Simon Carr: You can catch an eel by the tail but it can still bite you in the face


Related Topics

What an eel he is. You can't keep a hold of him.

Oh, but the energy of the fellow, the memory, the capacity, the capability, the survival instinct. And the hands! They should be set to music, the way he uses them; the gestures are so big you want to shout at him: "I'm not deaf!" He's got a new big forefinger – as he wags it at us, it quivers slightly with certainty and sincerity.

He can contradict himself with such solidity it's hard to see the sleight involved. He's asked whether he agrees with a proposition that he probably doesn't. "Absolutely," he says, "in this sense." That's called keeping your options open. He likes to do that. It means you can do something or its opposite and still have a clear conscience.

He rested his legal case for war on the novel idea of being able to ignore "an unreasonable veto" at the UN. Asked how that worked, he said it wasn't a legal point he was making but a political one. You catch an eel by the tail but it can still bite your face.

His arguments are powerful, interlinked and interlocked. And when they're not it doesn't matter. Then he produces an entirely unrelated series of facts, assertions or a medley of previous hits.

Chilcot asked whether he was aware that Goldsmith "felt discouraged" about giving his legal advice that the existing UN Resolution 1441 wasn't enough to go to war on.

Eventually his reply got to the words: "I should say something about my relationship with the Attorney General's office: 20 or 30 years ago..." But by then no one remembered the question he'd been asked. He is never going to give short answers by choice – he will never behave like a man in the dock. The inquiry hasn't found a way to deal with that.

He does seem to be mainstreaming his account a little more these days. He is free with talk of regime change now in a way he never was at the time.

Maybe in a decade he will be able to give his nothing-new-here account of the death of David Kelly.

It's on the subject of Iran that he can make his critics short of breath. "At some point," he said, "the West has got to get out of its wretched posture of apology." Oh yes, our lie-down-and-take-it-up-the-tailpipe attitude. It was almost as though we hadn't killed half a million Middle Eastern Muslims in the past decade.

He said that al-Qa'ida was deliberately destabilising Iraq (what cheaters they are). The appetite for terror and war goes deeper into Islam than people will admit – he said – and it has to be confronted. Or... Or what? It's unsayable yet, but when the time comes, it'll be unspeakable.

He stands by every word, every action, every impulse. So he has to attack the future on the same premises as the past. To do anything else would be an admission of guilt, or error. That is something he's never done.

But to go through life never doing anything wrong – for that to work, you have to adjust the whole world around you to keep yourself in the right. That way madness lies.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'