When John Reid was asked if he’d stand for Labour party leader, he would always give the same sort of reply. ‘I have a life outside politics,’ he told me at the last Labour conference. ‘I play the guitar, I play piano. I have a house in France. I could walk away from all this tomorrow, and my life would not collapse. Now you may believe me, or you may not believe me: I don’t give a ...’.At the time, I didn’t believe him.
Richard Leakey never looked like he was going to mellow much with age. For the past 40 years he has been one of the most vital, energetic, tenacious and inflammatory figures on the African scene. When barely out of his teens, he made his name as an archaeological prodigy — a sort of Mozart of Lake Rudolph — and in the process very nearly beat his parents, Louis and Mary, at their own game. When he ran the Kenya Wildlife Service in the late 1980s he famously torched a 12-tonne pile of poached ivory.