Joined: 30 May 2013
|Posted: Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:15 pm Post subject: Politicians Behaving Badly
|During the Iran-Iraq war which took up much of the 80s, the UK had an embargo on selling arms to Iraq. But the then Minister of State for Trade, Alan Clark gave Matrix Churchill the nod and the wink to do just that on the pretext of selling innocuous tools to Saddam Hussein's regime.
When three Matrix Churchill employees were about to be prosecuted, the police interviewed Clark who denied all knowledge. The three defendants would have gone to prison had not the judge, overturned ministerial immunity, allowing the court to see the documents with Clark's authorising signature.
Cross examined by Geoffrey Robertson, and invited to reveal if he had been economical with the truth, Clark redefined his conduct as economical with the actualite. He said he did nothing dishonest. Whitehall took the view that western interests were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other.
Clark had been embarrassed that his right wing colleagues thought he was a bit of a loony for his interest in animal welfare. He had been furious that the tabloids said he was 'mourning' a protestor who fell to her death under a lorry when campaigning against the export of bull calves.
Oddly enough the small boys used to clear minefields by the Ayatollah Khomeini, armed only with plastic keys which he had told them would open the gates to Paradise if they were blown up, suffered just as much as British bull calves if not more. Nor was trench warfare much fun for their older brothers.
John Pilger put it to Clark later, ''Did it bother you personally that you were causing such mayhem and human suffering?''
Clark replied, ''No, not in the slightest. It never entered my head.''
Pilger continued, ''I heard you were a vegetarian, and are ...concerned with the way animals are killed.''
''Doesn't that concern extend to humans?''
''Curiously not'', replied Clark.
Alan Clark should have been prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Instead he was treated as a hero. He had - eventually - told the truth in court.
Yes but only because he could not deny his own signature. He would happily have let the Matrix Churchill defendants go to prison had things been only slightly different.
This was his only significant moment. He found sexual equality legislation hilariously funny, and when asked to quote from it in the Commons, put on a funny voice, slurring his words. Everyone assumed he was drunk.
Claire Short snapped in her 'lovely Brummie accent', ''It is disrespectful to the House and to the office that he holds that he should come here in that condition.''
Clark's diaries do provide a ringside seat at the fall of Thatcher. He adored her. She had that je ne sais pas that Eva Peron had in the highest degree. During the Falklands war, he slavishly called her 'the Lady.'
When Thatcher just missed being blown up by an IRA bomb in Brighton, he drooled about how the hand of God had saved her. It was divine providence, just as when God intervened so Count von Stauffenberg's bomb did our beloved Fuhrer almost no harm at all.
Clark successfully sued the 'Evening Standard' for running a spoof character based on himself, in which he appeared as a buffoon and an anti-Semite, obsessed with 'nubile babes.'
This was a particularly callous and opportunistic action as it was a loving caricature. Nigel Lawson saw it as a 'humorous homage.' They were laughing with him, not at him.
However they meant it, it was surely fair comment. When he was still an Eton schoolboy, Clark shocked his sister by supporting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. He would tell his schoolmates whose fathers had just been killed in the Second World War that they had been fighting on the wrong side. One of them commented, 'He was a shit...he was absolutely awful.'
His father Kenneth Clark later did the 'Civilization' TV series. He didn't mess about with political correctness. He would say that Michelangelo's David or some such Renaissance artefact was superior to a native mask from Benin. It just was. There was no point in messing about.
But he was just a little disturbed by his son's tendencies. While the latter was still at school, he wrote, 'I think he could do well in politics if he weren't - my profound conviction - a fascist. That will never do in this country though the rest of the world may ultimately require it!'
Like many boys, he had a fascination with military matters In his case, it was purely theoretical; he managed to avoid national service. He wrote a contentious history of the First World War. Unable to trace an original source for the quote about lions led by donkeys, he invented one.
By the time he came to write 'Barbarossa', his 'tendresse' for Hitler was unmistakeable. He thought no one could doubt his genius. Even a reviewer who took issue with his style, agreed about poor Adolf's 'struggle with the untermenschen.'
In the early 60s, Clark's piss poor novel, 'Bargains at Special Prices', original title: 'Guilt Edged' came out. The 'blubbering' Edward Astaire remembered it as anti-Semitic with 'nasty drawings on the front cover.' It was not for that reason that it was temporarily withdrawn but because it allegedly libelled certain named individuals.
Clark went into politics to battle 'prick arse Wilson, layabouts, leftists, liberals, reformers' and 'barbarians.' David Cornwell found him exciting but did not care for his far right friends whom he found 'appalling.' Clark hoped to compile a collection of Nazi cars. He was fascinated by fascism, like someone in 'Remains of the Day.'
Cornwell said, 'He hated waiters. He treated them like shit. ...he fascinated people because he actually had a potential for evil which was very unusual...He wasn't just a rake. I think he had a capacity for violence.'
Clark noted that when he said he was a Nazi at heart, his friends laughed. They thought, 'Alan doesn't really mean it.' They thought he was just trying to shock.
