The poisoner of the public discourse

Interesting stuff. The Knife recently blogged on The Madness of Alastair Campbell, who just keeps popping up to rant at us. I pointed out that:

Campbell shows no insight, no sense of atonement, and no signs of being happy.

Which seems, at least superficially, to be the case.  Sean Thomas, who has a wealth of ‘interesting experience’,  has just addressed this topic, in lacerating detail:

Campbell is not insane. He is a clever man. He is also – as he has admitted – an ex-alcoholic, given to depression. He has dark times. And I’d wager that during those dark times, he thinks about the dead of Iraq, the ongoing violence, the dodgy dossier, and David Kelly, and all that, and he feels seriously bad about himself.

So what does he do about it? Attack others. This is psychologically predictable: Sigmund Freud told us guilt, self-hatred and suicidality can be externalised as sadistic violence. That’s why Campbell’s bullying has become unhinged.

Thomas’s blogpost is well worth reading. This blog started, several years ago, with this post on Tony Blair’s apparent need for atonement, and as an aside, Campbell’s lack of any such redeeming impulse. Nothing has really changed, but Campbell seems to be creeping closer to some sort of edge.

Campbell, looking relaxed as ever
Campbell, looking relaxed as ever
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Sisyphus Blair

Yet more on the Blair is doomed theme, Iain Martin in the WSJ:

“.. But in the end it doesn’t feel like it was any kind of victory for Tony Blair. It was a reminder that no matter how hard he tries he just can’t shake off Iraq. Here he is, still relatively young, with property and money aplenty. But it is becoming clear that no matter how far or fast he travels the decisions of 2002-03 will follow him around the globe until the day he dies. His critics won’t give up haunting and taunting him, and he looks like he knows it…..

Basra

..He had got through six hours and didn’t want to weaken at the last.

And then his evidence was over and he could go home. But it’s never really over. Iraq and the endless inquiries are turning into a kind of groundhog day for Blair. He answers the same questions the same way, nothing new emerges but the sense is that none of it, somehow, is very satisfactory. And so it will go on, and on, and on.”

Post mortem…ad absurdum

Examined by MR KNOX
16 Q. Dr Hunt, could you tell the Inquiry your full name?
17 A. Certainly. Nicholas Charles Alexander Hunt.
18 Q. Occupation?
19 A. I am a Home Office accredited forensic pathologist.
20 Q. For how long have you been a Home Office accredited
21 forensic pathologist?
22 A. I have been on the Home Office list since 2001. I have
23 been practising full time pathology since 1994.


The Knife has attended many post mortems. They are always highly illuminating, and while there can be differences in interpretation, the bare anatomical facts are just that: facts.  I hadn’t actually realised that David Kelly’s post mortem was not in the public domain, until the bizarre decision by Lord Hutton to keep it under wraps for SEVENTY YEARS was revealed.

Looking at the official website from the Hutton Enquiry, there is actually a lot of detail  from the post mortem in the evidence of Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist involved. I do not question  Dr Hunt’s honesty and competence, although many have wondered  given the unique circumstances, but you have to question his conclusion:  “It is the haemorrhage as a result of the incised wounds to his left wrist…”  (that caused death).

I have often operated in this area myself, and I have seen many incised arteries. It is stretching credibility a long way to conclude that he bled to death from this. It’s not the biggest artery in the body,  it’s not even the biggest artery in the wrist, in fact it’s tiny.  There are lots of other concerns, ably described by Norman Baker, who has been uniquely vilified as a result, and  these concerns are still being properly raised by a group of qualified professionals. As a surgeon, I have to say that it stinks. As a member of the public, I would point out:

  • Why 70 years? The only conclusion is that  it is because everyone will be dead, although I very much doubt that the 70 years will be kept, one way or the other
  • The claim to be protecting Kelly’s family is ridiculous, given the unpleasant detail already in the public domain
  • The funeral was on 6th August 2003, at St Mary’s Church, Longworth in Oxfordshire. There has been a lot of blog chat about whether he was cremated or not, and the implication from the BBC report is that he was not: “..Dr Kelly was being laid to rest in the shadow of the north side of the building of the 13th Century church..”.
  • The picture at the top looks more like a cremation commemorative plaque than a headstone. This should be clarified, but the possibility of an exhumation, which would probably be of limited value, remains.  How would this be brought about? I suspect that it could only be as part of a criminal investigation, or if the family claimed sufficient concern to persuade the authorities that it would be their right. Both seem highly unlikely to happen.

