Richard Ingrams' Week: Why not show faith in Shakespeare?

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The Independent Online

One of the good things about most religions is that believers are required to examine all their actions very thoroughly, to admit their shortcomings and to make amends where necessary.

It is always hard to determine exactly what religion means to different people, but in Mr Blair's case it would appear to be not very much. Blair sees no obligation "to acknowledge and confess his manifold sins and weaknesses" as the prayer book puts it.

Faced by the lies and deceit surrounding the invasion of Iraq, the bombings, the kidnaps, the torture, the deaths of thousands of men, women and children, Blair's response, judging from his Parkie interview, seems to be this: "It is not up to me to judge my own actions. Other people, notably God, will have to decide whether I have acted rightly or not."

In so far as this makes any kind of sense it has little to do with religion. There is nothing to suggest that Blair feels any awareness of his failings or sees the need for repentance.

If he wants to act as a spokesman for Christianity, he would do well to consult not only the prayer book but Shakespeare, and in particular that scene in Henry V when on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt a common soldier reflects: "But the King hath a heavy reckoning to make if his cause be not good. When all those souls whose bodies shall be slaughtered here shall join together on the latter day and say I died at such a place, some swearing, some crying for a surgeon... now if his cause be bad I think it will be a grievous matter to him."

If only Campbell had devoted himself to charity

If John Profumo had been called Jones or Robinson, I wonder if he would still be remembered today.

It wasn't as if he committed a grave offence - people are lying to the House of Commons all the time. It was because his name was unusual and foreign that it lived on.

The real scandal of the Profumo affair of 1963 was nothing really to do with Profumo. What was far more scandalous than any peccadillo on his part was the prosecution of Stephen Ward, the posh society osteopath who had introduced him to Christine Keeler.

Ward was not in any way an admirable human being, but he was certainly not living on immoral earnings, the charge for which he stood trial at the Old Bailey in July 1963.

There was never any evidence to support the charge and it was clear that Ward had been made a scapegoat by the Macmillan government.

Following his arrest, Ward was dropped like a stone by all his society friends including, it has to be said, Profumo himself, and just before being found guilty by the jury he committed suicide by taking a drug overdose.

The story may strike a chord with younger people who have no special interest in the political scandals of yesteryear.

Because it is surprisingly similar to the story of Dr David Kelly, the Government scientist who 40 years later tipped off the BBC about Blair's dishonest dossier cobbled together to try to justify the invasion of Iraq. Dr Kelly, too, was made a scapegoat by Alastair Campbell, left, anxious to draw attention away from his own role in the compilation of the dossier.

Dr Kelly was thrust into the limelight, his identity leaked through the media and he too committed suicide.

There the similarity ends because it was never ever remotely possible that Alastair Campbell was going to retire from the scene and, like John Profumo, devote himself to charitable work in the East End of London.

* Thinking as I often do of politics in terms of cartoons, I have an image of Tessa Jowell in a hot air balloon pushing her husband out in order to regain height.

Some people like me will find it hard to follow all the complexities of her husband David Mills's financial affairs as he shifts large sums of money from one account to another.

What we have no difficulty in grasping is that Tessa Jowell has dumped her husband in order to save her political skin just at the time when he is facing possible prosecution in the Italian courts.

We are told that to think in this way is to be guilty of gross cynicism and the worst sort of callous indifference to decency and truth.

But what is the alternative version of events? That Jowell and her husband came to a decision to split up and that by an unfortunate twist of fate the decision just happened to be made at the very same time that Jowell found that she might have to resign from the Cabinet? Politics, therefore, according to this version, had nothing to do with it.

This reminds me of the famous story of the Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan who, by a similar kind of lucky coincidence, just happened to buy a huge number of shares in a company that was to be tipped in his paper the following day.

As with Jowell, the strange thing is that people in authority seemed quite happy to accept that explanation. Personally I find it rather difficult to go along with them but then I am incorrigibly cynical.

theoldie@theoldie.co.uk

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