Ancient Wit 155

It is my birthday! I had a celebratory dinner last night in the home of very dear friends from student days. whom I had not seen for decades. We regaled each other with stories of those long ago times, and for a while were young again.

I heard again how I forgot about one of my finals and had to be helped, too drunk to walk, into the examination room but still got a first. Absolutely true but I had forgotten it until reminded. I did remember the tales of Clement Freud’s sleaziness while Rector in his advances on female students. There was one story in hearing which I took a shamelessly big-headed delight, of when we were at a Clement Freud speech in a formal university occasion. Rather pompously, he said: “You know when you are doing the job of Rector properly when the University Court thinks you are on the students’ side, and the students think you are on the Court’s side”. I interjected loudly “Two-faced bastard” and brought the house down.

If you live long enough you will make some jokes worth retelling.

But I haven’t changed in one respect. Just as I managed to miss the start of a final exam, I managed today to miss my speech to SNP conference by not being in the hall when called. I simply misread the programme, though to be fair to myself the programme is not plain whether the resolution would be in the 10am resolutions session or the 11.30am session. I am annoyed with myself nonetheless.

The motion was on the BBC Charter and I had wished to move a reference back on the grounds that it was not radical enough in its treatment of the BBC. SNP activists are continually accused in the media of being against journalistic freedom in their “attacks” on the BBC. I intended to say that, after a great deal of professional experience monitoring state propaganda organisations around the world, I know one when I see one. To oppose the propaganda output of a state propaganda organisation is not to oppose media freedom, it is to promote it. I missed out on the applause this would have got in the hall. You can applaud now.

I was fortunate in that for the whole of my twenty years in the FCO I had staff working for me who could organise me. Tell me where I was supposed to be, take me there, and make sure I didn’t forget my coat, briefcase or wallet. Without this structure around me, life is a constant struggle against my own impracticality.

Oh well, I have got through 57 years of this. If the next forty are even slightly as enjoyable, I have much to look forward to.

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155 thoughts on “Ancient Wit

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  • bevin

    Trowbridge. Thanx for the info. I have the Uglow book. And your bio of the insufferable Brougham is called……..

  • Jives

    Some here have castigated Fallon as a shit…

    I fear he to be much worse than that..

    A booze-soaked drivel-gushing incompetent lackey is more likely.

  • YouKnowMyName

    Sad story, former journalist for the powerful state broadcaster is found dead in Turkey.

    Ms Sutton, a former BBC journalist, had worked in Iraq for several years and was the acting Iraq director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).

    NATO Turkey does seem to be accident prone with journalists

    quoting from the google cache of (offline as I type)

    IWPR gives voice to people at the frontlines of conflict and transition to help them drive change
    IWPR supports local reporters, citizen journalists and civil society activists in three dozen countries in conflict, crisis and transition around the world. We contribute to peace and good governance by strengthening the ability of media and civil society to speak out. We do this by training, mentoring and providing platforms for professional and citizen reporters; building up the institutional capacity of media and civic groups; and working with independent and official partners to remove barriers to free expression, robust public debate and citizen engagement.

    the UKs powerful state broadcaster is unlikely to mention Ms Sutton’s role in this citizen journalist for peace charity, No?

  • Mochyn69

    The only thing I would say about the BBC is that it is a means of support for broadcasting in our native minority languages of the Celtic Fringe.

    Without the BBC I feel the outlook for Welsh,Irish,Gaelic and Cornish would be a lot worse than it actually is, and truth to be told, it is still very fragile.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    the UKs powerful state broadcaster is unlikely to mention Ms Sutton’s role in this citizen journalist for peace charity, No?

    Yes. R4 News, last night.

    TV News tends to be focused on visual stories, amazingly, and R4 will often cover what the TV doesn’t. The programme on land reform was reasonably impartial, and briefly raised the parallel issue of land ownership south of the border, in which buying to invest has inflated land prices beyond the reach of the individual too.

    (See also Private Eye’s ongoing interest in property and land ownership by anonymous offshore entities in the rest of the UK)

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Interestingly, while the BBC unquestioningly went with suicide, Hurriyet checked back with her colleagues:

    “[I find it] very difficult to believe that my colleague … and seasoned traveler Jacky Sutton committed suicide,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, a country director with the United Nations Development Programme, in a Tweet after the incident.

    “Shocking and sad news about the death of Jacky Sutton in Istanbul. An international, not just local, investigation is needed,” fellow journalist and development worker Rebecca Cooke said after the incident, according to The Guardian.

    Sutton, who spoke five languages and was continuing a PhD at the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, had a connecting flight to Arbil at 12:15 a.m. but reportedly missed her flight.

