Her majesty’s leak

Every other day there seems to be a story emerging from the Palace – private views on Europe, on China and now on Nigeria. Surely there should be a review of the Palace plumbing because this is becoming absurd. It is almost as if there is a secret organisation determined to undermine the dignity of our monarch!

buhari.jpgStill, what Cameron said seems fairly legitimate: Nigeria is demonstrably corrupt. However, what has happened is a home goal because President Buhari’s brilliant, evasive and commendably concise response has had the effect of turning attention from his country’s dodgy dealings to questions about the lingering impact of Empire and the slow progress of restoring money after it is confiscated by the British legal system. More than that, Buhari readily admits his country is certainly corrupt- or rather, as a representative of the new Nigerian Administration, he says this is something he has discovered himself. “He was telling the truth. He was talking about what he knew.” The previous government had stolen an estimated £10 billion through arms trafficking. Buhari is determined to tackle corruption which he calls a “hydra-headed monster”.

I think this requires some comment:

The most obvious assets still held in the UK belonged to Diepreye Alamieyeseifha, who, rather like a recent ISIS fighter, fled in a yashmack, to avoid trial, though his accounts were frozen and assets held. The ISIS man was captured near Cairo, looking rather silly in a skirt. There was also Abdul Aziz Ghazi who rather hypocritically ordered his followers to fight to the death and then crept out of Masjid en travesti. Of course, the desire to cross-dress as part of the escape plan, while it seems to belong to “Carry on” films, “Dad’s army” and “Allo Allo” or, more seriously in films like “Triple Echo”, actually has a very long pedigree. I gather that Ehud Barak dressed up as a woman in a covert operation against the PLO in 1973- that must have been a sight to see, but Amin el-Husseini escaped the British in Palestine in 1937, sliding down a rope from temple mount, and romping off to Lebanon where he started a pro-Nazi cell. Neuri al Said tried the same thing in Iraq in 1958 but was given away by his shoes, and shot. Ignominious end. There was also Mullah Mahmood in Afghanistan and Yassin Omar from the UK, the latter also carrying a brown handbag, so going for accessories as well. Bonnie Prince Charlie did it after the battle of Culloden and of course Achilles did it to prevent his being conscripted into the Trojan war.

Oddly, while alot of attention has been given to France’s decision to ban the veil in public, the Ottomans dealt with this issue in the late 19th century, banning the Burqa (the extreme form of veiling) after a man disguised in a burqa attempted a robbery in 1892.

War-time cross-dressing is better served by women dressing as men, of course, and “the trouser-part”or breeches role, like Cherubino, seems altogether more gallant. From Epipole, to Joan of Arc, Phoebe Hassel and Zoya Smirnow. Though probably the best example today would be Eowyn the white lady of Rohan.

As for literature and theatre- the place is littered with cross-dressers. Indeed, until Rudolph Nureyev butched up male dance in the early 1960’s, ballet had a reputation for fey men- and with good reason – the male role in Coppelia, for example, was actually created by a woman, Eugenie Fiocre, and of course it was only recently that Peter Pan (my own production in Oxford was among the first examples, incidentally) was played by a man. Pantomime continues the music halls’ obsession with cross dressing.

But back to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseifha who was the governor of the oil-rich Bayelsa State, and who was accused in London of money laundering in 2005. He was found with nearly £2.5 million and property in excess of £10 million. He jumped bail disguised as a woman and was then sentenced in Nigeria to be later pardoned by Goodluck Jonathan. He died in 2015.

He had to dress like a woman

All these men in frocks! It was Nietzsche who popularised “the Bacchae” and what a play that is! The main character even does a Pantomime turn on stage as he is persuaded by the (disguised) god to try on women’s clothing – “Go on, it suits you. Sir!” and then his head is ripped off by his crazy mother, Queen Argave. the reason for all this? Dionysos demands respect: “Can you, a mortal human, dare to fight a god?” (πρὸς θεὸν γὰρ ὢν ἀνὴρ ἐς μάχην ἐλθεῖν ἐτόλμησε.) This is one side of the equation and the other is the fight many LGBT campaigners have waged so that they can be taken seriously. This is to say nothing about the prohibition in Islam, but then, as we know, terrorists read the sacred texts very selectively when they want to:

عن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال: لعن رسول الله صلى الله عليه و سلم المتشبهين من الرجال بالنساء، والمتشبهات من النساء بالرجال. صحيح البخاري.

