I had the honour, and yes I do mean honour, of interviewing Cherie Blair. As a tribal Tory, like the rest of us, I've read the caricatures published about this woman over the years. She was the PM's wife our press loved to loathe. Grasping, bolshie, chippy, you name it. There was none of that anywhere in the person I met.
What I'm about to say will not surprise anybody who has read her book. Mrs. Blair is a naturally good writer, so much so that I think in becoming a lawyer she may have missed her true calling. Speaking for Myself is a cracking good read. The author is self-deprecating, witty, perspective, laugh out loud funny at times. You must get it if you haven't done yet. No wonder why it was a massive bestseller when so many bland, sanitised political memoirs fail.
I interviewed her at Southwark Crown Court where she is still working as a Recorder. Not the height of glamour, and obviously Mrs. Blair has no need to work. She does it from a sense of duty and self-satisfaction. When I said I thought it was great she was still working she looked puzzled that I'd even imagine she would stop. She was kind, she was polite, she asked about the date of the election, she said we needed more women in parliament, asked me about standing in Corby. We discussed the hell of the PPC selection process, something she went through herself as well as watching her husband suffer through it.
I was there to interview her, but she's one of those rare people who seems more interested in others than herself. She was elegant, she smiles and laughs all the time. She is (red rag to a bull on ConHome, this, but I admire it) a true feminist. She said she sees her book not as political but written for other women. Men will love it too.
You can see the interview during the show, but in passing in one of her answers, Mrs. Blair said of the press that she didn't even recognise the woman they described. Nor do I. I don't think I've ever been more struck by the disparity between somebody's manufactured image and the person they turned out to be. In the future, I will put even less stock in the tabloids' portrayal of anybody's character. As Conservatives, we can be thankful that such a bright and charismatic woman never made it into Parliament.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
"The message that we are sending the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism... in a manner that is consistent with our values and ideals," Mr Obama said.
It's that struggle formerly known as the 'war on terror'.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Suppose a book had been written and a charitable helpline set up to advise and support victims of this horrific interference with a life-saving service. Suppose that the writer of the book and director of the charity was invited to answer questions about the problem in a Guardian column, and she did so without once mentioning Jehovah's Witnesses. Wouldn't it make you think?
Jasvinder Sanghera appeals for support in her efforts to eradicate forced marriage and honour-based crime, without once mentioning Islam.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
He sees this in "the way that the modern world expects Christian standards of the West. People in the poor countries expect the West to feel rather guilty about being so rich, and to acknowledge a duty to 'redistribute' its surplus wealth. They expect the West to acknowledge the sinfulness of colonialism and the slave trade, . . to go on about individual human rights, about democracy and the rule of law. In short, the rest of the world has a great range of moral expectations of the West and tries hard to exploit them. But the poor countries don't have the same expectations of other religions or culture-areas. Nobody expects the Turks to apologize to the Armenians, or the Egyptian Arabs to the Copts, the Indians to dwell on the evils of the Maghul Empire, or the Zanzibaris to demand repentance and reparations for centuries of slave-trading in dhows down the East African coast."
"The world assumes (rightly, it seems) that Christian values do still greatly influence Western behaviour. Many commentators assume that Christianity is a dying faith whereas Islam is very much alive. Because other faiths and cultures show absolutely no inclination to be self-critical in public, they can confidently assert their own moral superiority and the West's relative decadence. But are rich oil sheiks apologizing to black East Africa for slavery, and offering aid without strings? Seemingly not, despite the fact that Almsgiving (Zakat) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam."
His conclusion? That "Christianity is doing better in its afterlife as 'Western culture' than ever it did as a religion."
But surely all human virtues are truly virtues of losers. We all eventually lose everything - forever. Isn't it this that makes them virtues in the first place? Isn't it only because we are born losers that any kind of morality is possible? If we depend on God or Marx to compensate our losses, can we ever be said to act virtuously at all?
The trouble with this slogan is the word 'probably'. I think the probability of God's existence is a profoundly irreligious idea. I would rather argue that God is Nothing, following the line of Gareth Moore in Believing in God. It is the extension of another plea I have made here, that we cannot understand belief in God without understanding what it means to become nothing before him.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday, January 09, 2009
. . a 'helpful' warning that has just been delivered to Gordon Brown. Jewish representatives are saying to him that it might be hard to restrain angry young Jews from bombing mosques and the London Underground if the rockets on Sderot and other Israeli towns don't cease. Not that the Jewish representatives support this, of course; they're pleading for restraint. Cancel that paragraph - just kidding.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
How cool was that? £1000 was a lot of money in the early sixties. My starting salary was two pounds ten shillings a week. To me it was a simple matter. My dad was in need. My employer was in the money. Perhaps surprisingly, neither my importunate request, nor Mr Eccles' gentle letdown, made my later relationship with him the least bit uncomfortable. What a gent!
This is what happened:
Nine gay men in Senegal have been sent to jail for “indecent conduct and unnatural acts”.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Senegal but lawyers for the men said the sentence was the harshest ever handed down to gay men in the country.
The judge added three years to the maximum five-year sentence after ruling that the men were also members of a criminal organisation.
Most of them belonged to an association set up to fight HIV and Aids.
“This is the first time that the Senegalese legal system has handed down such a harsh sentence against gays,” said Issa Diop, one of the men’s four defence lawyers.
The head of a gay rights organisation in Senegal told AFP news agency that the situation for gay people in the country was getting worse.
“Many gays are already fleeing to neighbouring countries because of our living conditions,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country and gay men and women remain socially marginalised.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
Such people have made no protest at the bombardment of Israeli towns by more than 6000 rockets in the past six years, deliberately targeting innocent civilians. They have made no protest at the way Hamas has used Gazan civilians as human shields, situating its murderous arsenals beneath apartment blocks, in schools and hospitals and mosques in order to maximise the numbers of civilians killed (in order to manipulate all-too pliable western opinion). No, their protest only starts when Israel finally takes the military action aimed at stopping this genocidal barrage.