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

English Teacher

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We have an urgent requirement fo...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are looking to recruit two ...

Primary supply teachers required in Ipswich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron and Ed Miliband attend the Queen's Speech on 4 June 2014  

Scottish referendum: It's hard for us Labour supporters to admit, but Cameron did good here

Rob Marchant
NO ballots are stacked on a table during the Scottish independence referendum count at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh  

Scottish referendum: Some divorces are meant to happen – this one wasn’t

Dotti Irving
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week