    During her consultation with ground services after missing her flight, Sutton was informed she had to purchase another ticket, as the airlines were not responsible for the incident.

    Stating it would be financially impossible for her to purchase another ticket, Sutton went to the restroom at the airport’s international arrivals terminal. Reports indicate the woman committed suicide inside the restroom using the laces of her shoes.

    Sutton’s body was found by three Russian passengers who notified paramedics. Upon their arrival at the scene, paramedics could not detect Sutton’s pulse.

    Granted, Ataturk airport can be a bit depressing, but it’s almost incredible that Sutton had no local contacts, no useable credit or debit card, and no cash. How was she intending to support herself in Arbil?

    Dirty work at the crossroads, I think. And, bearing in mind that Merkel’s engaged in very high-profile talks with the Turks, in which press freedom is a substantive issue, less likely to be Turkish dirty work.

    Found by three Russians, eh?

  • Ken2

    Referendum 1.6Million YES – 2Million NO. 16/17 years olds voted (85% turnout)

    GE May 1.5Million SNP – 1.5Million Unionist. 16/17 not allowed to vote. (60%+? turnout)

    The young favour Independence. The older favour status quo. According to Polls.

  • nevermind

    Thanks for all the great links Ba’a’ and no thanks for nothing habbaduck, its obvious that you do not want to make the world a better place but perpetuate the status quo.

    Cabinet secretaries are telling cabinet minister to shut up about Heathrow expansion in a turn too far this morning, whilst Ms. May was ignorant to the dangers her conference speech has opened up.

    Now what was Ms. Sutton doing in 2003?

    And will Xi Jiping make a pitch for HS2 today?

  • Habbabkuk (scourge of the Original Trolls)


    I’ve given you my reason for being here, now answer my question: what are you doing here?”

    Well, KOWN, you’ve given me a sound bite, that’s all. So vague and lacking in substance (how does your posting and the posting of others “make the world a better place”?) as to be meaningless.

    But still, you are, I think, the only person who’s actually offered a mission statement, unsatisfactory as it is.

    As for me, I’ve told readers many times over the past few years – if your memory is defective or you just scroll past most of my posts, that’s your problem.

  • Mary

    Poor woman, however she met her end.

    Bad memories of that airport returned. We were overbooked by Turkish Airlines and a night was spent in the airport. No food, drink or accommodation was offered. One young man who rather unwisely said something unpleasant about Turkey was collected and marched off by the police.

    News coming in about a death of a male passenger on an Air Lingus flight from Lisbon to Dublin. He had been restrained after displaying violent behaviour.

    And a fireman due to give evidence today at an inquest into the death of a colleague has committed suicide.


  • Mary

    There is a thread on Medialens
    about Pistorius’s release based on this Guardian article.

    Oscar Pistorius parole: a symbol of being rich and white in South Africa
    Rebecca Davis
    Oscar Pistorius may have rehabilitated himself in prison to foster his quick release, but the rehabilitation of his public image is a distant dream

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Now what was Ms. Sutton doing in 2003?

    I can tell you, Nevermind:

    Research interests:
    International development support to women media professionals in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2013 as part of efforts to institutionalise Article 19 freedoms and informing the creation of global transparency indicators for the post-2015 development agenda.

    Not that I think it would have much bearing on her fate. She’s be an ideal target for someone wanting to emphasise Turkey’s dodgy record in the area of press freedom and human rights. I’d be interested to know why she missed her flight; another anomaly in the picture of a seasoned international traveller, routinely visiting the dodgier parts of the planet, and, you’d think, well prepared for upsets in her schedule.

  • Silvio

    Oh dear! Looks like some Europeans believe the EU is turning into the USA’s very own Mini-Me!

    “‘Criminal’ EU Does Not Deserve the Right to Exist,” says Austrian magazine.

    The EU has betrayed its own democratic values when it called on Russia to stop supporting the legitimate president of Syria and backed revolutionaries willing to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government, Austrian Contra Magazin wrote.

    “Who decides whether an elected head of a state can keep his office, or has to resign? The EU? The USA?” Assad was and will be the only stabilizing factor in the Middle East, although the US and its ally Saudi Arabia make every effort to overthrow him and his government, the magazine wrote.

    According to the magazine, the United States used to demonstrate its power and behavior of being an exceptional state which sought to rule the world. The EU has also started to follow the path of this type and has turned into a totally dependent vassal of the US.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    “‘Criminal’ EU Does Not Deserve the Right to Exist,” says widely unread Austrian website set up to promote Russian p.o.v. on Ukraine

    Fixed. What an authority. Sputnik’s scraping the propaganda barrel there.

