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Camden New Journal - One Week with JOHN GULLIVER
Published: 24 January 2008
Richard Stott, died   July 30 2007, aged 63.
Richard Stott, died
July 30 2007, aged 63.
Aggressive’ – the best compliment a journo can get“

YOU are the worst journalist I have ever met. The most aggressive man I have ever met in my life.” With a description like that the famous journalist Richard Stott knew he had hit home.
It was uttered by Ernest Marples, Tory transport minister, in the 1960s, when Stott was investigating a tax scandal that obliged Marples to leave the country.
The caption under Richard Stott’s photograph in the programme for his memorial service at St Clement Danes in the Strand last week repeated Marples’ accolade.
Five times an editor of national newspapers – The People (twice), The Daily Mirror (twice), and Today – the church was filled with former media colleagues including Alastair Campbell.
Mr Campbell, who worked for Richard Stott, spoke of his loud voice, red cheeks, and red scarf. He hated fat cats and legal fees and loved to expose the bad.
When Campbell left to work for Tony Blair, Stott was furious, but it was Campbell who chose Stott to edit his Diaries, which Stott completed while he was in hospital with pancreatic cancer.
Page 361 refers to a report Campbell had received in 1999 from a focus group on the reaction to Robin Cook’s affair. The footnote ­compiled by Stott reads: “Shagger Cook: a hero.”

Brutal horror of the Iraqi nightmare on film

FROM the opening shots of armoured vehicles tearing across the desert in the latest film on Iraq, accompanied by a thundering score of heavy rock music, you are grabbed by the throat.
Psyched-up young US marines shout and swear in the vehicles while one exposes his bare bum to buddies in another vehicle.
They set the scene for what is the most realistic anti-war film I’ve seen since Gillo Pontecorvo made the classic Batttle for Algiers in the 1950s.
Battle for Haditha, which is based on a true incident and previewed at the Curzon in Shaftesbury Avenue on Sunday, shows how marines carried out a brutal retaliation after one of their number was killed by a roadside bomb.
After shooting passengers in a car, they go on to massacre 24 people, many of them women and children, hiding in nearby houses. The children, cowering in fear, had just been at a birthday party.
All the actors are amateurs – apart from the “roadside bomber”, an Iraqi, who once worked at the Old Vic. It took the director Nick Broomfield a year to complete the casting, auditioning hundreds of marines and Iraqi refugees in Jordan.
There’s no glitz or Hollywood gloss about the film. It’s brutal, it’s raw – and all the more convincing for it.
In a dramatic scene, a marine breaks down in the shower room, full of guilt about the massacre. Tears roll down his cheeks. How did an amateur actor pull off this scene so beautifully? He told Broomfield he just closed his eyes and remembered all the atrocities he’d seen.
Broomfield told the audience at the Curzon that he hadn’t wanted to “overload” it with horror. In fact, film of the true massacre, investigated by the US military, shows a three-year old child who had been “executed” with a shot through the head!
Broomfield said he wanted to show all the victims of the war – the marines, the dead and wounded, and the civilians caught up in the nightmare. The real “war criminals” were the politicians, the architects of the war.

The fight to save the first casualty of war

THE Vietnam war produced some great reportage – think of Michael Herr’s Despatches for a down-to-earth description of modern battlefields.
To my fascination I discovered this week that mild-mannered Michael Way secretary of St Pancras Labour Party, was a member of the press corps during the Vietnam War. And his tales can be heard in a talk next Thursday.
He revealed he was once flown by American helicopter to a secret CIA base deep in Cambodia for a two-week stay, and saw hair-raising things he promised to reveal in his talk.
When he first touched down in Saigon in 1973 – sent by the great French agency, Agence France-Presse – he was actually struck by how few Americans seemed to be on the ground.
“The 1972 peace agreement meant the Americans had begun to pull out,” he told me.
“We were on this base with no American troops in sight.
“It was quite eerie.”
He says he sits on the fence when it comes to embedded journo’s following units into battle, which has caused much hand wringing among pressmen in the Iraq war.
“If you are embedded, you have to ask how much of the news can you trust,” he said. “But if you don’t go, how are you going to get anything at all?”
The talk starts at 7.30pm next Thursday at the offices of Hodge, Jones and Allen in North Gower Street, NW1.

How Tessa drew strength from Roy

SHE may look as if she can handle herself but I have always suspected she is more brittle than she appears.
Then, at the funeral of Roy Shaw on Friday, Tessa Jowell, a minister of the crown, revealed a part of her hidden self .
Faced with a near riot at the Town Hall in the 1980s over a stand-off between the council and Mrs Thatcher, Tessa described how she drew strength from the way Roy faced the baying crowd, yelling and spitting at him.
To her, the quiet courage of Roy, the valiant tankman from the last war, shone through.
I recall the dramatic night when Camden councillors gathered at a special meeting held in the Camden Centre to decide whether to set a rate or face being surcharged.
The GLC, along with Sheffield, Liverpool and Lambeth councils, had refused to set a rate, but after the GLC caved in, Camden faced a dilemma. And it had to be resolved that night.
More than 500 protesters poured into the Camden Centre, urging the councillors to stand firm. A Camden left wing councillor,
Graham Shurety, made a memorable, rabble-rousing speech. The glory of the Russian revolution of 1917 must have opened up before him.
It was here that Roy showed his inner strength – at least that’s how Tessa remembered it.
Putting Shurety in his place, Roy mockingly referred to his support of a tiny, fringe “revolutionary” party with a UK membership of 200.
Faced with a crowd that would not be quietened, the councillors finally escaped to the peace of the council chamber, though they were followed all the way through the labyrinthine corridors, with protesters yelling abuse.
At 5am Roy’s persuasive oratory helped to win the day, and the rate was set.

Thank goodness for the independents

FOREVER the optimist, I threw a question at an assistant in Waterstone’s in Camden Town: Have you anything by a Hungarian author by the name of Kertesz?
He looked puzzled.

Slowly, I spelled the name out: K… e… r… t… e… s... z... He looked it up on the computer, and shook his head.
On Saturday evening, after I’d seen the film, No Country for Old Men, at the Screen-on-the Hill, I found, to my surprise, that the next door bookshop, Daunts, was still open at 8.30pm.
Try again, I thought. This time, no sooner had I mentioned the name Kertesz than the assistant nodded: “Oh, yes” he replied, “We’ve got Kertesz, which ones do you want?”
At that point, I was feeling good not so much because it looked as if I’d be able to buy the book I was looking for – a novel on the Holocaust called Fateless – but because I had got the author’s name right at Waterstone’s in the first place.
Thank goodness for independent bookshops like Daunts. Not only are they open when you may need them but they’ll invariably have the book you want – and, moreover, their assistants actually know about books.
By the way, Daunts also had a good stock of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men, on which the Coen brothers’ film is based.

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