Wednesday, 4 December 2019

In Defence of Simplicity

 

 1967: Enoch Powell, Tory MP and Minister of Health in the 1960s Macmillan government. At the height of controversy over his ‘rivers of blood’ speech – he was the Farage of his day - he made the mistake of trying to give a speech at Essex University. I was part of the posse who escorted him to his car. Both he and us conducted this exercise in mutually contemptuous silence.

 

1970: George Brown, Labour MP and Foreign Secretary in the Wilson government. At a general election rally in Colchester Town Hall I joined others to heckle Brown about the Vietnam war. Not a man able to contain his anger, he stepped down from the stage and took a swipe at me. The following day the Sun had a photo of his assault on their front page with the headline, “Up and At ‘Em George” Meanwhile I ducked down to avoid his blows and those of National Front thugs who had arrived at the scene.

 

1996: Tony Blair was guest speaker at the Piccadilly Hotel in London for a music awards lunch. I was there as co-founder of the charity War Child. He was introduced to me by his PA, Anji Hunter (who went on to become Director of Communications at BP and then Director of External Affairs for Anglo American Oil). I tried to tell him about the return of fascism to SE Europe. Anji pushed her clipboard into my chest and led the wretched man out of the room.


1997: As director of the about-to-be-opened Pavarotti Music Centre in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina,  I was tasked with inviting the town’s two mayors to its opening. (One small town, two mayors, a mini-Berlin!). When I arrived at the office of the Croatian mayor, Ivan Prskalo, his sound system was tuned to the Spice Girls. Things got off to a bad start when he said he felt offended to be invited to an event in his own town by an Englishman. I wanted to say that people didn’t normally bomb their own towns, but kept quiet. In polite chit-chat I mentioned that my former wife was Croatian. The Bosniak mayor, Safet Oručević, then arrived for the meeting and Prskalo turned to him and said cheefully, “David Wilson looks young for his years because he married a Croat", to which I replied, “No it’s because I divorced one.”


1999: Michael Howard, leader of the Tory Party, 2003 – 2005 and Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, turned up at the Pavarotti Music Centre. He was introduced to me and I asked him what he was doing. He replied, “Meeting local politicians”. I replied,”Why?”, to which he answered, “Fact-finding dear chap.” I laughed and said, “You know as well as I do that you won’t get any facts from politicians.” He turned to his minder and asked “Can we move on to my next meeting?”

 

2006: Peter Mandelson, Labour MP, close advisor to Tony Blair and the Dominic Cummings of his day, was exiting Westminster Cathedral after Blair had given one of his ‘faith’ lectures. I had been helping organise the Stop the War demonstration outside and we persuaded people to turn up with musical instruments, pots and pans etc to ‘rough musik’ Blair. The historian E. P. Thompson described this as using raucous “music” and street theatre, to mock those “who offended against community norms.” I had cow bells which I rang in his ear as he crossed Victoria Street, while repeating the two words, “You murderer.” He should have left from the back of the building with his boss.


2018: Jeremy Corbyn: As my MP he visited me at Barts Hospital when I was trying to overcome heart / stroke problems following an operation ( I am now OK and stll here thanks to the NHS.). No entourage, no photographers. A simple act of kindness. When he was speaking recently outside the Whittington Hospital he saw me standing in the crowd and raised his right hand over his heart. I nodded a ‘yes’ to his signalled question about my health.

A simple man in the best meaning of that word. Not something that can be said of any of the others. JC4PM

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