So what about the nubile babes? It's hard to know where to start. I should mention first that he was trenchant in his opposition to 'convenient abortions' which he thought 'sinful'. He didn't hold back about a bill that would reduce the gestational age at which 'babies can be legally murdered' from six months to three.
He put it to a colleague, 'You hold strong views on discrimination whether racial or sexual. I don't. I know the strength with which one holds views can lead one to impute a moral stigma to those who don't.' He felt just the same about 'these dreadful women' who 'filibustered out' an anti-abortion bill. He called them medusas.
He thought a foetus a gift from God. Strangely, it was a gift he rejected in his early twenties. He had made a 19 year old ballet dancer Pamela Hart pregnant.
Clark's mother and other female relatives took charge of the situation. It was before abortion was legal in normal circumstances, but they persuaded two psychiatrists to depose that it was essential in this case. They whisked Pamela in and out of the private clinic so fast her feet hardly touched the ground. Her own parents never found out about it.
Clark explained to Hart in a letter why God favoured this termination: 'The parson who confirmed me told me never to marry a girl immediately because she was pregnant...I think it would be a mockery.'
Clark's biographer sees him not as a hypocrite but as someone who had had a change of heart. He was afraid he would be punished by God. He thought God would take vengeance on his sons. It sounds quite a primitive theology.
Clark had an affair with a judge's wife Valerie Harkness and apparently 'interfered with' her two schoolgirl daughters. He referred to them as 'the coven.' One of the girls swore an affidavit that he exposed himself to her and her sister while picking them up from school by car.
Clark's wife Jane stood by him. She castigated the common judge's family as 'below stairs' people who didn't know how to behave. It was vulgar people who went to the papers. They were 'appalling people.'
She can't have found his tendencies any surprise. He first saw Jane herself when she was 14, and immediately marked her down as 'a perfect victim, but whether or not it will be possible to succeed I can't tell at present.'
Jane thought she had never seen anyone with such a 'pompously conceited walk'. Clark was frustrated by her prick teasing as he interpreted it, but soon did succeed. When she failed to menstruate at the expected time, he was frantic, thinking he was going to prison.
It finally 'happened after tea.' He was so relieved he listened to Wagner and told his diary that God had forgiven him. Jane's parents began to take notice. Her father threatened him with the police. Her mother surprised him by taking his side.
She was in favour of their marrying as soon as Jane was 16. Edwina Currie commented that in the pictures, she looks more like seven.
Jane's mother said, ''Too young? Nonsense. After all, Juliet was only 14.'' The obvious riposte is Juliet was a fictional character. Across the road from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the local vicar noted glumly of a couple he had just married, 'The man was 17, the woman 14, a worthy ancient couple of young fools.' Even at the time he didn't approve.
At her convent boarding school, Jane had little chance to learn housewifely skills. But she found Clark would not even help her with the washing up. He was a self pitying hypochondriac who required much looking after.
All the Clarks had big heads. Jane's second son Andrew caused so much damage at his birth that she originally imagined she was swimming in water. But it was her own blood.
Clark turned his car round and drove away. He couldn't tolerate hospitals or illness. Perhaps the blood really disturbed him. After the births of both of their sons, he insisted that Jane go through a ritual of purification after childbirth also known as churching before being allowed into the house. It was so old fashioned, it is hard to believe an Anglican priest of the 60s would have agreed to be a party to it.
Clark wrote in his diaries of how he 'brainwashed dear little Jane.' He certainly did. When he was terminally ill, she was devoted to his care and kept a diary of his progress or lack of it. She wrote, 'I love God but this is such a cruel way to destroy such a brilliant brain.'
What evidence is there of his brilliant brain? He told Dennis Skinner he would rather live in a socialist Britain than one ruled by a 'lot of fuggin' foreigners.' He wrote of 'that fuggin' idiot Nott and his spastic 'Command Paper.' He wrote of 'the poor brave Serbs' at Srebenica and 'loathsome, verminous gypsies.' He saw genocidal Serbs as 'brave Christians.'
He disapproved of modernising church liturgy. He wrote, ' I understand the rage of the Inquisidores. I would gladly burn these trendy clerics at the stake. What fun to hear them pinkly squealing. Or perhaps as the faggots kindled, they would 'come out' and call on the Devil to succour them.'
At his death, colleagues said effectively, ''He was wonderful. What a character! Yeah, he was a shit and a Nazi and a perjurer. But he was very rich and went to Eton.''
A lone voice, David Heathcote-Amory told the BBC, ''He wasn't a particularly nice man. he could be very cruel with colleagues.'' He had refused to chip in to a whip round for a member although he was a multi-millionaire.
His biographer Ion Trewin fell for his charm. He thought him wonderful as did Jane from whom he had wrung a promise on his deathbed never to remarry.
Trewin's book was published in 2009. Post Operation Yewtree, Trewin would find it harder to paint him as a naughty but lovable scamp as opposed to a grubby pervert.
OK, it must always be a bit arbitrary what the age of consent is in any society. But even by the most generous of interpretations, Clark was not wonderful. He was a shit.