Stendhal once observed that to introduce politics into a work of fiction was like firing a pistol during a performance in the theatre, a loud and unwanted intrusion of the real on a setting all calculated artifice. The analogy was brought to mind two weeks ago by the death of David Kelly, a real event which intruded in a shocking way on the calculated artificiality of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee before which he'd been called, a body convened on the face of it to determine whether the Government had earlier misled all of us in persuading itself there needed to be a war; or whether, less seriously and once the war was over, a BBC journalist had misled rather fewer of us about the degree and nature of the Government's duplicity. It had seemed all along that to appoint a group of MPs, proportionally representative of the Government majority in the House of Commons, to decide the question of whether Blair & Co. or the BBC were to be blamed for exaggerating certain details in the Intelligence reports on Iraqi weapons, was quite wrong. How wrong became doubly apparent when, following all too immediately on Dr Kelly's death, our footloose Prime Minister paused on his way to open a new branch of Tesco's in Tokyo and announced that a 'senior' judge would now be asked to look into the circumstances which precipitated that sad event.
LRB 7 August 2003 | PDF Download