he wrong-footed us by insisting: "The core coalition of New Labour was New Labour and Old Labour." That's one for the philosophers, whether something can be a combination of itself and something else. With stuff like that, he could become a Buddhist monk, sitting in a robe, holding the hands of followers and telling them gently: "My friend, the apple is part apple and part lemon. Now use this knowledge wisely."
It's an apt area for Prescott to study, because he manages to be a classic blend of all that's sickly about New Labour, combined with all that was rotten with Old Labour.
I almost heard an audible 'ting' on reading that last comment, so squarely does it hit the nail on the head.
A different article explains
But, Mr Prescott insisted, the secret filming of Saddam's last minutes should be condemned "whatever your views about capital punishment".
"I think the manner was quite deplorable really," Mr Prescott told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "I don't think one can endorse in any way that, whatever your views about capital punishment. Frankly, to get the kind of recorded messages coming out is totally unacceptable and I think whoever is involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves."
Mark Steel points out,
he wouldn't criticise the Iraqi government, just "whoever was responsible". Well who else could it have been taking pictures and shouting at Saddam as he's hanged? Does the execution room share an office with a minicab firm?
Witty, yes; shining a light on some typical politician weaselling; yes. All very good. But it misses the point a bit.
The execution was the act of an elected government. That is - bear with me while I talk in real abstract - the people of the land nominate some of their number to act as their servants to take care of running stuff. It's done according to the law which is - let's stretch the theory and ideals further - the people's ideas of how they should behave and run things.
Now, I know the Iraqi government is not a fair representation of the Iraqi people, indeed no government ever really acts as the servants of its people. As Bill Hicks said, all governments are liars and murderers. I'm under no illusions there.
But Prescott is an elected politician so he is supposed to believe that servant of the people stuff.
The hanging was carried out under Iraqi law. It was, in Prescottworld, the will of the people. Why on earth shouldn't they be allowed to see what they're doing? If I give you my wallet and send you to the shop to get me some groceries then I have a right to see what you've brought back.
An official of Iraq's Justice Ministry said... "The Iraqi government is going to have an investigation into what happened. This operation should be done with the highest standards of discipline and with respect for the condemned man..."
You're killing someone in cold blood. How much more disrespectful can you get?
A few taunts really aren't going to make any difference to the reading on a disrespectometer.
It reminds me of the Pro-Life Alliance (again with Bill Hicks; 'you're pro-life? What does that make me?'). They were a bunch of overfunded anti-abortionists who put up candidates in the 1997 general election. They were never serious about getting anyone elected, but if you stand in enough constituencies you get an automatic right to a Party Political Broadcast on TV.
At the eleventh hour the broadcast, full of footage of abortions, was censored. The Pro-Life Alliance made superb use of it and I'd argue they made an even more impactful film. The deleted scenes were replaced with a statement saying that they'd been removed for legal reasons as they 'would offend public taste and decency', and if it would offend us to see something then we shouldn't be permitting it and paying for it.
I think they're right. Not about banning abortion. If they want to do that they can fuck off and live with the Amish, or at least find happy homes for every unloved unwanted child first. But they were dead right about demolishing the hypocritical discrepancies between what we do and what we're prepared to feel responsible for.
The people of Iraq should be allowed to see the hanging of Saddam Hussain, and anyone else they kill. If we find it distasteful then maybe we should be opposing hangings rather than the filming.
A poem by Thomas Merton, as told by Lenny Bruce
My name is Adolf Eichmann
The jews came everyday to vat they thought would be fun in the showers
The mothers were quite ingenious,
they vould take the children and hide them in bundles of clothing
They vere quiet soon because ve sealed them in, battened down the hatches, looked through the portholes and they would drop to the floor
They vere quiet.
Then we’d walk in, take off their clean Jewish love rings, remove the teeth and hair for strategic defence.
I made soap out of them.
They hung me in full view of the prison yard.
And people vould say ‘Adolf Eichmann was a beast!’
Nein, I vas a soldier.
‘No no, there are soldiers and soldiers, this was a beast!’
But I did a conscientious day’s work, I vatched through the portholes, saw every jew burned and turned into soap.
Do you people think yourselves better
because you burned your enemies
at long distances with missiles?
Without ever seeing what you’d done to them?