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'
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The Independent Online

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.