Richard Ingrams' Week: Who are these New Men trying to kid?


Questioned on the Today programme about how he would hope to measure up to the much more youthful David Cameron, Gordon Brown boasted that he was the proud father of a two-year-old son and that only the night before he had been sitting up with him at 4am.

We are supposed to be impressed by this. The message is not only that Brown is youthful and energetic but that he is a New Man who plays his part in looking after the baby.

Those who are impressed will not include me. I do not want the Chancellor of the Exchequer being woken up at 4am to change nappies. I want him to be sure of getting his eight hours sleep so that in the morning he will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and all the better to grapple with the nation's economic destiny.

This baby-boasting is a sign of the sentimentality which nowadays governs our view of politicians.

In the same sort of way, much has been made of the fact that David Cameron is the father of a disabled child, as though this in some way makes him better qualified to lead the modern, compassionate Conservative Party.

But having a disabled child might have the opposite effect. It imposes great strain on a married couple, even those like the Camerons who can afford to employ others to care for the child's needs.

Parents of disabled children are notoriously prone to marriage break-ups and divorce as the difficulties tend to grow greater as the child grows older.

Of course, the Camerons may be among the lucky ones who manage to come through. But anyone who thinks that they derive some kind of benefit from their situation is not living in the real world.

Morgan avoids his share of the blame

It is hard not to feel a little bit sorry for the Daily Mirror's two City Slickers James Hipwell and Anil Bhoyrul, both of whom face the possibility of a prison sentence for conspiring to manipulate the stock market for their own gain. Because it does look as though they have been used as scapegoats for offences that were condoned by the Mirror editor Piers Morgan.

What they were doing over a long period was to tip shares that they themselves had previously bought, thus making a substantial killing.

In his evidence, Hipwell claimed that his editor Morgan knew exactly what he and Bhoyrul were up to and that he even encouraged them to trade on the stock market.

Morgan, however, who was not called to give evidence, denies this, which is just as well as, if it were true, it might make him liable for prosecution. He might also have been asked once again how it was that he purchased several thousand shares in a company called Viglen the day before the Slickers' tip was published, thus causing a dramatic increase in the share price.

Morgan's bosses appear to accept that nothing improper had occurred and we were left with the conclusion that his purchase of the shares on that particular day was nothing more than a happy coincidence. At any rate, he continued in his post and was dismissed only after publishing some faked pictures of British troops supposedly engaged in torture in Iraq.

Since then Morgan has prospered as a best-selling author, a TV personality and now a magazine proprietor. Languishing in their prison cells, the Slickers could be excused for thinking that there's no justice in the world.

* The reason for not allowing evidence gained by torture has nothing to do with ethics and morality as some people seem to think.

The reason is that any evidence so obtained is likely to be false and unreliable. This seems perfectly obvious but you don't hear anyone saying as much.

Nor do many of our pious pontificators like to point out that there is a strong element of humbug about their pronouncements. To listen to the likes of Jack Straw you would think that torturing people was a barbaric practice engaged in only by the world's most backward regimes and possibly - and very regretfully - by the US under the new name of "rendition".

But you don't have to go back very far to find us civilised British engaging in torture in order to elicit information about terrorists. To take only one example: the six men arrested for the Birmingham pub bombing in November 1974 were all subjected to beatings by police and prison officers. As a result two of them subsequently confessed to being responsible for the bombing. When they came to court their evidence of police brutality was dismissed by the judge.

Yet events proved once again that when subjected to this kind of treatment men are capable of confessing to anything if only to bring their ordeal to an end.

It is also worth bearing in mind that this went on not in Afghanistan or Iraq but in our supposedly civilised city of Birmingham - a fact that should make everyone think twice before being holier than thou about the Americans.

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