For a while I’ve found the extent to which the most unlikely figures speak out against the Iraq war inspiring, but also slightly disconcerting. I accepted Jimmy Hill, and Burt Bacharach and Joanna Lumley and Eminem. Then I saw an interview in my local paper with Leo Sayer to advertise his show at the Fairfield Halls, and in the middle of a question about his seventies perm he informed us that George Bush was a war criminal. This was now like a puzzling dream, where you wake up gibbering to your partner that you were in a canoe with Eddie Large who was yelling “I can’t sell my gooseberries because of that bloody illegal occupation.” Would we get as far as Roger Whittaker releasing an album called ‘Whistle Against the War’ with Des o’Connor in the background reading extracts from Robin Cook’s resignation speech. Even more remarkably, while I was driving to do a show at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Trade Union Festival in Dorset, I was listening to the Test Match commentary. And Jonathon Agnew was complaining that the security had been so tight it took him an hour to get into the ground. So out of nowhere came Geoffrey Boycott, who sneered “We’ve Tony Blair to thank for that.”
“I’m sorry Geoffrey,” said Agnew, with a hint of “WILL you keep quiet” but Boycott asserted “Tony Blair’s to blame for that. He was told if we went to war with Iraq it would increase the risk of terrorism but he wouldn’t take any notice.”
“Well,” said Agnew, “I think it’s the terrorists to blame really,” mumbling as if he had a dozen producers yelling into his earpiece “SHUT HIM UP – distract him by suggesting he was weak against left-arm spinners or something.”
But Boycott held firm, which was how British radio broadcast for surely the first time ever the sentence “We should never have invaded Iraq in the first place that’s pushed out gently on the off side and there’s no run.”
I’ve suggested before that the Labour Party, supposedly a party of the left, now finds itself on the defining issue of our times militantly to the right of Jimmy Hill, two ex-Presidents of America, Joanna Lumley, Zoe Ball, the ex-President of France, ninety per cent of Spain, Chris Eubank, Brigadier Hewitt, almost every living Arab, Burt Bacharach, the Liberal Democrats, Leo Sayer and the Pope. But who amongst us, even the most poisonously cynical, believed on that day when Labour were elected in 1997, that this government would end up being chastised as too right-wing, pro-war and up America’s arse on Test Match fucking Special.