Ex-Python Terry Jones continues his excellent column in the Observer with a piece headlined Mr Blair’s dark days, in which he echoes my own sentiments from 18th April about Tony’s “worst fear” about the war, i.e. that it’d cause him to lose his bloody job.
On a lighter note, elsewhere in the paper there’s a lovely profile of performance poet John Hegley, who says that poetry “is the opposite of speaking words which are mundane. It’s words that are charged, it’s vibrancy, mystery, aliveness, intensity – and bollocks.”
Sue Townsend, the author most famous for her Adrian Mole books, is questioned by Independent readers. She was kind of a heroine of mine when I was 12 and the first of the Mole books came out. I was talking about this the other day with someone and we were comparing Mole, something of a crucial eighties figure, with the fictional boy of the moment, Harry Potter. Mole was a total anti-hero, and rarely succeeded in anything – indeed, most of his triumphs were internal and psychological – but you loved him anyway. I liked the first of JK Rowling’s books and I’m eternally grateful to her publisher Bloomsbury for subsidising my favourite living author Russell Hoban, but I feel I could relate to Mole much better. Potter is meant to be real, but you know he isn’t, while Moles exist everywhere you go: you know Potter is going to win through, destroy the evildoers and (eventually, one presumes) get the girl, but there was never any such certainty with Adrian. Among some of the lovely things Townsend says in the interview is that her blindness – a late-onset condition brought about by diabetes – if nothing else “does get you out of the ironing, and reading other people’s manuscripts”. She also makes a fascinating comparison of the sexual (self-) identity of Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein: the latter “drips” with testosterone, while the “androgynous” Blair is much less self-assured about himself in this department. Obviously, dripping with testosterone is hardly any better, but Blair androgynous! Brilliant.
Several papers report today on an interview Tony Blair granted the UK’s war-friendliest rag, The Sun, in which Tone confides with characteristic disingenuousness that he considered resigning over his stance on Iraq and that he was “upset” when the UN didn’t pass the second resolution. It’s hard to imagine a more minty piece of humbug than this: if millions marching through central London (and just about everywhere else in the world) to protest against the war, and the vote of some 150 of his own MPs in opposition to the government’s action didn’t convince him to either quit his post or oppose military intervention himself, what, exactly, would have done?
The Guardian (which headlines its report, “Blair feared for premiership over war” – what, in the past tense?) also quotes Blair: “The most terrible thing for someone in my position is to end up losing your job for something you don’t really believe in.” Final proof, then, that the killing, “orphaning”, maiming and general destruction has always come second to our illustrious leader’s preservation of his own career.
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So, farewell, then, Sir Paul Getty. When I read the news, I couldn’t help but think of the great line from Leonard Cohen’s song Jazz Police: “Jazz Police are paid by J. Paul Getty / Jazzers paid by J. Paul Getty II…”
A really nice interview with Benjamin Zephaniah today in The Independent’s “You ask the questions” feature. Asked by one reader how he would disarm Saddam, he replies: “First, I wouldn’t have armed him in the first place. Britain went out of its way to sell arms to Saddam Hussein. I think we should be offering him a refund.” He also tells a bittersweet story about his only meeting with Tony Blair at some Foreign Office function a few years ago. Zephaniah gave a performance, and then Robin Cook gave an address. The two sat together afterwards and shared a joke ‘about how we [i.e. Cook and Zephaniah] worked really well as a team and should become a double act. So he introduced me to Tony Blair and said that we were going to go on tour together. Blair didn’t see the joke at all. He said something like, “You will do no such thing and you will report to my office tomorrow.”‘ In light of current events, it says it all, really.