Along with a fair chunk of the British population, I’ve been watching and reading news reports of Tony Blair’s appearance on Friday before the Chilcot Inquiry. Indeed since the whole pantomime began, I’ve watched as witnesses have been called and examined. I started off with disinterest, then boredom set in, but now it’s been replaced by anger. As an elector, my view of the Iraq invasion at the time was that our Government was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Since then, I’ve come to believe that we placed too much faith on an allied administration that might have been very good at ‘Shock and Awe’, but didn’t have a Scooby (a modern Glaswegian construct, Malcolm) about long-term planning, and I’ve much sympathy with the view that if the Iraqi people didn’t have the balls to rise up and remove the man Blair described as ‘a monster’, then it was over-generous on our part to do the job for them. We’ve heard a lot over the last week about the legality or otherwise of regime change. That’s what most wars are about, but those wars usually begin in response to an act of aggression. The removal of Saddam in the course of the 1992 Gulf War would have been logical; to do it ten years later after a decade of crippling sanctions against Iraq, was undoubtedly more controversial to say the least.
But that’s not why I’m angry. Like or loathe, Tony Blair was British Prime Minister at the time of the Iraq invasion. The proposal to join the Americans was his. The decision to do so was taken by Parliament. That’s our governing body. Its oversight belongs to the people, not to a committee of five pigmies. We had a chance to consider Iraq five years ago, at the last General Election. We could have thrown out Blair then, but we didn’t; we returned him to office. But the debate didn’t end. Now, facing an election, his successor, finding controversy continuing, has tried to take it out of the political arena by setting up an ‘Independent Inquiry’. Stone me, there have been independent inquiries under way in pubs and sewing circles all over Britain for the last six years. Taken together their findings will be the ones that count, for they’ll be expressed at the general election in a few weeks or months. The circus we’ve been watching for the last few months, a parade before a quintet of titled time-servers under a chairman so distinguished that a chunky section of the media are unable to spell his name correctly, is irrelevant, expensive, and most of all unconstitutional.
Worst of all, it’s diverting attention from the really pressing issue of the day. Afghanistan. Britain is out of Iraq now, but it’s not at peace. Instead its soldiers are facing death and disfigurement on a daily basis in a conflict with no end in sight, and not one of our political leaders, not Bob ‘who?’ Ainsworth, not David Millipede, not the shape-shifting creature that is Jack Straw, not the embattled, bunker-dweller that Gordon Brown has been since he took unelected office as Prime Minister, no, not a single one, has offered a compelling, definitive reason for their presence. We are spending people’s lives in a country where we do not belong, in a conflict that we do not understand, for a cause that’s medieval, a throw-back to the Great Crusades . . . and it has to stop!
I’m pleased by your reaction to Inhuman Remains. At of this moment, the two characters you mention are off the list for good . . . but you never know; I’m a capricious sod.
I haven’t been in the Kilspindie Hotel for years, but I’m told that the dining room is excellent under its new ownership. Worry not. A Rush of Blood is on the way. Check out http://www.campbellreadbooks.com for details.
See Weegies? See Weegie kulchur? You ask a fair question, but it doesn’t get switched off at the city boundaries. It’s an expression that’s spread across Scotland. Primavera would have been exposed to it for sure, so why shouldn’t she use it. There’s a page on Glasgow Patter on Wikipedia, but the contributor does more to confuse than educate.
Hello there, how you doing? Thanks for both those coffee tips. I’ll look for the unpronounceable one next time I’m in NB. As for Harrogate, I can’t say if I’ll ever be back there, but if I am it won’t be in July.
Of course I am. It’s what I’m doing right now, in fact.
You did pretty well, but you missed Rendell, McCall Smith, and my personal favourite, Peedy James. No, I don’t do it in all my books; it’s a one-off.
Skinner on TV? It’s a nasty world, and I’m not sure I want him in it. I’m a reasonable man, but if it ever happens, it will be subject to two conditions. One, I’ll have script oversight; two, nothing will be done to or by any character if I don’t agree with it.
Yes, Black Diamond. It’s a community station, founded by volunteers with a basket of funding support, and broadcasting in and for Midlothian. There are a few such stations around, for example, Sunny Govan Radio, and Leith FM. No prizes for guessing where either is based. They’re all very local and their footprint isn’t very large, but more power to them. I’ve been on Sunny Govan, and been impressed by it. If I had the time, and the energy, I’d love to get something like that up and running in East Lothian.
I remember that winter, Mary, and I remember the Radio Forth snow line, when the station showed what a force for good it could be. That won’t happen again, because the people who own it today don’t actually care about the communities from which they take their maximised profits.
Is there much tennis played in Scotland? Not a great deal; our climate doesn’t favour it and as you spotted on your visit there is a lack of facilities, both outdoor and, crucially, indoor. Andy Murray will be grateful for your support. He needs all that he can get, yet paradoxically, the more support he has as the lone British standard-bearer, the greater the pressure of expectation on him in the Grand Slam events. I’m no expert on the sport, but it seemed to me that it was too much for Tim Henman in his time. Murray has already achieved more than him in terms of tournament wins, with more than half of his career still before him, but will he break the Slam duck? I hope so, but already it’s inviting comparisons with the wait for Colin Montgomerie to win his first major. However, I suspect that Andy is stronger mentally than either Tim or Monty. If he can keep his A game together for two weeks, in the right place at the right time, then . . . maybe. I imagine that similar pressure is building on young Australian players. The era of Laver, Rosewall, Hoad and Newcombe is a distant memory, and the next Lleyton Hewitt doesn’t seem to be anywhere in sight.
