"But for the less sporty and more literarily inclined, here's a taste of what is on our MPs' reading lists this summer. Julia Gillard is reading Grand Days by Frank Moorhouse and Tony Bilson's memoir, Insatiable: My Life in the Kitchen. No comment on the remaining books on her list: Mighty Be Our Powers, by Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, by Margaret Drabble, and David Lloyd George: The Great Outsider, by Roy Hattersley." (What can we read into our pollies' habits? Stephanie Peatling, The Sun-Herald, 8/1/12)*
Let me guess. Lloyd George, British Prime Minister, 1916-1922, was chosen because he's Welsh. And Roy Hattersley because he's Labor (specifically, Deputy Leader of the British Labor Party, 1983-1992).
Well, assuming she actually does gets around to reading David Lloyd George: The Great Outsider, what is Gillard going to learn from it?
Maybe she'll see herself, at least in part:
"[Lloyd George, said Keynes,] is rooted in nothing; he is void and without content; he lives and feeds on his immediate surroundings; he is an instrument and a player at the same time, which plays on the company and is played on by them too; he is a prism... which collects light and distorts it and is most brilliant if the light comes from many quarters at once; a vampire and a medium in one."/ "Hattersley... sees Lloyd George as essentially a destructive character... [with] a killer instinct... matched by an extraordinary ability to feed men lies, half truths and high-minded waffle, a capacity which brought short term triumphs and long-term distrust." (Welsh wizardry & venom, Paul Johnson reviews Roy Hattersley's life of David Lloyd George, The Spectator, 18/9/10)
No doubt, she'll marvel at Lloyd George's capacity for invective, thrill to his talk of raising 'the deserving poor', chuckle (with Timbo?) over his insatiable appetite for sex, and more besides - but, admittedly without having read the biography myself, I'm pretty sure, that with Hattersley as biographer, she'll unfortunately be spared an examination of the worst and most enduring of Lloyd George's legacies - laying the foundations for the creation of the State of Israel.
To begin with, not one of the half dozen reviews of Hattersley's book that I've read so much as mentions this grievous matter, which inclines me to believe that Hattersley himself has omitted any reference to the issue. Perhaps the following Q&As from House of Commons debates in 1976** demonstrate why:
Mr Walters: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the main lessons to be learned from the tragic and horrid events in the Lebanon is that there will be no settlement but, rather, continuing instability, bloodshed and war until the rights of the Palestinians and the question of Palestinian statehood are resolved? They cannot be resolved without a peace settlement. Do not the Government intend to do something more active to try to break the present deadlock?
Mr Hattersley: The hon. Gentleman's question fell into two parts. On the first part, I agree substantially that there needs to be a recognition of the special problems of the Palestinians and an understanding that they must be accommodated within any lasting settlement. I cannot share the hon. Gentleman's view with regard to his second point. There is always a tendency in this House to expect Britain to take initiatives when they would not produce solutions but might actually complicate the prospects of success. Certainly the British Government are available to act if that seems right, but to take an ill-considered initiative is not the way in which the British Government should proceed."
Britain taking an ill-considered initiative in regard to Palestine? Who would have thought?
Mr Colin Jackson: Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Arab nations are deeply disappointed about the supine attitude of the British Foreign Office towards the Middle East crisis? The fact that, apparently, our policy in the past [which] has been step by step behind Dr Kissinger may lose its validity as Dr Kissinger may take his final step out of office?
Mr Hattersley: I do not think that a policy based on our wish to do what we can as long as that is practical and right is properly to be described as 'supine'. I reiterate what I said earlier. There is a tendency to believe that any initiative is better than no initiative. I do not share that view.
Supine? Really, after our initial ill-considered initiative in Palestine back when, haven't we now a right to rest on our laurels?
Mr Robert Hughes: Will my right hon. Friend seek an early meeting with the Foreign Minister of Israel to express disquiet about reports that Rhodesian forces are at present training with and awaiting shipments of Israeli-made machine guns? Will he make it clear to the Foreign Minister of Israel that it would be a great disappointment to many of Israel's friends in Great Britain if Israel were to conclude an arms deal in respect of arms and equipment to South African forces?
Mr Hattersley: As I have not heard of such reports, I am reluctant to comment on them. I share my hon. Friend's view that, if such reports were proved to be accurate, they would represent a great mistake, and many of Israel's friends in this country, among whom I number myself, would be deeply grieved."
Say no more. Just your common and garden supine Labor friend of Israel.
No, we couldn't possibly expect a verdict on Lloyd George's most lasting and toxic legacy, the nightmare we all of us wake up to every morning, the apartheid state to die for, the Zionist project (because by no means complete), from an Israel-friendly hack such as Hattersley. No, for that we need someone with an unswerving commitment to truth and justice, someone with a real nose for the fuckwit(s) behind the clusterfuck. Someone, for example, like Lloyd George's contemporary, JMN Jeffries, war correspondent extraordinaire and historian of the tangled roots of Britain's disastrous Palestine Mandate:
"The probability... is that 'The Principal Allied Powers', the junta which, seated round a table at the San Remo Conference of 1920, introduced the establishment of the 'National Home' as an obligation of the Mandate, knew and cared nothing about any such [ancient Hebrew] phases [in Palestine]. I should not credit the Principal Allied Powers, as far as they found form in flesh and blood at San Remo, with much or any reading of the Scriptures, except indeed the important section of the Principal Allied Powers which came from Criccieth in North Wales. That body politic has stated in a speech, 'I was brought up in a school where I was taught far more about the history of the Jews than about the history of my own land. I could tell you all the kings of Israel but I doubt whether I could have named half a dozen of the kings of England... We were thoroughly imbued with the history of the Hebrew race in the days of its greatest glory'." (Palestine: The Reality, 1939, p 7)
And Jeffries' verdict? Deadly, damning, definitive:
"Such being the origin of the Mandate it is not strange that it was a document which broke every law and principle it was supposed to safeguard. But though the Zionists had drafted it a hundred times over, it is not upon them that the supreme censure for this must fall. They were drugged by a delusion, and they were pretty frank about what they were doing. It is the Government of the day, the Government of Mr Lloyd George which, to say nothing of its betrayal of national pledges, must bear once more the responsibility for deliberate violation in Palestine, through the imposition of such a Mandate, of the Covenant of the League [of Nations] which elsewhere it professed so glibly." (ibid p 559)
[*Mind you, it's just possible that this reading list, or at least the bit about Lloyd George, is an invention of Gillard's spinmeister. After all, this is how the subject of what she'd be doing during the break was first reported: "Julia Gillard has revealed she will eschew political tomes and spend her two-week Christmas holiday break reading chef Tony Bilson's memoir and catching up on episodes of Miss Marple." (Miss Marple, Socrates to engage rival leaders, Lauren Wilson, The Australian, 15/12/11); **hansard.millbanksystems.com]