"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein
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(It turned out, briefly, that the title of this post was number 337 in the very series to which I referred above, as the new Indy Blogs site was overwhelmed by a grateful public and promptly crashed.)
Photograph: Teri Pengilley
Chris Ames cries sell-out; and sell-out with knobs on. Something to do with the Coalition failing to disclose the real reasons for the Iraq war to the Chilcot inquiry. Or the Chilcot inquiry failing to insist on their disclosure. I don't really understand what he is on about, but then I wouldn't, finding conspiracy theories about "the secret reason for the Iraq war is being withheld" tiresome.
But Clegg telling the anti-war crowd what they want to hear when he was out of government and telling them something different now? I simply will not accept that is possible.
I didn't have space for all the noteworthy first speeches that I have tracked so far, so here are a few extra highlights (note that with some promising contenders yet to speak, these are nominations only, not final award winners).
The Strength and Diversity Award
I represent a very diverse constituency and I repeat that there is strength in diversity. I would like to be the champion of that diversity.
Unexpected Quotation Trophy
Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hythe, Lab) quoted Friedrich Engels, who described Stalybridge as "this disgustingly filthy town".
Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire, Con):
South Derbyshire has a great history. Indeed, it is the resting place of the Mercian Kings, was invaded by Vikings and has a diverse economy, with a split of 27 per cent based on manufacturing and 27 per cent on tourism.
Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Con):
Simon Wright (Norwich South, LD), who replaced Charles Clarke:
Building a better Norwich, or building a better Britain, does not come about simply by dropping Government legislation from a great height and hoping that it will bear fruit.
The Cheeking the Old Lags Award
Owen Smith (Pontypridd, Lab):
I have had a lot of advice since arriving here as a new MP, all of it well meaning and most of it entirely contradictory - speak early and make a name for yourself, or bide your time for a decade or two; frequent the Tea Room with regularity, or shun it like the plague; never show weakness to the Whips, and never cross them either. I would like to thank all the honourable and venerable Members for these pearls of wisdom.
Alastair Campbell didn't like the headline on the news story from the interview, but there you go.
As always, there was more in the interview than could fit into the paper newspaper, in which I focused on being called a liar, the Labour leadership and Campbell's rumination on how it was not too late for him to become an MP. So here is a fuller transcript.
(Photograph by our very own excellent Justin Sutcliffe.)
Alastair Campbell had been on BBC1 Question Time the previous week with Max Hastings, who had repeated his view that he and Peter Mandelson were the two most duplicitous men in public life. How do you deal with that?
Ach, it doesn't bother me. It just doesn't bother me. If you've been compared to Goebbels, and occasionally Hitler, and Pol Pot and Rasputin, and all the real dark figures in history - it doesn't bother me. That was a good example because someone like Max Hastings, when Tony was in this period, when he saw him on television he liked Tony, fell for the New Labour thing in his words, but he's basically a Tory - a lot of those people persuaded themselves that we were pseudo Tories. We never were. Tony's not a Tory. And so I think that on something like Iraq they like to give themselves reasons to join the herd. On the programme he was talking about education. What does he know about schools? He just talks absolute crap. I can't be bothered with it all.
Before the whole Gilligan thing there were loads of times when I was called a liar, duplicitous. I just let it go because you can't fight every battle. That was a battle - the Gilligan one - was a battle that had to be fought because it was so serious, and because the accusations were so serious. Now, what's happened now, talking about Lord Hutton, great man of granite, Ulsterman, rock of truth, until he said the things that we didn't want to hear and then he's a silly old poodle, whitewash and we're still a bunch of liars.
You can't win with those people. And does it matter? I thought it was very interesting that Question Time, and that audience. There was Piers, me, John Redwood, who actually I've always got on with, I quite like John Redwood, Susan Kramer who I didn't know very well but seems a nice person and Max. And even Piers, who I know pretty well, said, 'They quite like you, don't they? The audience, they quite like you.' With most 'real people' I get on with perfectly well. They're either not that bothered. Or insofar as they want to talk to you they want to know what's Tony Blair really like, what's George Bush really like, what was Princess Diana really like. Really human being type questions. At the Hay Festival tonight I'll probably get loads of Independent on Sunday type questions - and that's fine, you have to do them, you have to answer them.
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Barker answers the question authoritatively:
If he is wrong, he is wrong, and we should be relieved that there are fewer than 33 Labour MPs deluded enough to disagree.
He manages to mock the inanities of the Blair-hating intelligentsia with an uncanny ability to capture the tone of moral righteousness combined with a lack of perspective that would be alarming in a three-year-old. He wants to launch "a global boycott of Tony Blair", and urges his readers to sign up to his four pledges:
I will not purchase any newspaper which publishes Tony Blair's memoirs, nor watch or listen to any broadcast which makes use of them.
I will not purchase any product or service endorsed by Tony Blair, nor enter any transaction with any business which pays him money.
I will not contribute to any good cause with Tony Blair's name on it.
Heller then lampoons the left's lack of self-knowledge and love of lost causes:
The pastiche really takes off, however, with the over-the-top listing of Blair's crimes:
There is the legacy of Iraq: deceit, danger, debt, dishonour and death. The servicemen and women who had to fight Tony Blair's wars on Gordon Brown's budgets – over-stretched, under-equipped, under-protected, and under-housed and under-provided when they came home: they are part of Tony Blair's legacy. Will they want to read his memoirs – or use them for target practice?
The allegations of collusion in illegal detention and torture: will they be in the memoirs? The servile, supine relationship with George W Bush and helping him to lie to the American people and get re-elected. That's another distinguished part of the legacy ...
Then there's the tax and benefits system which lets off the rich, squeezes the middle classes and hammers the poor. Perhaps Tony Blair will leave all these things to Gordon Brown's memoirs, as he did in government.
He could write about the hospitals which tick boxes and kill patients. Then there's the English education system with pockets of privilege for the pushy and second-rate standards for everyone else, and the schools full of bored, ignorant pupils and stressed-out teachers.
That Blair legacy also includes all the new apparatus of repression and control, and the progressive extinction of personal privacy: a country where more people spy on us than ever before and fewer people listen to us.
And the pay-off to 800 words of Dave Spart Meets Peter Oborne is a line of comic genius that inspires awe, envy and admiration in equal measure:
I thought Brown could have been ousted in the autumn, because then an election in May this year would have been soon enough. But the party lacked the ruthless instinct, and Brown also pulled back to striking distance - I never thought he would be capable of depriving David Cameron of a Commons majority.
Number 332, meanwhile, was asked, sarcastically, by Tim Montgomerie:
The first line is, of course, is to pretend to think that it is totally ironically hilarious that he should be peace envoy to the Middle East. The second is to complain that he hasn't done anything in the job. Apart, that is, from starting the Palestinian mobile phone industry, promoting tourism, building sewage works, lifting roadblocks and securing inward investment in the West Bank.
Today he was speaking to CNN from an investment conference in Bethlehem.