Magazine article The Spectator

It's So Hot That I'm Even Cross with the Evacuees

Magazine article The Spectator

It's So Hot That I'm Even Cross with the Evacuees

Article excerpt

Yo -- Reader! How are ya doin'? Hot and bothered, I suspect; sticky and irritable.

And no less so for having been addressed in such a manner, or for being reminded that this is how the leader of the free world addresses those who do his bidding, the lickspittle minions who bring him gifts of questionable knitwear at world summit meetings.

(Apparently it was a Burberry jumper our Prime Minister gave to George W. Bush; so if he wore it, he'd be refused entry to quite a large number of public houses and bars in the Leicester area, where Burberry knitwear has become associated with monosyllabic, aggressive troublemakers. Yes, how apt, good old Leicester, etc. ).

I don't know how you reacted to that stolen snatch of conversation broadcast around the world this week. Under normal circumstances I'd have chuckled and maybe even warmed to the two men; Blair's laconic irony, Bush's tongue-in-cheek avuncular self-deprecation and their shared language and apparently complete verstehen. I might, under normal circumstances, have considered the whole thing rather endearing. But it was a stiflingly, relentlessly hot day; there was a lagoon of sweat, glistening like oil, on the table in front of me; the windows open to a non-existent breeze. I felt as if I were decomposing. And so, instead of chuckling amiably, I got irritated. In fact everything on the television news programmes crawled under my skin and irritated me; I became reflexively intolerant and very, very rightwing. Perhaps a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, but it may also be true that a conservative is a liberal for whom the mercury has just risen past 32 oC. Anyway, I no longer felt temperate. Just inflamed and angry to the point that my political disposition eventually made Richard Littlejohn resemble Pastor Martin Niemoller.

The seething really got under way when I watched the exodus of 'British' citizens from Beirut harbour to the safety of Cyprus and thence home, an operation for which you and I have paid a lot of money. We were not spared their views. Were they grateful and full of humility? For the most part, were they hellers. Everyone was to blame for the uncomfortable time they'd endured in the previous seven days -- the British embassy, America, Israel and so on -- but not themselves. And not Hezbollah either, who were exonerated by all and sundry either by omission or quite explicitly.

There was, for example, the breathtakingly cretinous girl who explained that she'd just come to Beirut to 'do some deejaying, like' and was appalled that the British embassy hadn't got its act together and flown her home when the first bombs landed. I have the feeling we will see her again soon enough, looking bemused standing with her rucksack by a landing strip in Quetta or Khandahar, other places where her 'deejaying' sojourn runs into a spot of bother. There were people angry that their 'beach holiday' hadn't turned out as they'd expected, what with the heavy ordnance and everything. Now, I don't wish to be callous, but don't phrases like 'on your head be it' and 'you made your bed' etc. , spring to mind here? A beach holiday, in Beirut?

Didn't they wonder why it was so cheap?

Might they not have guessed that Beirut would be a little different from Biarritz? …

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