How low can the low-down get?
14 February, 2019 — By John Gulliver
TOM Bower had a first-class, well-rounded education. He went to William Ellis School in Highgate, followed by university. Then came a spell as a lawyer, a spell with the National Council for Liberties – and then, after an early start in Fleet Street, he shot off as a “biog-man”, a journalist who could churn out very good political biographies of such notables as press barons Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch; Richard Branson – even Prince Charles.
Now he’s completed a work on Jeremy Corbyn and sold the rights to the Mail on Sunday who gave him more than 12 pages of excerpts on Sunday. It should have earned him a tidy sum.
Bower, who lives in Hampstead, didn’t actually interview Corbyn it seems but he – or his researchers – talked to those who “knew” him, including his first wife and political opponents.
Now Bower, who knows a thing or two about a good education, made a point in his book on Corbyn, just published, that the Labour leader was badly educated – and less educated, one can presume, than his predecessors Harold Wilson and Tony Blair.
He was certainly not as well tutored as David Cameron, an Etonian boy, who turned his attuned mind to the complexities presented by the EU – and insisted on a referendum which, as we know, has been very successful and brought peace and prosperity to the nation.
I declare an interest here. I have known Corbyn since the mid-1970s when he used to drop into the Camden Journal office shared with those of the Hornsey Journal in Crouch End, as a local union man, then a councillor.
The Mail on Sunday’s ‘unfit for office’ excerpts
Bower says Corbyn has no knowledge of “culture” and doesn’t read books but the last time I had a one-to-one chat with him – lasting more than an hour – we talked about the theatre and books we had read.
I was sitting next to him in the car which was taking him back from a public meeting outside Cardiff when he was campaigning for the leadership of the Labour Party.
We talked about plays we had seen at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn, and the actor Corin Redgrave who had recently died. We shared memories of a moving performance by Corin, in his last appearance on the stage, when he delivered as a solo performance a rendering of the haunting De Profundis written by Oscar Wilde when he was languishing in Reading gaol.
I was pleasantly surprised because few politicians can share such a rich “hinterland” – as Dennis Healey once described the interest in art and culture that is lacking in most British politicians, in particular.
I have come to know countless politicians – MPs and councillors – and rarely been able to hold discussions on the theatre, visual arts and culture.
Bower also found another weakness in Corbyn – that he was useless with money things and, as a result, lost money by helping to fund the loss-making Labour Party Red Rose club in Islington out of his own parliamentary salary. Instead of seeing this as an act of sublime generosity, Bower seemed to suggest he was morally at sea by spending his money on the club. If only more MPs had the generous spirit to do something similar in their constituencies.
There was something regretfully petty in Bower’s biog of Corbyn – finding fault where none seemed to exist.
Either his researchers had failed to find his weaknesses – or there were none that were useful to a tabloid.