The Spectator Diary

It is one of the great mysteries of modern geopolitics. How the hell has Condoleezza Rice got away with it for so long? There she is, Secretary of State of the United States and one of the most powerful people on the planet. It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran. She is the girl who threatens Ahmedinejad with Armageddon, or whatever our policy is. And yet if you read State of Denial by Bob Woodward (as you must) it is clear that she was the most stupefyingly incompetent National Security Adviser in the history of that office. She was warned, in some detail, about 9/11. The CIA made a special trip to see her on 10 July 2001 to say that al-Qa’eda was planning something huge and imminent, and that a ‘strategic’ response was necessary. Uh-huh, said Condi, and did zip; and at every stage in the catastrophic ‘War on Terror’ her behaviour is characterised by this same weird zen-like passivity. Soon after the invasion the question emerges: should the US send many more troops? Condi somehow fails to offer an opinion. The Americans’ first hapless proconsul, Jay Garner, asks her before setting out what the game plan is. Where is power to reside? he asks. Who do we want to run the country? You might have thought this was a fairly crucial question, but ‘Rice said nothing.’ When Garner’s successor, Jerry Bremer, makes the appalling mistake of de-Baathifying Iraq, she doesn’t seem to grasp the significance of what is going on. And yet she was so important in the decision-making process that she was one of only two people consulted by Bush before he made his decision to go to war. The whole thing is terrifying. I absolutely refuse to take seriously any American urgings to get tough on Iran as long as she is still part of the show. Rumsfeld was demonised until Bush finally whacked him. Colin Powell was whacked. How come Condi is still flying around telling us what to do? One of the many reasons for regretting the death of Robin Cook, Labour’s conscience over Iraq, is that he never had the chance to interrogate her. I was all set to write the headline, ‘Cook Turns Up Heat On Rice.’ It’s about time someone did.

The other day I was giving a pretty feeble speech when it went off the cliff and became truly abysmal. It was at some kind of founder’s dinner for a university, and I had badly miscalculated my audience. I thought it was going to be a bunch of students, and when I saw the elite group of retired generals, former Telegraph editors and Nobel prize-winning economists, all in black tie, with their wives, I desperately tried to extemporise something profound. There were some musty sepulchres set into the wall of the ancient hall, so I started burbling about social mobility in the 18th century and widening participation in universities today. Frankly, I thought my sermon was more or less ideal. I began some guff-filled sentence with the words, ‘I am sure we all agree…’. It seemed to go well, so I did it again. ‘I am sure we all agree we need world-class skills…’, I said, or something equally banal, at which point a man down the table shot to his feet and shouted, ‘Well, I don’t! I don’t agree with what you are saying at all. It seems to me to be quite wrong for you to claim that we all agree when I don’t agree.’ And blow me down, he appeared to be wearing long purple vestments. It was, of course, Britain’s most turbulent priest, the Bishop of Southwark. I realised I was being heckled by a blooming bishop, and from that moment on my speech was irretrievable. I told a long and rambling story about sheep, in the hope that the man of God would be appeased, and sat down. I did sniff him later on, and though there was an aroma of hot cassock he didn’t seem notably drunk.

Just up there, I said to the taxi driver. Just turn right at the Belisha beacons. A few seconds later I looked up and — what the hell? He’d scooted right past them. There! I jabbed. There at the Belisha beacons! ‘The what?’ said the cabbie. ‘Oh, you mean the pelican crossing. No one calls them that anymore.’ I was dumbfounded, like Simon Heffer on being told that the ‘wireless’ is in fact called the radio. And I was sad. Is it not time for a Tory transport secretary to turn back the clock and insist that whenever we speak of these lollipops we continue to commemorate his predecessor, Sir Leslie Hore-Belisha, who served in that office from 1934 to 1937? If that isn’t Conservatism, I don’t know what is.

That time of life thou may’st in me behold, when wondrous bristles sprout from out my ears. What’s that all about then? You turn 40, and pow, ear hair. Not downy hairs, but almost woody, like the chitin of a lobster’s legs, and far too few (in my case) to keep the ears warm. What possible evolutionary purpose can they serve?