In a very large cast of dodgy characters from the past thirteen years, Lord Hutton cuts a curious figure, hand picked by Mandelson, ridiculed for his report, he reportedly is a little huffy and sensitive due to the initial laughter at his conclusions, and  to the ongoing criticism. Get used to it M’lord. There is one way you could stop it though, it’s never too late…

Lord Hutton
Grumpy

Blair the wanderer

Matthew  Norman has written a great piece on Blair, which picks up the theme of posts on this blog. To quote:

“..If all that money offers him solace, acting as his comfort blanket as he tosses and turns in the desolate small hours tweaking his answers to the questions he expects on Friday, so be it. For all the braggadocio, the sunken eyes and haunted expression betray his fear of arrest, and even more so his awareness of the loathing felt for him here and around the world. He may or may not be tortured on Friday by the Furies, as represented by the parents of troops killed in Iraq, but he will be tormented until the only Judgment Day he tells us means anything to a demigod whose stature far transcends the insolent judgments of mankind. If he leaves for a well-guarded gated community in the United States or Australia, he will be an exile. If he stays to flit between his many homes in England, he will be an outcast in his own land. Robert Harris brilliantly portrayed him as The Ghost in his excellent novel of that name. Now he looks more like one of The Undead…”

He will be the  Wandering Jew figure for our times, long after Campbell etc have faded into chat show semi-obscurity.

addendum: Probably reality TV these days. “Bad” Al to appear in the jungle is my hunch.

second addendum: Matthew Parris, on the day after Chilcot v Blair:

“.. And so, as former friends desert, our former leader heads off into the wilderness, a scapegoat burdened down with the consequences of what was, in truth, a bad idea — not a good idea badly executed. Mr Blair will spend the rest of his life (as someone once said of Edward VIII) growing more and more tanned, and more and more tired. Yesterday, and for the first time, I almost pitied him.”

Ouch.

Tony Blair

Tony Blair knows it was wrong

The Chilcot Enquiry is beginning to reveal the cracks between Campbell, the civil service, Blair etc. I suppose that this is a better position at this stage than most people would have expected. Campbell’s recent “evidence” was the usual bluster, but with a tension that suggests he was struggling to hold it together, leading to a particularly stupid finale.  He is obviously not  happy with it himself.  The general belief though, thus far,  is that where Campbell was typically pushy and superficially confident, Blair will be typically “charming” and skip off, unscathed, into his exciting new lifestyle. Possibly so, in terms of the enquiry, but for Blair personally, I think not.

Blair is a man carrying heavy  baggage,  and it’s beginning to show. His conversion to Catholicism is well known, the timing seemed almost cowardly, but there’s no rules to these things, and nobody does it lightly. It’s not possible for it to take place on the spur of the moment. All those  churlish catholics who questioned the move do so at their peril – it’s between Blair, God and his confessor.

I think he is genuinely seeking atonement. What else can he realistically do to make amends for his colossal hubris and misjudgement in the Iraq war, as well as numerous other nightmares, not least his role, however peripheral in David Kelly’s death?  He’s not going to ‘fess up on Oprah, start squealing to Chilcot or write an honest memoir, not at this stage.

He can however start to make things right within himself. Perhaps his ludicrous role as an utterly ineffective mini-Kissinger in the Middle East is the acceptable public face of this attempt to do the right thing, but the real action is taking place inside him. Matthew Parris famously spotted him at St Theresa’s relics not long ago, looking a little wrong-footed, but when you think about it, he’s not actually high profile at all, despite the lurid stories about lucrative directorships and  horrendously dull lecture tours. He is not seeking the spotlight.

Time is a great healer,  and  failed politicians, if they live long enough, eventually become  elder statesmen, laden with gravitas, and their views sought out. Paddy Ashdown and Denis Healey perhaps. Blair won’t manage this trick, his offences are too big, his trail of destruction, both in human terms and the damage wrought to  the political process in Britain,  is too great.  He will be rich and feted,  in  circles which most of us would wish to avoid, but for him it’s Groundhog Day (Parris again).

You may not feel any sympathy for the man – I don’t – and you may think the above is all cod psychology and religious mumbo jumbo. Feel free to do so, but Tony Blair is a man in pain.