Arrogance, smugness and the Brits

By Eamonn McCann

Nobody knows for certain how much misery and bother has been caused through the ages by the insufferable smugness of the British ruling class.

Historically, the main target of the toffs’ arrogance has been the British working class. But the lesser breeds, including, of course, the Irish, have also come in for insult and jeer from the fauntleroy hoodlums and twerps.

One of the most arrogantly offensive of these oily oiks to have come among us in recent years has been Jonathan Powell. As Tony Blair’s “chief of staff”, Powell played a key role in drawing up the compendium of lies, aka the “dodgy dossier,” which provided “justification” for the invasion of Iraq which has so far cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, as well as a number of American and British, lives.

Does Powell show any sign of contrition? Regret? Embarrassment?

Not at all. Low-lifes in high places never do.

Instead, a few weeks back, he came here swanking, preening himself like a egomaniacal peacock, claiming plaudits for the part he claims to have played in the “peace process.”

I commented at the time of his unwelcome (to me, anyway) visit, remarking that he had given his memoirs the stupidest title in the history of publishing, “Great Hatred, Little Room.” (In fairness, the title is the best thing in the book.)

I didn’t, however, watch the programme, “The Undercover Diplomat,” broadcast by the BBC as a sort of unpaid advertisement for the book.

But, browsing the web (is that the phrase?) last week, I came across a clip from the programme.

It contained Powell’s comment on a visit by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to Downing St. on 5th July 2005---three weeks before the Provisional IRA statement announcing an end to its armed campaign and revealing that it had instructed its members to dump all weapons and not to engage in “any other activities whatsoever” apart from assisting in “the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”.

Powell’s comment in his diary on the Sinn Féin leaders as they left Downing Street was: “It’s funny. They do seem more like politicians now, than capos (a capo is a mafia chieftain]...I think I felt a sense of pride. Not proud in myself, I think, but proud of what they had achieved. It was a bit like watching your children graduate from college. You thought ‘fantastic’”.

Has any representative of the British ruling class ever made such a pointedly patronisingly remark about Irish leaders?

The tiny number of irreconcilable Unionists who refuse to believe that Sinn Féin is now totally committed to peaceful means should consider this: that if there was even a half-hint of a vague willingness to use violence in SF, Powell, after that remark, wouldn’t have made it back to Britland in one piece.

I have never been much of a one for political violence. But if Powell had said that about me, he’d have got a slap in the bake.

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