What is it that makes world leaders get out of bed?

'One minute you're a big noise in student politics; the next, you're ordering bombs to be dropped'

Share

In my last column, as I'm sure you will remember, I mentioned that I had a friend staying with me who works at the UN in New York and was having a stop-over in London after a stint he'd done in Kosovo.

In my last column, as I'm sure you will remember, I mentioned that I had a friend staying with me who works at the UN in New York and was having a stop-over in London after a stint he'd done in Kosovo.

I have known him since I was 14, long before I was in the entertainment industry, and that is why I happen to know somebody involved in something so grown-up. All the friends I've made in the past 20 years have been actresses and ballerinas, and, lovely though they are, they're not going to give many insights into the world of global power politics.

Yet I am fascinated by the world of politics and politicians, probably because I don't know any. I think I can detect similarities between the personalities in their world and mine: I mean, politicians are treated in the news media very much as show-business figures these days, in the way their doings are reported, and I suspect that they share many characteristics with those in the entertainment industry, such as the cronyism, the egotism, the jealousy and the back-stabbing. On the other hand, I have always assumed that they have acquired, at some point, a sort of extra moral dimension not needed by people in show business.

The reality of politics is that politicians, if they are in power, make decisions every few minutes that have a real effect on the fabric of our world. See, in the arts, basically, no matter how good it is, it's all made-up silly stuff, isn't it? I mean, when you get down to it, even War and Peace is made-up silly stuff, and Swan Lake is just jumping-about, so it doesn't really matter how egotistical or conniving we are. But politicians are different.

After all, Tony Blair has had people killed, hasn't he? He seems like a nice enough man, I suppose - a bit of a git, perhaps - but if he lived next door, you might have them round for some eggnog every Christmas and you'd probably let him borrow your complete set of chrome Allen keys to mend his scooter, though you'd ask for them back after three days, whether he'd fixed his scooter or not.

But this ordinary man, this semi-git, has given the word, and people in Kosovo and Serbia and Iraq, real breathing, talking people, suddenly aren't, because an ex-barrister has ordered them not to be. I wonder, how do you get to that point?

I mean, one minute you're a big noise in student politics or the local council or whatever, and the next minute there's a bloke in a uniform asking if you'd like to have anybody whacked today. And you do it, you order real bombs to be dropped on real things. That's a hell of a thing, isn't it? I certainly wouldn't trust me or anyone I know to decide such a thing. I mean, you'd have to have an extra moral dimension to deal with that, wouldn't you? I mean, you couldn't do such things out of ordinary unmediated ambition, greed and vanity, could you?

So, I wanted to question my UN friend closely, because it is rare that I get any insight into any political organisation. With an insider at my disposal, the thing that I really, really wanted to know about the inner workings of the United Nations - and I'm sure this applies to you, too - was: where does Kofi Annan, the secretary general, get those fabulous suits? I mean, that guy simply has to be the winner of the most-dapper-world-leader award; no matter what the situation, the secretary general is always impeccably turned out in the most beautifully tailored suits.

If you see Kofi - at a gathering of world leaders, say, held to discuss answers to Third World poverty, sitting on chairs made out of caviare at the Hotel Swank de Luxe, Monte Carlo - he makes all the other world leaders look as if they've been dressed by Camden council. I suspect that it is no accident that Kofi Annan is an enormous improvement as secretary general on the vacillating, corrupt and dressed-out-of-the-Argos-catalogue Boutros Boutros Ghali: I have always felt that there is a connection between power, efficiency, clarity of thought and being nicely turned out.

It's just a thought, but maybe, if Kofi Annan got rid of those girly blue berets for UN troops, there might even be fewer massacres in the areas they control.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Management Accountant

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: The Jenrick Group: Finance Manager/Manag...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Freeman, centre, with Lord Gladwyn, left, and Harold Wilson on the programme The Great Divide in 1963  

John Freeman was a man of note who chose to erase himself from history

Terence Blacker
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'