On resignation, Greg Dyke, little black books, and why The Guardian needs an awayday on fame and how to describe people
Posted on 4 August 2011 | 11:08am
I had really wanted to see the ‘My Resignation’ documentary on BBC4 last night. It is an interesting theme and the people making it seemed a cut above your average instant docmaker.
Having interviewed me on a rainy day like today, they were also polite enough to tell me when the programme was on. But I forgot, so the first I realised I had missed it was a bit of twittertraffic and this morning’s review in The Guardian. The reviewer, Sam Wollaston, put me in a short list of what he called ‘classy’ interviews, and I also note that I am one of three people – Greg Dyke and Richard Desmond are the other two – deemed by him and his subs not to need description.
This is an interesting phenomenon – why do The Guardian assume that Dyke (ex BBC, Roland Rat, Brentford FC – got him yet?) Desmond (pornographer – he owns the rights to my post-adolescent sex scribblings I think – owner of Daily Express and Daily Star) and I (you probably know me or else you wouldn’t be wandering round my website, but basically all round good guy, used to work for Tony Blair ((former UK Prime Minister, also all round good guy))) ‘need no introduction’ but Jacqui Smith requires the label ‘former Home Secretary’?
To understand who Richard Luce is Mr Wollaston and/or the Guardian subs believe we need the whole works – ‘parliamentary under-secretary of state for foreign affairs in 1982’. Similarly I learn that the film included interviews with ‘Dr Stephen Bolsin, the anaesthetist who blew the whistle on the bungling killer surgeons at Bristol Royal Infirmary;’ and ‘Catherine Gun, who leaked a US national security agency’s request to bug the offices of the UN’.
I also learn that I missed a chat with ‘former F1 boss’ Max Moseley. This is a fascinating one. The Guardian is assuming we know what F1 is (though frankly my first thought would be that it was a keyboard shortcut) but that we cannot know who Moseley is without being told of the link to the keyboard shortcut. Yet surely anyone who knows that F1 is meant to mean Formula One rather than a keyboard shortcut would know of Max Moseley’s relationship to it? I think The Guardian needs to have an awayday, and sort out its fame lists … just who does need a description, and who does not, and for those who do, how much of a description should it be? It could be half style book/half celeb commentary. It might even become something of an unexpected bestseller, like the Lynne Truss book on apostrophes.
Other newspapers could then rely on it too, including the Gulf paper which once carried a picture of TB in a line of half a dozen Arab princes in full Arab gear, and the caption said ‘Tony Blair, (third from left), meeting members of the government yesterday’ … there is a whole chapter to be done on what information can be assumed on seeing a photo.
Anyway enough of this digression, back to the substance of the programme I didn’t see. Sam (may I call him Sam now? – I feel quite familiar having read his piece so closely) revealed in his review that in the film, former BBC director-general Greg Dyke said that he had a little black book, and that it contained names as varied as mine, Tony Blair’s and Sarah Hogg’s, once a colleague at the Beeb.
There is one step up (or should it be down?) from the little black book concept, and that is what a former Mirror colleague of mine called the FTA list – Funerals To Attend. This is a list of people about whom one feels so strongly that one not only wishes them harm, but wishes to be there to witness its final effect.
I don’t know whether Greg will be pleased or disappointed to know he is not on mine, and nor is he in my little black book. In fact, as I sit here ruminating on my LBB and my FTA lists, I realise that they do seem to shorten with age.
When Greg and I were doing the media rounds on phonehacking recently, I bumped into him for the very first time since he was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry. I suspect that means that just as my FTA list has shortened, so my desire to socialise – which was never very strong – has diminished too.
So having gone years without a sighting of each other, two came along within the space of a few minutes. We had perfectly civil, if spiky exchanges, but I certainly bore him no ill will, and felt none in return, though he did insist on telling me the BBC had been ‘right’ in their reporting of WMD, and I did therefore insist on pointing out that the report in question was that we inserted false intelligence into the WMD dossier, knowing it to be untrue, and against the wishes of the intelligence agencies. Wrong, wrong and wrong, and nothing has emerged since to change that.
I don’t know if any of the background to my own resignation made the programme. Sam reveals that I was definitely on the programme – classy indeed – but there is no guide as to content, and I seem to recall discussing my own resignation and that of Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson (twice), Tony Blair, Ron Davies, Steve Byers, and many more besides.
The only way I will find out if via iplayer I guess, but I feel there is something not quite right about watching a programme during the day that went out at 9pm, and all on your own when nobody else is watching.
So instead I intend to think a little about who, on The Guardian awayday that is surely now being planned, will go in the list of ‘people who need no description.’ Sorry, Sam and subs, but I don’t think I will be on it. Nor will Greg Dyke. Nor will Richard Desmond.
The Queen? For sure. Barack Obama. Almost certainly. David Beckham and Tiger Woods. I think so … but no, wait a moment. What was my son telling me recently? That an Oxford graduate he met asked the question ‘who is Nelson Mandela?’ True story.
So I think it is best always to assume ignorance. We can discuss at the awayday the extent to which the media is to blame. But assume it we must.
I can’t believe I have written almost 1100 words about a programme I had been hoping to see, but missed.
** To order signed copies of Alastair’s diaries via Waterstone’s, click here
Ps, the signed-book-ordering feature is now also on the frontpage of the website. Waterstone’s is a well-known bookstore chain, I shall be telling The Guardian awayday assuming, as its inspiration, that I am invited.