Geoffrey Robinson answers back - well, tries to, anyway

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The Independent Online
As Mr Geoffrey Robinson has been under such concerted attack in the press, we thought we would offer him the courtesy of this column for one day to answer questions from readers. He has gladly accepted this chance to clear his name, and it gives us great Pleasure to hand over this space to him for the next 24 hours, so that we can go and get some Christmas shopping done.

We would like to stress that he is accepting no money for this part-time job, and nor is he paying us for the chance to appear here, or indeed setting up any off-shore trusts for us.

All yours, sir, and the first question, please.

Mr Robinson, I was listening to the `Today' programme on Radio 4 yesterday, that is Tuesday, and I heard Jack Straw come on to talk about his plans to wipe out international fiddling. Well, there is nothing very odd about this, as Jack Straw is on the `Today' programme on Radio 4 almost every day threatening to wipe out something or other, and I am surprised that he ever has the time to try wiping things out, so busy is he talking about his plans to do so, but there you go, it was always the way with Home Secretaries, I remember Michael Howard coming on Radio 4's `Today' programme almost every day to threaten that he wold wipe out something or other, and where is Michael Howard today?

Geoffrey Robinson writes: Is that your question?

No, I haven't come to the question yet. Anyway, I was listening to Jack Straw talking about wiping out international fiddling, and thinking to myself that it was perhaps a bit premature talking about the international crime scene when he hasn't really wiped out crime at home yet, although I can see his point, because you get people using their international connections to salt away money.

Geoffrey Robinson writes: Is that a question?

No, I haven't come to the question yet. Anyway, there was another item on the `Today' programme which was all about Steven Spielberg's new film. Now, it seems he has made a film about a mutiny on board a slave ship going from Africa to America, a mutiny which actually took place, and black people in America are up in arms about this film. They're not denying that it all took place - they're just angry that white American film-makers have stolen black history to make money out of it. I was wondering if this also came under the heading of international fiddling?

Geoffrey Robinson writes: So that's your question, is it?

Not exactly. But it occurred to me that once you start accusing people of stealing each other's history, you're on very dodgy ground. For instance, this is not the first film that Steven Spielberg has made about people arriving in the United States under atrocious conditions. I don't know if you ever saw his cartoon film: "Fyvel"...?

Geoffrey Robinson writes: No, I'm not sure ...

Well, it was the tale of a family of Jewish mice emigrating through Hamburg to America. The journey on the ship was not as bad as it would have been on a slave ship, but on the other hand you did get scenes of pogroms in Russia with Cossacks slaughtering Jews, which was worse than most of what happened in Africa, but what I was going to say was that if a black film company had decided to make a film about Russian-Jewish immigration to America, do you think that Jews with Russian origins would have accused the blacks of stealing their history?

Geoffrey Robinson writes: Mmmmm. Well....

And what about the wholesale theft by Americans of European culture? What about the way Disney takes stories like "Pinocchio" and "Beauty and the Beast" and "Notre Dame de Paris" ...?

Geoffrey Robinson writes: What's Notre Dame de Paris?

It's the real name of the novel in which the Hunchback of Notre Dame appears. Anyway, Disney always makes a mess out of our stories, cleaning them up, removing sad endings, turning them into chocolate box, sickly sweet versions of the originals, and we never get any redress at all! To make matters worse, they come and plant Disneyworld in France! Talk about off-shore shenanigans!

Geoffrey Robinson writes: Ah! Do you want to talk about off-shore shenanigans?

No. I want to discuss whether white jazz musicians should pay back the debt they owe to the blacks for inventing their music. I'd like to discuss the way the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton stole the blues from the black man. I'd like to ...

Geoffrey Robinson writes: I am afraid that's all we have time for. Did nobody want to ask me about my money ?

No. It's not that sort of column.

Tomorrow - Earl Spencer tackles reader's emotional and marital problems.