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Selsdon Man

These sort of books deter a lot of able people from even considering politics or public service as a career. Politicians and their officials should be able to trust each other to keep confidences. Politicians' memoirs, especially those that reveal confidences, can be just as bad.


Kennedy installed tape-recorders in The Oval Office to keep track of his advisers, Nixon used them to keep track of Kissinger. Captain Bob Maxwell bugged the offices of his executives to feed his paranoia............David Kelly died because he had no route within government to voice his concerns............yet in No 10 Alistair Campbell was earning his book advance from Harper Collins by keeping a diary to sell to Rupert Murdoch..............Lance Price just sold his slimline version to fund his French guesthouse first.

Just how can anyone work effectively and honestly in this snake-pit ?


The problem starts at the top - and isn't new - Churchill's Second World War, Ted Heath, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher....all published memoirs about their time in office

If the Prime Minister is able to publish books about his/her time in office shortly after leaving office (burnishing their image often at disadvantage of public servants) why can't ministers, civil servants, diplomats etc . also jump on the pension fund / house in country bandwagon?

Unless there is an enforceable code that doesn't permit Members of Her Majesty's Government, the Civil, Diplomatic and Military Services to publish within say 5 years of leaving we are stuck with this.


Oh no! had the Telegraph Podcast on in background - I seem to be agreeing with Simon Heffer on this subject - was this what technology was invented for - Simon Heffer's voice playing out of my surround sound :-(

Bob B

Rick: "Just how can anyone work effectively and honestly in this snake-pit ?"

Rick has a point. Melanie Phillips is taking much the same line as Lords Armstrong and Butler, previous Cabinet secretaries. Yes: implicit confidences have been breached but those who engage in attacking Meyer ought to have the intellectual honesty to also respond to the case he makes.

Meyer did clear the manuscript with the Foreign Office before publication. Blair has on several occasions been quick to blame the "civil service", both explicitly and implicitly, for failings in the implementation of his "modernising" agenda. The civil service in post is constrained about responding to that. Methinks a substantive part of the problem is highlighted by an important point Meyer makes about Blair: he doesn't do detail.

Most folks will readily go along with notions of policy "reform" and "modernisation" but Blair is apt to treat that as a blank cheque for whatever specifics the Downing St presidential machine then tries to push through. As with most reforms, the devil is often in the detail, not the general principle. What isn't altogether clear is whether Blair's particular way of pushing an agenda is by intention or default. I've rather been convinced by the judgements of others on this:

"I seem to recall Roy Jenkins, in a moment of Violet Elizabeth Bott rage, declaring that Tony Blair had a 'second-class mind'.",9826,857473,00.html

"Wheatcroft sadly writes that Blair 'is in no real sense an intellectual.' Then: 'Clearly, Blair is a smart operator, but how intelligent is he?' The answer comes from an American woman who dined with Blair and concluded 'he wasn't that bright.' The American denies making that statement. But who cares? Not Wheatcroft, who dispels the disclaimer by noting that novelist Doris Lessing said Blair is 'not very bright in some ways.'"

"Honderich is also a consequentialist, which partly explains his hatred towards Tony Blair. 'He is always asking to be judged by the morality of his intentions,' he spits. 'He doesn't understand that no one cares about his f*****g morality. We judge him by the consequences of his actions. In any case, his morality is so muddy and ill-considered. I'm increasingly coming to the opinion that Blair's main problem is that he's not very bright.'",11109,1442709,00.html

Ted Honderich was Grote professor of Mind and Logic, UCL, 1964-1998.


christina speight

Rachel Johnson in today's Telegraph ( DO READ) tells of her time in Washington and the electrifying effect of the arrival of the Myers. She talks about his enormous talent but ends - - -
"If only the Foreign Office had not quibbled about his
life-saving heart surgery and retirement date and helped Catherine more; ifonly Blair had bothered to say goodbye when he retired, and not briefed against him”
Er - - - Say that again ! - - “briefed against him” . That’s the man who is our prime minister of spin and what he does to those who are not totally subservient."

He deserved everything he got.


Bob B I think it is true that Blair is not particularly bright, he went to St John's which has always seemed to favour the bland and took a degree in a subject - Law - which ensures the mediocre enjoy an above-average standard of living with little need for brilliance, which, when coupled with politics, permits the lazy to rise effortlessly.

Blair is simply a man like Clinton who has learned to manipulate women: Clinton despises them, and Blair has an androgenous duplicity.

James Hellyer

One can't help but wonder how much of the steady drip-drip of memoirs from disaffected ministers and advisors, owes to the unaccountability of Blair's government. He's been able to rule without consensus, using his Commons majority and powers of patronage to get his own way. The cost of this has been a trail of kiss and tell stories from the people whose fingers he's trodden on.

In the days of Thatcher and Major, such people preferred to scheme in private, and eventually destroy reputations from within parliament. This new method destroys reputations in the country, and faith in our system of government.


I find the publishing of confidential information in the memoirs to be dishonourable, but not illegal. However I do think that having a dishonourable head of the PCC is a very unsettling, and that Meyer should go.


There's a long, proud tradition of European canootrs ridiculing Republican presidents and the behind their , that destroyed the of the , had , gave more to their opponents, threatened to , and were certain to end in , leaving the country they tried to hold together forever.

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