Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Curious Incident of the WMD in Iraq

While I am it, here is a book review from the same issue. I shall add it my other Liberal Democrat News reviews on Lord Bonkers' site in due course.

The Curious Incident of the WMD in Iraq
Rohan Candappa
Profile Books, 2004, £5.99

During their first brush with fame in the 1960s John Bird and John Fortune would entertain audiences at Peter Cook’s Establishment Club by simply reading out official documents. As their present-day collaborator Rory Bremner says, such publications are often funnier than anything a scriptwriter can produce.

Rowan Candappa also appreciates the comic possibilities of a deadpan account of real events. He describes Tony Blair’s career, emphasising the run up to the conflict in Iraq. His model is Mark Haddon’s bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is narrated by a 15-year-old autistic boy. The clever thing about Haddon’s book is that its style, which reflects the hero’s difficulty understanding human emotion, is nevertheless extremely moving.

Candappa is no Haddon, and his Anthony Algernon St Michael Blair owes much to Adrian Mole and the secret diary of John Major that Private Eye used to run. I am sure it was their Major who first owned a Letts Prime Minister’s Diary. But The Curious Incident of the WMD in Iraq is consistently amusing and the product of thorough research.

We first meet Blair at Fettes College, which was “Just like Harry Potter. Except that back then I couldn’t do magic”. A profound thinker – he stresses his belief in “The People’s God” – he gravitated to politics. He recalls that as an aspiring Labour candidate “it was very important to wear the right badges. My best badge was a CND badge. I used to wear it all the time.”

Once at Westminster the young Blair set about reforming the party with his friends Peter and Gordon. (“This was not the 1960s singing duo Peter and Gordon as I first thought.”) He soon became leader, changing its name to “New Labour” after toying with “I Can’t Believe We’re Not Tories”.

As prime minister he preferred to leave domestic affairs to Gordon. Abroad, it was easier to know “The Right Thing To Do”. So after 9/11 he was happy to help George W. Bush defeat the “Dangerous and Uncontrollable Rogue State of Afghanistan and its Evil Taliban masters by doing Bombing Back To The Middle Ages”.

They then turned to Iraq, but “George must have been really busy at this point because he didn’t have time to ring me and get me involved in any of this planning and decision making”. The invasion took place even so and we are still living with the consequences.

Mark Haddon’s narrator concludes by announcing his ambition to take a first class honours degree and become a scientist. Anthony Algernon St Michael Blair’s career may not end so happily.

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