This is what President Buhari said, “He (Alamieyeseigha) had to dress like a woman to leave Britain and leave behind his bank account and fixed assets which Britain was prepared to hand over to us. This is what we are asking for. What would I do with an apology? I need something tangible…Our experience has been that repatriation of corrupt proceeds is very tedious, time consuming, costly.” He also thanked Britain for helping in the impeachment process of Alamieyeseifha. But Alamieyeseifha was really just the tip of the iceberg, with Sani Abacha apparently looting more than $5 billion while in power, and huge amounts of oil stolen more recently according to a 2013 report.

The foreign secretary has added,

“The Prime Minister was merely stating a fact. These are both countries (Afghanistan and Nigeria) with serious corruption problems and the leaders of both those countries know they have those problems and are determined to deal with them.”

 

 

the party whip

The idea that there is a “correct” or an “incorrect” way for MPs to vote in parliament is fatuous. If the party they belong to cannot make a case on paper and in debate for a particular proposition, it makes no sense at all to use threats and rewards to cajole them into voting one way or another, particularly if they have given their word to their constituents to oppose or support a particular motion when it is presented. This is the dilemma faced by people like Andrea Leadsom who promised to oppose plans to build HS2 and then, faced with the lure of promotion to the Cabinet, fled to Brussels when it came to to crucial vote. She was not alone. Another 47 Conservatives, most of whom had vigorously opposed the bill, found themselves unavoidably detained on other business when it came to the vote. Lots of Liberals, too, including Mr Clegg, were detained elsewhere that day.  There was little chance the bill would be defeated because it had backing from both the Government and the opposition, so it was simply a matter of the personal risk taken by individual MPs- were they willing to risk their careers simply in order to keep their word to their constituents?

the new

the new “treasury look”

In the end, it comes down to the power of the whip and the mystical appeal of high office.malcolm

Yesterday, there was the spectacle of two elderly Foreign Secretaries walking through the corridors of disgrace towards political exile because it looks like they wanted big business kickbacks. Looks can be deceiving, but today both of them have lost the party whip and look set to leave parliament. This is a shame. Again, it reflects badly on the way we do politics in this country that we have not provided proper assistance to two elderly and clearly infirm men.

In Shaw’s case, will this be the thing he is remembered for? Being tricked by the press into promising to table questions for a Hong Kong business that never even existed. Does he not have an assistant to research these things first? – is he so “down on his uppers”? This is a man who rachetted up the bureaucratic thumbscrews in the Foreign Office, more even than any Conservative had done to date. I think, the mix-up over the d’Hondt formula and his rulings on Double Jeopardy are probably just about excusable, but really – his judgement over at least one asylum seeker beggars belief in the face of the events that followed: Here is what Noam Chomsky said in the Irish Times:

“in 2000 there was a request from an Iraqi who had somehow escaped an Iraqi torture chamber and made it to England. He was applying for political asylum.

Straw turned him down with a letter saying “we have faith in the integrity of the Iraqi judicial process and that you should have no concerns if you haven’t done anything wrong “. In 2000!”

Within Months of becoming Foreign Secretary, the 9/11 attacks happened. Opposition from Craig Murray and Walter Wolfgang, I think was perfectly justified and time will tell whether they were right. Recently, the Jerusalem Post accused him of Anti-Semitism. Till now, however, he had come across as an honourable man who, in the heat of the moment, had made perhaps inappropriate decisions. And, to his credit, he was very helpful in the process of getting justice for Necati’s case in the European Court of Human Rights. But the Hong Kong trap suggests he was not quiet as honourable as we might have thought. I, for one, am going to go back and look more closely at the campaign of Craig Murray and see what we have to learn.

straw

NB: 17th September 2015: with some relief today’s news states that the two politicians have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the parliamentary standards. This is a relief because whatever their political colour, these are two men who count as history-makers and it would be inappropriate for them to be remembered for something so wearisome. We need to work harder to ensure that this sort of tittle-tattle does not dominate the news in  the future- actually it does not one any good. There are bigger things to look at!