07 June 2018
Back From The Dead
It lives! It lives!
By Neil Tidmarsh
So the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko is still alive, after all. His return from the dead was billed as a riff on a Sherlock Holmes story, but let’s hope it doesn’t morph into some sort of inside-out, back-to-front variation on the Tale of Chicken Little or The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Another Russian – Sergei Pantelyuk – came back from the dead this week, too. He was a Russian pilot shot down and reportedly killed 31 years ago during the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan. Apparently he’s been found alive and well in Pakistan and now wants to go back to Russia.
Closer to home, the Crown Prosecution Service and Gwent Police believed that Andrew Newton, the bungling hit-man who appeared as a prosecution witness in the trial of Jeremy Thorpe in 1979, was as dead as Norman Scott’s dog; that was one of the reasons they gave for not re-opening investigations into the Thorpe scandal when a new witness emerged two years ago. This week, however, Gwent Police revealed that Andrew Newton is in fact alive and well and living near Dorking, Surrey, under the name of Hann Redwin.
But there were even greater resurrection miracles this week: Peace, Democracy and Justice all came back from the dead in other corners of the globe.
Last month it seemed that the peace initiative in Korea was dead in the water. Various suspects were blamed for the murder. Pyongyang pointed the finger at hawkish talk in the US about regime change and the Libyan model. In Washington there were dark suggestions muttered about alleged sabotage by China, getting back at the USA for imposing tariffs on Chinese steel. President Trump appeared to finish the stricken victim off when he berated North Korea for being rude about his vice-president Mike Pence, and abruptly cancelled the impending summit where he was due to meet Kim Jong-Un for breakthrough talks about the denuclearising of the Korean Peninsula and a formal ending of the 65 year old Korean War.
But then followed two weeks of frantic diplomatic activity. Envoys, aides and security chiefs flew to and fro between Washington and Pyongyang and Seoul, and even Moscow and Beijing. Kim Jong-Un reportedly sacked a whole swathe of his top military brass for being old and inflexible, and replaced them with more adaptable youngsters. He also allegedly harangued his senior diplomats, criticising their attitudes as “outdated” and urging them to “build trust with our long-time enemy”. And last weekend President Trump declared that the summit will indeed go ahead as planned, to begin next Tuesday, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, Singapore.
So Peace lives, after all. And Kim Jong-Un will be one of the first to taste its sweet fruits – the government of Singapore has agreed to foot the bill for his stay at the luxurious Fullerton Hotel (presidential suite $6000 a night) during the summit.
Last week it seemed that Democracy was being wheeled into the morgue in Italy. It was a sad sight, whatever you might think about the programs proposed by the Five Star Movement and the League. They had to abandon their attempt to form a coalition government when President Mattarella rejected their choice for finance minister. The President then invited a former senior IMF official to become interim prime minister and form a caretaker government. Neither Five Star nor the League was very happy about this. Nor was most of Italy, which had been waiting for 88 days to be governed by the parties they had voted for in last March’s election, only to find that they were now to be governed by unelected officials.
But someone in the morgue spotted that the corpse’s toes were still twitching, so President Mattarella and Five Star leader Luigi di Maio and the League’s leader Matteo Salvini and their prime minister Guiseppe Conte pulled on their scrubs and grabbed a defibrillator and pulled off an emergency life-saving operation by finding a finance minister acceptable to all. The coalition resumed putting a government together, and it was sworn in earlier this week. So Democracy is back on its feet in Italy, which is reason enough for cracking open the prosecco, even if we don’t ourselves fancy wearing the latest Italian fashions in which the revenant might soon be clad.
There are many countries in the world where corruption in high places has killed Justice and the Rule of Law stone dead. This week, however, Spain proved that Justice is a tough survivor who can come back from the brink and turn the table on its enemies. Recent surveys have shown that corruption is one of the biggest concerns for Spaniards; for years, the governing Popular Party has weathered serious and widespread allegations of sleaze. Last week, however, those allegations caught up with the PP when 29 former members and associated businessmen were found guilty of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion and given long prison sentences. This week the scandal overthrew prime minister Mariano Rajoy and destroyed his government. Opposition parties, frustrated at his refusal to acknowledge corruption as an issue in his party or to impose proper measures against it, forced and won a vote of no confidence.
We usually imagine Peace, Democracy and Justice to be fragile, like most valuable things, but this week has reassuringly proved that they might be rather more robust than we think.
There was another revenant this week, however, one which should have surprised and mystified us but somehow didn’t. Silvio Berlusconi, politician, is back from the dead. He was barred from holding public office when he was found guilty of tax fraud five years ago. But this week a court overturned that ban. So if the Five Star Movement and the League fall out and there’s another election, Silvio will be able to stand for parliament. Silvio Berlusconi for prime minister again? It could happen. This week’s revenants have proved that we live in a new age of miracles.