Gavin Esler gave us the benefit of his 'wisdom' again on today's Dateline: London, sounding off (as no neutral presenter should) on the controversial topic of paying Taleban fighters in Afghanistan to give up fighting. He's in favour: "The thing that interests me about this (London) conference was, at last!, you know, in other words, it's not rocket science to think it's probably better to offer people jobs and a bit of money if you can stop them shooting at you." This is typical Beeb-think - appease, don't fight (because "nobody's going to win this war in a classic way", he said - as the BBC always used to say about the civil war in Sri Lanka prior to the Sri Lankan army's victory over the Tamil Tigers.) As Gav's Indian guest hinted though, it's not rocket science either for the Taleban. They can (and quite probably will) take our money, pretend to give up the fight, but then start fighting us again (perhaps using the money to buy new weapons). That's the Afghan way, by the sounds of it.
Old Gav was full of opinions today, and completely unafraid to breach BBC guidelines and share them with us. He clearly takes a dim view of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, slamming it again and again. Here are a selection of his (impartial!) views on the subject:
"This inquiry, they ask a question, they get an answer, they move onto something else, and that seems a bit feeble."
"There are all kinds of problems I've suggested here. There are people who watch this, who just want...who already loathe Tony Blair, and who just want to see that he's got fangs, horns and a tail, and all he said was 'this was a decision, it wasn't a conspiracy, I said pretty much public what I said privately'."
It was plainer than the nose on a plain person's face that Gavin Esler still holds a candle for Tony Blair, a candle he shares with ultra-Blairite panelist David Aaronovitch. The Canadian journalist Laura Lynch of the CBC brought up the issue of the illegality of the war and this provoked Gavin into an extraordinarily passionate defence of Blair's position - a defence that saw our normally easy-going host become remarkably animated and agitated. He repeatedly interrupted her and adopted a sarcastic tone of voice at one point (while saying "Well, there's a British law that says 'no regime change'".) Even ultra-Blairite David Aaronovitch had to correct him here (clearly out of conscience), and that prompted Esler's most passionate intervention of all: "But all I'm saying is, I'm sorry to interrupt, but it's not an exact science. It's absolutely not an exact science." All he needed to add was, "It's not! It's not! It's not!" I must admit that I'm somewhat in sympathy with the point he was so ineptly trying to make (as I supported the invasion of Iraq) but he is supposed to be a neutral presenter not an opinionated guest and should not have been making any of these points. Also I suspect his reason for coming from this position was merely pro-Labour sentiment (something I do not share) rather than any lingering support for the Iraq War.*