Dreams are weird things. I have great trouble remembering mine, as the instant I try to recall them on waking, they evaporate, like the catacomb frescoes exposed to the air in Fellini’s Roma. But last week, I managed to hold on to one of them for long enough to write it down. I rather wish I hadn’t. Just before going to sleep, I read that David Abraham had been made the new chief executive of Channel 4, pipping my current boss Kevin Lygo to the post. And so it was that in my dream, I was either on holiday or at some health spa where the inmates sit around in a light, airy room in white towelling dressing-gowns. On a large screen in front of us, a signing ceremony was taking place. I recognised the participants to be Lygo and Abraham. But the deal was being signed with a giant syringe full of olive oil. I turned to my neighbour to protest that this was ridiculous and would make C4 look stupid, only to realise my neighbour was Kevin Lygo. Now what the hell is that all about?
Watching the Chilcot inquiry felt like déjà vu all over again. If the lines sound familiar to me, it’s because I remember writing some of them for Bremner, Bird and Fortune in 2003. Tony Blair’s appearance filled me with dismay. It was clear from the long preamble and Sir Roderick Lyne’s long-winded first question (about the policy of containment in 2001, for heaven’s sake) that it was going to be a disappointment. Why not begin: ‘Good morning, Mr Blair, thank you for coming, why did you invade Iraq?’ Or ‘When exactly did you make the decision?’ When he used the 9/11 argument, nobody thought to ask him what precise role Saddam Hussein played in the destruction of the Twin Towers.
When the former PM replayed his usual line that ‘Saddam was a monster who used WMD to destabilise the region’, I thought, well that makes two of you, doesn’t it? And as for his refusal to express any regret about the loss of life caused by the invasion — that was extraordinarily callous. I guess he may have taken that position on legal advice, but since when did he worry about legal advice? Talking of which, what on earth was it in that meeting with Charlie Falconer and Sally Morgan that made Lord Goldsmith change his mind about the legality of the war? Was it the sight of the Lord Chancellor naked? Or Baroness Morgan brandishing a pair of electrodes? ‘Ah, Peter. Do come in. I’ve a message for you from the PM.’
At least we can console ourselves that TB wasn’t made president of Europe. Had he been, there’s a good chance we’d be well on the way to Tehran by now. As it is, given that his world-view is so distorted by his Manichaean, neoconservative agenda, you do wonder why people are prepared to pay such huge amounts of money to listen to it.
This week I attended a parenting course, and many of the techniques taught would come in handy for dealing with world leaders. A lot of the teaching involves thinking about what the child’s agenda might be, and anticipating their reaction. I must say if I was Ahmedinejad, listening to Blair, I would go back and tell my nuclear minions to get cracking on that weapons programme as fast as their little fingers can work. It’s interesting that that other international pariah, Colonel Gaddafi, renounced his weapons programmes long before any invasion, for the simple reason that they were getting in the way of his country’s economic and political interests. So now Libya is considered a fit country to do business with, which is presumably why Tony Blair spends so much time there.
The posher middle classes — the people who absolutely love Bird and Fortune’s dinner party sketches and laugh at the characters without the slightest recognition that they might be watching themselves — are an endless source of unintentional humour. One of John Fortune’s neighbours once sympathised with the relatives of a hostage taken prisoner in Iraq. ‘It must be dreadful for the family… just the not knowing. Mind you,’ she went on, ‘it was the same for us. We had to wait weeks before we got our planning permission.’
I was reminded of that when my wife, never one to do things by halves, put her back out while exercising. On the school run, we asked around if anyone knew a good local osteopath. One man’s face brightened visibly. ‘We’ve got a wonderful chap who did reiki on our dog.’ As I burst out laughing, he seemed a little surprised. ‘No, no,’ he insisted, ‘he was really good — we got another year out of her.’
I notice that Gordon Brown has decided that now is the time to move away from our electoral system of ‘First Past The Post’. Having consulted the polls and taken soundings, he’s clearly decided his party’s best chance is under a new system of ‘Second Past the Post’.
Invited to a Lib Dem reception for the Arts, I’m finally introduced to Nick Clegg (be still, my beating heart…). He’s taller than I’d imagined — possibly because he’s still standing on Chris Huhne — and he speaks confidently and well. But alas, we fail to have the conversation I’ve always wanted to have, which runs along the lines of ‘Hello, Rory! Can you do me yet?’ To which I reply, ‘No, Nick, can you?’ Ah well. In my dreams.