shark Sir James, reminds me of Charles's patronage of Jonathon Porritt, who advises him on matters ecological.

When Cameron attacked WH Smith recently for selling half-priced chocolate oranges when they should have been selling healthy organic apples it could have been Prince Charles speaking.

But a serious politician would have questioned why WH Smith was selling chocolate oranges in the first place when it was given a nationwide franchise in all our stations to sell books and magazines - not sweets and soft drinks.

* The obviously bogus story about the projected kidnapping of Leo Blair by members of the Fathers 4 Justice campaign should have given rise to an attack on the rubbishy newspaper The Sun which headlined the news in the first place. Instead it was Fathers 4 Justice who got most of the flak and who then announced that their movement was to be disbanded.

There followed the customary reminders in the media about the personal shortcomings of the men involved and a general feeling all round of good riddance.

Yet the cause for which those men campaigned was always a good one. And if anyone wanted to be reminded of the injustice suffered by some divorced fathers, it came with yesterday's news of yet another suicide of a man harried by the infamous Child Support Agency.

This is the kind of issue that in the old days would have been taken up by politicians. But nowadays it tends to be groups of private individuals - not skilled in the arts of campaigning or dealing with the media - who are left to raise an injustice, whether it is the CSA, the death of soldiers at Deepcut barracks or the terrible effects of Gulf War syndrome. And in many instances, the authorities will find it quite easy to brush aside all the complaints for the very good reason that they are dealing with amateurs.

And in the meantime, the professional politicians are free to get worked up about all those things they think are supremely important - such as banning foxhunting or stopping people from smoking in pubs.