I woke to the sound of a terrible yowling, as though the children were killing a cat, or engaged in hand-to-hand conflict with a bunch of marauding paedophiles. I ran downstairs to find them playing in the snow. Doesn’t it make your heart leap for joy?

14 thoughts on “The Spectator Diary”

  1. Boris,

    I have been a fan of your writing for some time now, and this article is the first that has actually made me sit up and listen.

    I applaud you. However, I dont think that it goes quite far enough. Yes Condi sat back and did nothing, but so did many politicians in this country, and they need waking up now, before we get into a bigger and wider war.

    The last line of your article says I was all set to write the headline, ‘Cook Turns Up Heat On Rice.’ It’s about time someone did.
    Well why dont you do it. there is plenty to write about, and plenty of telling to do.
    Perhaps you could start here.

    We need someone to stand up for us, the people of britain, churchillian style. Fancy the job.?

  2. This was much better than your usual drivel.

    Stick to what you’re good at Boris (writing); you clearly have no talent for politics.

  3. Does anyone know what Dr Rice is a doctor of? I would have thought, were it politics, she’d have read a bit of Machiavelli, especially when it come down to not demolishing the mechanisms of state of a conquered country, so to retain the semblance of a smooth transfer of power from one ruler to the next. It wouldn’t be so bad, another country being run by imbeciles, if our countrymen weren’t dying for their folly.

  4. Condi plays piano to near concert pianist standards. And she has a supertanker named after her. Isn’t this qualification enough?

  5. Boris,

    Upon reading your article, I pondered deliciously on the prospect of the conquences of the Eastern world invading America. Although, the thought is based in humour (not to say your comments are, but the general consensus is one of a fragrant and jocular mental physique) the meaning is that on a perspective of America, would the harbouring of Christian fantatics justify a sea born invasion of the big US? I mean, the WMD’s are there.. (and knowing the nature of the past US administration, they’re not afraid to use them) we know children in the US are being indocrinated with creationist ideas (arguably this in itself a violation of religious freedoms, as not all religious creation storys are alledged to have been taught equally). So we have the WMD’s, the suppression of truth in education (propaganda), we need to include a somewhat ruthless and ignorant leader who has killed more civilians than Saddamn Hussain. Hang on, Bush?. If thier justification for war is false, they could always steal the oil in Alaska, and give contracts solely to coalition nations.

    Although I don’t obviously agree with the perspective, it is a intriguing contrast that is seldom brought up in the media, that the evil which the US has portrayed to us, could be infact interpretated as themselves.

    Don’t know why I posted this here, but I respect your work, and you are right about Condi!

  6. The Bishop of Southwark a heckler? Given his recent proclamation on doing drunken things that “I am the Bishop of Southwark. It’s what I do”, the perfect reply would have been, “assume we all agree withot asking first? I am an MP. It’s what I do”.

    Enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work.

  7. I don’t think it was intentionally malicious, just stupid. Evil people tend to be much more successful than stupid people.

  8. Dury: Excellent blog of yours, and you’ve a link to Richard Thompson’s website. Can’t be bad!

  9. Condi-lovers, look away now

    What is the world coming to? Is nothing sacred? A cheeky Brit pol is ragging on the bearer of the Vestalian aura within the Bush crowd, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. What’s more, the guy is a leading light in…

  10. <‘It is Condi Rice who leads on behalf of you, me, the entire Western world, in waging this deepening Cold War with Iran’ (Boris)<

    Is it with Iran? Or is it really with Russia? After all it’s Russia that have been helping them build these deep enrichment plants, nicely hidden away from Israels bunker-busters. If Russia can destabalise US and European energy security surely they stand to profit from it?

    You see it would take a lot to convince me that the ‘Cold War’ is over. OK, so they ditched collectivism. All that means surely is that they have greater access to our markets now.

    I don’t trust the Russians not to play silly buggers with energy prices if they get half a chance. This is one of the reason I think we need more nuclear power stations like the French. Even the Iranians want nuclear power, perhaps they don’t trust Russia for when their oil runs out either?

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