Winning the Playwrights’ Vote

I am very honoured that Alan Bennett wrote, and has now published, that he would have voted for me. From his 2005 diary

25 April Keep being rung by journalists asking how I intend to vote, information which I don’t divulge not because I’ve got any principled notions to do with the secret ballot but because I like disappointing newspapers. If I were a voter in the Blackburn constituency my vote would go to Craig Murray, the ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, who resigned from the diplomatic service over the foreign secretary’s refusal to discount information obtained by torture in the prisons of Uzbekistan, a decision that means torture is likely to continue. If there is a market for the information why should it stop? Mr [Jack] Straw claims to have lost sleep over his decision. Some of the tortured will have lost sleep, too, but that’s because they will have lost fingernails first. I suppose I despise Straw more than Blair, thinking, perhaps wrongly, that he is capable of better.

8 July Shocked that after the initial horror my first reaction to the Tube and bus bombings should be “How convenient” and at how little of what we are told I now believe. As Blair lines up in front of his sombre colleagues at Gleneagles it’s hard not to think how useful this outrage is and how effectively it silences the critics. And as Bush and Blair trot out their vapid platitudes about “the War on Terror”, give or take a few score of dead it’s hard not to think things are well under control. No one as yet suggests or speculates that this new front in “the War on Terror” might have been avoided had the country not gone to war in the first place. Only yesterday the Guardian reprinted an LRB piece revealing how Iraq had been fleeced of billions of dollars via Paul Bremer’s so-called aid programme – the figures those of US auditors whose reports have passed without notice. Except that they’re maybe even now being read by some burning-eyed youth planning more and worse.

I have been extremely fortunate in enjoying the friendship of great playwrights. I had a late relationship with Harold Pinter which meant a great deal to me; he wrote a cover quote for Murder in Samarkand
on a restaurant menu when we were both pretty pissed. David Hare spent time with me and researching me before writing his radio play, and we still send occasional mutual encouragement. Robin Soans has been extremely supportive and great company, and now we have this from Alan Bennett. You can jeer at me now for pseudo-intellectual drivel, but I think playwrights enjoy people who are imperfect, and that is why we get on. Paragons can be so boring.

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