  • Giyane

    Jacky Sutton

    Ergogan is a fascist nutter, desperate to retain control over a country that has seen through him completely. I travel through Istanbul airports frequently. It is closer to Russia than the UK so there is nothing unusual about her being found by Russians.

    Memo to self: Erdogan thinks he is a medieval sultan.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    It is closer to Russia than the UK so there is nothing unusual about her being found by Russians.

    Sure. It used to be fringe Russian sphere-of influence. I don’t regard Russians in Turkey as being in any way unusual, per se. Assuming , as I am convinced it is safe to do, that Sutton was murdered, there are several possible motives:

    1. Turkey’s definitely not keen on reporting critical of Erdogan. This can be fatal. However, Sutton was not staying in Turkey, her remit doesn’t specify Turkey, and wasting her in a public space can only add to international concern about Turkish human rights. Erdogan is apparently still interested in joining the EU and was at the time negotiating with Merkel to that end. Not a smart move, if it was Turkish state

    2. To make Turkey look bad. Preferred option. Russians or PKK. Outside possibility, Israel, though releations seem to be improving.

    3. To sow dissent and distrust between allied parties in Syria. The Russians or Syrians, maybe Hizb’ullah.

    4. Daesh didn’t like her, as she was about empowering women and promoting human rights via the media. Maybe they did it in Istanbul because they didn’t want to be connected with the deed by doing it in Arbil – where she would have been staying with Kurdish friends. And maybe not.

    Take your pick.

    Btw, Erdogan may be a cunt, but we can’t do without him, unless the military can topple him. And then there’s going to be a lot of score-settling.

  • Finn Dossing

    That clearly was an elementary error. You should have known that the vast majority of SNP resolutions are passed by acclaim; such is the anodyne nature of their content.the BBC resolution was third up in the morning so it was always going to be in the first session. You have deprived conference of a chance to get a flavour of the mini riot that took place in the previous evening when Fiona Hyslop, and the BBC staffer present got a rough ride. instead you have allowed the resolution to go through by the aforesaid “acclaim”. now we await the shoddy compromise whereby a “Scottish Six” will be offered up as addressing the needs of broadcasting in Scotland. well those of who already think that 10 minutes of Jackie Byrd is quite enough thank you need a better solution than that.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    Happy Birthday Mr Murray! Hope you will have many more dinners with friends and family members. Wish you good health above all.

  • farrukh

    Happy Birthday Craig! If you ever need anyone to help you look after your wallet, I am here, I can even give you guidance on what to spend your dosh on….

  • YouKnowMyName

    Ba’al you seem to be implying that SMERSH – Смерть шпионам is back in business, just without the sports holdall this time. Life isn’t supposed to be a film. On reflection I hope that the powerful state media machine will shine some light on these dark deeds

  • Taranaich

    Craig, I was at the session you were meant to speak at: disappointed you didn’t, but glad it was due to absent-mindedness and not something more serious. I’m sure you’ll have another chance to speak!

  • Taranaich

    (On a personal note, it was good to meet you in person, too: nuclear disarmament is the second reason I’m in the SNP, and it was wonderful being part of a small but dedicated audience at the CND fringe meeting.)

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Ba’al you seem to be implying that SMERSH – Смерть шпионам is back in business,

    I must have missed the bankruptcy and receivership orders. Officially nasty bastards never go away. although they do sometimes die and are frequently privatised. In any case, I suggested alternatives.

    I could even hazard a guess as to how it was choreographed.

  • Mary

    Lord Warner is leaving the Labour party as ‘it is no longer credible’.

    No. You’re w

    Wrong Warner. Corbyn opposes NHS privatisation whereas you Milord profit from it. A hypocrite.

    ‘And former health minister Lord Warner – who advises private equity firms with interests in healthcare – has said anyone using the NHS should pay “£10 a night”.’

    Category 1: Directorships
    Executive Director, Sage Advice Ltd (own private company engaged in advisory work, including public affairs advice; income received from work listed in category 2 is paid to Sage Advice Ltd)

    Category 2: Remunerated employment, office, profession etc.
    Commissioner for Birmingham City Council’s Children’s Social Care Service (appointed by Secretary of State for Education) (interest ceased 31 May 2015)

    Consultant on Health and Care, Capsticks Solicitors LLP

    Category 4: Shareholdings (a)
    50% of shares in Sage Advice Ltd (see category 1)

    Category 10: Non-financial interests (e)
    Adviser, Council for European and Palestinian Relations (interest ceased 17 June 2015)
    Member of Advisory Council of Reform (a think tank)
    Trustee, PHG Foundation (public health genomics)

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