The Diary: Yes we do know who you are, unfortunately

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The Independent Online
There is nothing that brings a smile to my face and puts a spring in my step quite so effectively as hearing that a small misfortune has occurred to Mr Michael Winner. Last week he was banned from the Cliveden Hotel after complaining loudly about the quality of service and threatening to make a waiter look like an idiot in his restaurant column. He shouted: "You idiot, how can you let this happen - this filth. How dare you fob me off. I am not a tourist from a coach." He comes over as a terrible, spoilt bully.

This was not the Michael Winner we were presented with during the 1980s, when he campaigned to erect monuments to policemen killed on duty. Then we saw a public-spirited Michael who wanted people to know there was more to him than his second-rate movies. Now we are seeing the real Winner. Perhaps hotels and restaurants should spare themselves and their staffs by banning him in advance. They could erect a sign outside, like an old AA endorsement, which simply declared: "Wine and Dine without Winner". But then we would be deprived of the pleasure of seeing Winner making himself - not a waiter - look an idiot.

A NEW USE has been found by a friend for the prostitute cards that appear in London telephone boxes. He has discovered they make very good postcards. Although BT is determined to stamp out the illegal ads, the Royal Mail apparently has no objection to carrying them. One was delivered today advertising Sarah, who caters for all fantasies.

SOME OF THOSE who have been agitating for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic since 1995, when details emerged of the murders of upwards of 7,500 people in the country around Zepa and Srebrenica in Bosnia, find they are far from reassured by the indictment which has now been handed down by the International War Crimes Tribunal. It is frustrating that the move to prosecute him didn't happen after Dayton was signed and the Americans were free to release intelligence about the chain of command that led to the Srebrenica killings. The evidence of Milosevic's direct involvement was overwhelming, yet not till now has Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor at the Hague, felt able to publicly mount a case against him.

The first point is that this indictment, which is restricted to crimes committed in Kosovo this year, tends to diminish the importance of Srebrenica, an atrocity so violent, swift and total that it should never be forgotten. But there is a more practical consideration: if an indictment had been made earlier it would, I believe, have had a great bearing on Milosevic's behaviour since 1995. Instead, the policy promulgated by the American special envoy of the time, Richard Holbrooke, which included sitting on the legal process, allowed Slobo to think that he could get away with these enormous crimes. Consider how different things would have been if the West had stuck by the principles of justice rather than allowing them to take a back seat to diplomatic expediency. For one thing, the Serbian people would have had a far greater case against the regime when they demonstrated on the streets of Belgrade two years ago. It would also have removed Milosevic from all legitimate discourse with the outside world, reduced his ability to string us along while planning the ethnic war in Kosovo, and provided a clear message about the West's attitude to what had already passed in the Balkans. It may seem idiotic to complain now that there is an indictment, but my suspicion is that it is still subservient to diplomacy. It has been allowed to go ahead because the West sees no hope of a settlement and is, therefore, happy to see Milosevic's total excommunication.

The terrible irony is that the indictment probably means even more people will be killed this summer. There is now no incentive for the Serbian regime to restrain the murder squads because peace means prosecution. It also makes the armed invasion of Kosovo by the West a near certainty. So I find myself deeply regretting something I had earnestly hoped for and that is because it has been used at the wrong time for the wrong purpose.

LAST WEEK I launched my first novel at a party which was initially a moment of sublime happiness. For a good two hours I wheeled round a room of friends, receiving congratulations and feeling very pleased with myself. Then a level-headed colleague reminded me that the praise was on loan, since only a few people had read my thriller, Remembrance Day. I began to imagine everyone would hate the book and I would be held up to agonising scrutiny by reviewers. Welcome to the world of authorial paranoia, I thought. So perhaps this is a good moment to consider other authors, especially those who produce tremendous books but do not get the attention that they deserve. I think in particular of Neil Belton's brilliant biography of Helen Bamber, the woman who has since the liberation of Belsen sought to alleviate the greatest possible suffering, latterly with the victims of torture. But A Good Listener is more than biography: it attempts to deal with the patterns of cruelty that underlie the history of the last 60 years. It is the most acute, unsentimental, well-judged book I have read for a long time and I heartily recommend it.