I have good news for you, and any other Kindle-owning QJ fans. There are already twenty-seven of my titles available on Amazon for download, and the other three should be there before long. To find them you have to log on to www.amazon.com, go to the Kindle store and enter my name in the search window. So, Debra, storage is no problem.
I’m glad that your local knowledge helps, Hazel. Looking at your surname, and your hope of meeting me in the Mallard, I’m prompted to ask a question. Are you one of Cameron’s Crew?
You have a good one also. By the way, why bother with Amazon? Order on http://www.campbellreadbooks.com and you’ll receive it signed.
Having mentioned my signing at Kesley’s in Haddington yesterday, I must tell you of a very pleasant meeting there. Once the early rush had died down, Simon was able to tell me of a forth-coming event on Saturday, January, 23, a visit by Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, Baron Selkirk of Douglas, as part of the launch of his autobiography, ‘After You, Prime Minister’. More than that he told me that James had asked him to pass on his regards. I had no sooner bought a copy of the book and requested a signature by the author, than the shop door opened and the man himself walked in. A mutual signing session ensued. Afterwards, when I saw the generosity of the dedication on my book, I was embarrassed by the brevity of mine on his. If I could, I would ask for it back and add the words, ‘To the nicest man, and finest gentleman, in British politics, and one of our finest all-rounders.’ I do not believe that anyone who knows him, not even his most strident ideological opposite, would disagree with that description.
James is the younger brother of the present Duke of Hamilton. He began his professional life as an advocate, but spent most of it in politics. He was an MP for a marginal constituency for 23 years ( Fine testimony to his popularity) and was a minister in the Thatcher and Major governments for ten of those. When that came to an end he was elected to the Scottish Parliament where he sat fora further eight years until his retirement in 2007. Members of our Parliaments have been vilified over the last few months. In some case this has been entirely appropriate, but Lord James stands apart from that crowd. I believe that people enter politics for two basic reasons. The majority hunger for the power buzz and influence that such a career brings, a few are driven there by ego, and some, perhaps the smallest of the three groups, seek office out of a desire, maybe even a duty, to help improve the lot of their fellow man. Unlikely as it may seem of someone who might be described in shorthand as a Tory Grandee, the former MP for Edinburgh West belongs firmly in the third group.
But there’s much more to him than politics. He is a top-class golfer. In his youth he was a fine amateur boxer. He has always been a keen military historian, and has published works on incidents in the Second World War II in which his family were involved. Whatever your view of his politics he is living a very interesting life, and his account of it . . . so far . . . makes excellent reading. Knowing the man, having met him thirty years ago in what was for me another life, it took me only a couple of pages to know for sure that there was no ghost writer involved in the telling.
‘After You Prime Minister,’ is published by Stacey International, Price £14.95. Trust me on this one: I’m an author.
(Who’s the nicest woman in British politics? My friend Jacqui Lait, MP)
Skinner’s Festival isn’t a bad place to start. I’m grateful for your enthusiasm, but I’m worried about all that coffee. We’re on a serious diet just now, SWMBO and I. Yesterday morning my kind friend Simon gave me a large Americano, (There is no finer coffee in East Lothian than in Kesley’s Bookshop, Haddington) while I was signing books. After an apple for breakfast, and some energy burned off picking up my wounded cat from the vet, it hit my bloodstream, straight and unfiltered. Wow.
My wife will be among the first to tell you that when I’m in my office, which is most of the time, I’m dangerous with the 1-Click button on Amazon. Now and then I make a mistake and buy a pile of old shite, as witness, Sting’s turgid Christmas offering, but mostly I get it right, as witness, ‘Get Lucky’ by Mark Knopfler, the excellent ‘Live at the Olympia Dublin’ collection by REM and a wonderful Jimmy Scott CD, ‘Moonglow’. I had not been over-exposed to Florence + the Machine, or their debut album ‘Lungs’, not until she appeared on Jools Holland’s ‘Hootenanny’ New Year show on BBC 2. I hit the 1-Click button and now I’m a convert. Trust me, those of you outside the UK who may not have heard of her, Florence Welch is going to be BIG. The title of her CD is no accident, but she’s one of those people who could sing The Telephone Directory, Live, and get your attention.
You have me at a loss, my friend. What effing jailbreak?
Skinner 20, ‘A Rush of Blood’, is scheduled for release on June 10. Yes, it’s a question I’m asked often, but I never tire of answering it.
Congratulations, SK. Your countless efforts have paid off at last. Your praise is so lavish that it’s humbling, and I find it remarkable that in a country so large you’ve ever heard of me. I hereby appoint you head of my Kolkata fan club.
Now, about the signed photo. Thing is, I don’t carry a stock of those, so all I can do is . . . the best I can. Watch your post. I don’t believe that we ever grow to old to dream.