Andrew Roberts

Diary - 21 June 2003

An egregious piece of sucking-up garners you your present Diary

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To Gateshead to appear on Question Time last Thursday with Nick Brown, Tom Strathclyde, David Steel and Janet Street-Porter. Until the show is filmed at 8.30 p.m., Nick Brown, the Minister for Work, hasn't been told that he is being sacked in the reshuffle. He certainly doesn't seem to betray any nervousness as we wander over the rather splendid Millennium bridge there, discussing Rupert Everett's excellent portrayal of Charles I in the otherwise dire new movie To Kill a King. Did No. 10 wait until Question Time was safely over before they broke the news? And, if so, why did they specifically ask for him to go on the show after the chief whip Hilary Armstrong had pulled out because of the reshuffle? One for the Questing Vole, I think.

Speaking of regime change, surely we ought to be asking Saddam to come back and rule Iraq again because we haven't found any WMDs. Forget the torture chambers that we have found, and the mass graves being uncovered every week, and the money that no longer goes to the families of Palestinian suicide-murderers, because, after all, the only thing that matters are WMDs, as though intelligence-gathering can ever be an exact science in a totalitarian regime where spies and 'traitors' are executed on suspicion. Sorry, but sometimes only sarcasm will do.

I've been receiving more than my usual quota of hate emails recently, not just because the Guardian (over-generously) described me as 'commander-in-chief of the hawks' over Iraq, but also because I have suggested that Prince Charles should marry Mrs Parker Bowles and that she should therefore, in due course, become queen. What is the etiquette for dealing with hate mail? I like to reply to every communication I receive, but to Mr John Bull (surely not his real name) from East Ham all I could say was: 'Dear Mr Bull, Thank you for your letter. It was so foully abusive and ignorant that I was cheered that I am on the opposite side of the argument from you. Yours sincerely, Andrew Roberts.'

Norman Stone, my university supervisor whom I saw in Istanbul recently, once checked up on the academic background of someone who had written him a rude letter and replied: 'Dear Professor So-and-So, For someone who, in the year 1990, published a book entitled The Continuing Integration of Yugoslavia, it rather ill behoves you to write to anyone on that subject ever again.'

For all that it is incestuous to mention The Spectator television critic's satirising of another regular Spectator columnist, who on earth can the gorgeous pouting hackette Clytemnestra be in Jamie Delingpole's superb roman