David Blunkett – both evil AND stupid

18 October 2006

First, there was the willingness to commit war crimes:

DAVID Blunkett has admitted he urged Tony Blair to break international law and bomb al-Jazeera’s Baghdad TV transmitter during the Iraq war. [...] Mr Blunkett tells Dispatches he suggested to the war cabinet that al-Jazeera’s Baghdad transmitter be attacked. Asked whether he was not worried that this would be “outside the rules of engagement”, Mr Blunkett says: “There wasn’t a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn’t allow the broadcast to continue taking place.”

Not that surprising, given the rest of the Blair administration’s fairly blas? attitude to international law and human rights in general. But even the most swivel-eyed loon might have baulked at machine-gunning unarmed prisoners:

A HYSTERICAL David Blunkett told the Prison Service to call in the Army and ?machinegun? inmates in order to regain control of a riot-torn jail, the former Director-General of the service claims today. The former Home Secretary is said to have ?shrieked? down the telephone to Martin Narey that he did not care about the possible loss of life among staff or prisoners during efforts to retake Lincoln jail which had been taken over by rioting inmates.

With that, the portrait of Blunkett transgresses from mere ruthlessness to borderline criminal insanity. But what was revealed this morning in the Radio 4 serialisation of his diaries takes the biscuit. The audio is here, scroll to about 6:30. Blunkett is discussing the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks, when he was Home Secretary and in charge of the nation’s security. A rough transcript follows:

“…I spoke to my old schoolfriend, Graham McCreith, and his wife Christine, who live in Vancouver. Christine said that a patient in her physiotherapy clinic has told her a curious story. A relative, who had been in London, found someone’s wallet, and having returned it to them, were offered money as a reward. They turned this down, so the owner of the wallet, who was an Arab, said:

‘Well, I’ve got to do something for you: Don’t be in London on November 11th.’

“I immediately registered the significance of this. The 11th of November is Armistice Day, the one day where leading politicians, the Queen, leading personnel in the armed services are in the same place at the same time – a known time. I decided that I should at least tell Tony, as it was absolutely clear that no-one had thought through the significance. We agreed that there was no way we could possibly cancel Armistice Day, but we were certainly going to have to take increased precautions.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m now fucking terrified, with the revelation that the Home Secretary took action over security precautions based not on the advice of professionals, or even his own common sense, but only after he heard a “friend of a friend’s” retelling of a famous urban legend. I suppose it’s only the natural consqeunce of “sofa government” – faithfully relying on the informal testimony and advice of your cronies and chums, no matter how gullible they are.

Combined, the draconian brutality and outright stupidity make for a terrifying combination. Still, my fear is tempered by the fact that the crazy, stupid old cunt is no longer in a position of power, despite his ongoing concerted attempts to do so. But it makes me wonder – if someone so viciously amoral yet at the same time mind-bogglingly gullible managed to get to one of the great offices of state, what does it say about the qualities of the current cabinet?


9 Responses

view from the solent

“But it makes me wonder – if someone so viciously amoral yet at the same time mind-bogglingly gullible managed to get to one of the great offices of state, what does it say about the qualities of the current cabinet?”

Nothing new.

Be fair, it was a new urban legend at the time. On the other hand, most people seem to have seen through it fairly quickly. A quick google finds this forum post dated 18/10/2001:

Yesterday I was on the Underground travelling on the Northern line. An
Arab looking man got off the train and I noticed that he had left his bag
behind. I grabbed the bag and ran after him, caught up with him at the top of
the escalator and handed him back his bag. He was extremely grateful to me and
reached into his bag which I noticed contained bundles of banknotes. He offered
me a reward, but I refused. So he looked round, made sure nobody was looking
and whispered to me: “I can never repay your kindness Sir, but I will try to
with a word of advice for you. Stay away from Aberdeen Steak Houses”.

I was terrified. “Is there going to be an attack?” I whispered.

“No Sir”, he whispered back. “I went there yesterday evening – the food
was shit and the dessert selection extremely limited”.

I think that that urban legend has been doing the rounds for some time before September 11th. From Snopes:

In 2000, a specific version of this legend attached itself to the Trafford Centre in the U.K., a famous shopping location. According to that tale, a woman who helped a young man pay for his meal at Burger King was rewarded with the advice to avoid that shopping center during the month of March. That bit of advice was delivered in a light Irish accent.

M

Maybe machine-gunning prisoners was an idea to solve the prison over-crowding problem.

LilyW

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that we have some really decent public officials unwilling to compromise the rule of law (eg Narey). There must be at least something going right in the organisational culture of British public servants.

I like what Chris is saying. I think he’s asking us to consider Blunkett’s behaviour as part of a culture (sofa government) rather that as individual aberration (post Kimberley wobbles).

The man is evidently completely insane. It should also worry us that he thinks Al-Jazeera – a satellite channel based in Qatar – has a transmitter in Baghdad.

I think that, when it all comes out in the wash, we’ll hear a lot of horrors about his impact on the Home Office.

Seb

Hi Chris :)

…I?m now fucking terrified, with the revelation that the Home Secretary took action over security precautions … after he heard a ?friend of a friend?s? retelling of a famous urban legend.

But what he’s saying must almost certainly be a lie, because it’s a well-known urban legend out of which the 9/11 versions grew *after* the event.

The most charitable interpretations are either that he did have intelligence that 9/11 would happen from another source that he can’t give, or that he’s stupid and confused about the facts and the order that he heard the urban legend in. The less charitable one is that he knows it’s a complete lie and he’s just using it to say… what? …I have no idea.

Seb, Blunkett claims that he got this ‘intelligence’ after 9/11, referring to November 11th that year – exactly the time that this particular bit of Snopes-fodder was doing the rounds (again).

Seb

Oh yeah. Ah well.