Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

Asso often with people in public life, the career of David Mills is beyond satire. If an anti-Blair left-wing playwright invented him, critics would accuse him of improbability. Mr Mills seems to have done almost everything which traditional Labour supporters hate. He has made a career of advising people, including the loathed Silvio Berlusconi, on how to create offshore taxshelters. He has given questionable court evidence for him, allegedly for money. He facilitated a £300 million sale of tanks by Ukraine to Pakistan. He administered a company in the Isle of Man. He lobbied to prevent the ban on tobacco advertising in motor racing because of his former directorship of Formula 1 Team Benetton. It would not surprise one to hear that he had arranged for General Augusto Pinochet to reside for tax purposes in the Cayman Islands, or flogged a few tactical nuclear warheads to Sir Mark Thatcher and Simon Mann. It's a magnificent defiance of the goody-goodyism of his party (he's Labour too) and his wife.

What is really puzzling, though, is the houses.

The Mills/Jowell homes in Kentish Town and Warwickshire are bog-standard, uppermiddle-class residences which could have been acquired with normal professional salaries by a double-income couple in their forties or fifties. Everything about Mr Mills - his very good suits, permanent tan, strangely brown hair, raffish charm and posh cars, not to mention his entire career - puts him in a different league. Are those really the only houses in the Mills menage? Tessa's recreations in Who's Who are 'Reading, gardening, music, Italy'. Is there a palazzo somewhere?

The strangest aspect of the Jowell/Mills affair is the revelation that Alastair Campbell advised the couple not to separate on the grounds that, unlike a marriage, 'politics is transitory'. One understands, though one does not admire, Campbell as the purveyor of cynical advice. But why is he turned to as a sort of New Labour priest, preaching the permanence of matrimony and the vanity of power? Campbell's new views are laudable, but they surely prove that he is no longer serious about advancing 'The Project'. Tessa Jowell, who presumably still is, therefore ignored them.

Craig Brown recently wrote about how boring things are strangely interesting.

Last week I walked past a newspaper hoarding in a neighbouring village. It splashed the words 'DENTIST REFUSES TO PAY PARKING FINE'. The truth of Craig's theory was immediately proved. 'Dentist' is a much more interesting-boring word than 'man' or 'doctor'.

Why would a dentist refuse to pay a parking fine? What could have driven him to this confrontation with the authorities? Was he experiencing a personal or professional crisis?

Is he a good dentist, or a bad dentist? I am enjoying the speculation so much that I have decided not to buy the paper to find the answers.

Of course Guantanamo Bay is a subject on which our leaders will want to state a view, but it is increasingly becoming a safe haven for condemnation when everything else about the 'War on Terror' is thought too sensitive. Sir Menzies Campbell tossed it into his inaugural speech as party leader at the weekend, and the Archbishop of Canterbury went on about it on television on Sunday. Dr Williams had only just returned from the Sudan. In the Darfur region of Sudan, which he did not visit, there has been genocide, and the expulsion of two million people. …

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