Excerpts from Alan Bennett’s Diaries “Keeping on Keeping On”
I was drawn to reading the latest excerpt of Alan Bennett’s diaries when browsing at the Idea Store Whitechapel. I found the writing style clear, concise and agreed with his philosophy on life. I have put below some extracts that interested me and will be getting hold of earlier editions when time permits.
15th November 2006
Abu Hamza, the radical cleric, loses his appeal, the only obstacle between him and extradition ot the United States the decision of the home secretary. The judge in the case, Judge Workman, admits that the conditions under which Hamza is likely to be held in the United States are offensive to his ‘sense of propriety’, thus briefly raising the hope that his judgement is going to be less workmanlike than it turns out to be.
Hamza is not an attractive figure and his case is difficult to defend, but it should be defended and extradition rejected on Karl Popper’s principle that arguments should be rebutted at their strongest point. Nobody likes Hamza: his opinions are reprehensible and there is no question that he broadcasts them. But he is a British citizen and he should not be extradited to the United States under a non-reciprocal treaty which allows that country to extradite British subjects without due process. Let him be tried here and if found guilty imprisoned here, not in some super-max institution (offensive even to Judge Workman) where he will disappear without trace. Because next time the person the United States decides on may not have one eye and hooks for hands, disabilities which make him such a joke to the tabloid process. Next time the person chosen might be thought to be innocent and undeserving of such ridicule, and extradition might event bet thought to be unfair. But it won’t matter. The precedent has been set and gets stronger with every person so supinely yielded up to American so-called justice. Jacqui Smith, the vibrant successor to such champions of liberty as Jack Straw, David Blunkett and John Reid, is potentially a bigger threat to our freedoms than Abu Hamza has ever been. ITV News reports all this as ‘Britain has won the right to extradite Abu Hamza’. Translated this means that Britain has lost the right not to extradite anyone whom the United States chooses.
19th January 2010
D. Cameron’s notion that the better degree the teacher has the better the teacher is so wrong-headed as to be laughable; except he may be shortly in a position to put his cockeyed notions into practice. Somebody should take him on one side and tell him that to teach well you don’g need a degree at all. I got a first-class degree and was a hopeless teacher. Russell Harty got a third-class degree and taught brilliantly. There was a great deal he didn’t know but he know how to enthuse a class and made learning fun, much as he could work a studio audience.
19th April 2010
A propos the transport shutdown due to the volcanic cloud there have been the inevitable outbreaks of Dunkirk spirit, with the ‘little ships’ going out from the Channel ports to ferry home the stranded ‘Brits’. It’s a reminder how irritating the Second War must have been, providing as it did almost unlimited opportunities for bossy individuals to cast them selves in would-be heroic roles when everybody else was just trying to get by.
8th September 2011
A directive must have gone out from the National Trust high command that in future notices telling members not to sit on the heritage chairs should be eschewed in favour of a more subtle message. These days seats that are not to be sat on sport the head of a thistle or a sprig on holly. Other possibilities that occur would be hawthorn, nettles or even a stuffed hedgehog. One wonders whether this genteel initiative had the prior approval of Health and Safety.
8th May 2015 (day after the general election)
A feeling of bereavement in the streets. I shop for supper and unprompted a grey-haired woman in the fish shop bursts out, ‘It means I shall have a Tory government for the rest of my life.’
In the library they say, ‘Good morning…though we’ve just been trying to think what’s good about it.’
I wanted a Labour government so that I could stop thinking about politics, knowing that the nation’s affairs were in the hands of a party which, even if often foolish, was at least well-intentioned. Now we have another decade of the self-interested and the self-seeking, ready to sell off what’s left o fa liberal institutions and loot the rest to their own advantage. It’s not a government of the nation but a government of half the nation, a true legacy of Mrs. Thatcher. Work is the only escape, which fortunately moves along a little.