Thursday, January 06, 2005


“Any gossip? From the political world, I mean?” I asked Becca last night, her sprite features shadowed in our cosy, quiet corner.

I’d just been telling her my favourite bad old joke for my new year’s resolution. Do not die of a heroin overdose in the next twelve months. And I’d just been complaining about the looming stay of my long-lost ‘kid’ cousin Thomas. And we’d already exhausted the tragedy of the tsunami, the obvious football talking point, whether Strada pizza was better than Sapori, exchanged more than one bad joke, discussed how to best roast potatoes and where to get goose fat, the rise of London train prices, indoor gardeing for life in rented flats – and what we’d been up to over the holiday – and were now half drunk and in a nice pub and in a good mood. It was getting late.

“Only – well, you probably know this already?” she replied, drawing herself forward. Try and concentrate on what Becca’s saying, I told myself, Becca, Becca. Becca … cleavage.

“Heck, I’m out of political loops proper – let alone gossipy ones.”

“Well, you remember the Hutton Inquiry? It’s sort of to do with that.”

“Of course I remember it,” I answered, trying to remember it over the waves of wine. “I’m not that out of it! The BBC, the scientist, and the war in Iraq.”

“Yes – whether Blair had lied about intelligence in the build-up to the war, that kind of thing. Well, this isn’t really gossip,” Becca related on. “The night before Hutton’s report was published – Blair’s teenage daughter – she’s still at school – fifteen or so I think … she attempted suicide.”


“She attempted suicide.”

“No, no – I heard the first time. I mean – ?”

“She gets bullied mercilessly at school. You can imagine – given the public view of her father, and the war – terrible isn’t it – you know what kids are like – but anyway,” Becca went on. “The gossip, although it’s not really gossip, well that’s not it. Remember all that stuff in the papers about Blair will resign soon, and Brown is in the ascendancy? Probably you didn’t notice. Well anyway, that actually was the plan, but the real reason Blair wanted to resign was because of his daughter. Except then he was cleared by Hutton and his advisors convinced him not to go. Brown’s lot were hopping mad, of course. Don’t know about his daughter.”

She paused her ramble, sat up, and then announced like a newsreader nobly concluding a speech: “The media know about her troubles – and it’s by no means just that one night – but they choose to keep it quiet. The public may be interested, but it’s not in the public interest.”

There was a certain silence as she regally observed my responses.

“Is her troubles why Blair stayed on holiday this Christmas, despite the emergency?” I asked. “The papers say that is unusual. I’ve noticed that, at least.”

“Well I can hardly know that now,” Becca answered, obviously.


“But such things don’t stay private secrets for long, in our lovely day and age.”

“No?” (No.)

We chatted briefly on, about that and other things, and soon our separate ways off we went. It seemed appropriate that the thin sheets of a newspaper or two lined the floor of my tube carriage; muddy footmarks stamped over the scattered pages of barbed headlines, dramatic pictures, clear simple diagrams, sports news, bold advertisements, the gloss and colour of the lifestyle sections.