Friday, 19 June 2009

The story of the decade

I OVERHEARD a couple of journalists the other day discussing “the biggest story of the decade”.
Experienced, respected journalists on a national paper – and not the Daily Telegraph, either.
Even so, they reckoned the big one was the ongoing revelations of MPs’ expenses claims.
Well, yes, it’s a talking-point certainly. And it’s shaken Britain’s already shaky political scene a little further.
But bigger than 9/11? Bigger than the Iraq war? Bigger than the Jordan-Peter Andre divorce?
Well, all right, I only threw that last one in for readers of the Daily Star.
But let’s consider Iraq.
The prime minister spreads lies to justify an unjustifiable act of war.
Among the results are 179 British service personnel killed – and something between 100,000 and a million civilian deaths.
(If those two figures seem a long way apart, it’s because no one has bothered to make an official count, so one has to rely on estimates. And estimates vary. Wildly.)
The war and its unplanned aftermath have destabilised the entire region, probably for decades to come.
It confirmed in the minds of Muslims everywhere that “the West” is against them, thereby increasing the dangerous polarisation of the world.
It flouted, and therefore weakened, international law.
It shattered British faith in our own government – and increased anti-American feeling here as well as in the rest of the world.
It was, in the words of an Iranian TV reporter this week: “The worst and most controversial decision ever taken by a British Labour government.”
All this we know. As we know about Blair’s “dodgy dossier” and much more besides.
If an inquiry was needed, it’s a bit late now. It’ll be even later when it finally reports in at least a year’s time – conveniently after all the players have (presumably) been voted out of office.
Whatever conclusions it reaches, I don’t suppose they’ll include any indictments for war crimes. Or an authoritative tally of the dead.
As for the fuss over whether it’s held privately or in public, does it really matter?
Well, it does make you wonder who still has what to keep secret.
And I don’t just mean a cleaning bill, a hired porn film or a paid-off mortgage either.

Left or right, they’re still just as nasty

IT was an interesting letter. And for a while there I thought the writer had a point. Well, half a point anyway.
And then I saw the signature: “Tebbit, House of Lords”.
If I find myself even half-agreeing with anything Norman Tebbit has to say then it’s surely time to take another look.
What the one-time bovver-boy of Thatcherism was upset by was the use of the term “far right” to describe the BNP.
According to Norman, the BNP is “a hard-left party which supports nationalisation and trade-union power, and opposes free trade.”
He goes on, in his letter to The Spectator, to insist there is nothing right-wing about racism.
“As with nationalism,” he says, “racism’s greatest supporters – Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin – were hard leftists, as is Mugabe today. And Hitler was the leader of the National Socialist German Workers party.”
That assessment rather overlooks the white supremacists who brought apartheid to South Africa – right-wingers if there ever were any.
And as for the “left-wing” Hitler, he was a socialist in the same way that Stalin was a democrat. Or that Mugabe is either, in anything but parody.
Tebbit objects to “the line that anything nasty, corrupt or vicious has to be labelled ‘right-wing’”. Which is where I’d give him his half-point.
Neither right wing nor left has any monopoly on nastiness or corruption.
Indeed, if this argument proves anything it is how archaic, clumsy and frankly useless the terms “left” and “right” are in any discussion of real politics.
As opposed to the bone-headed simplistic kind. Which is all Tebbit has ever seemed to consider – and all the BNP are equipped to understand.

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