The very existence of the State demands that there be
some privileged class vitally interested in maintaining that existence.
And it is precisely the group interests of that class that are called patriotism.
- Michael Bakunin


Anthony McIntyre

It hasn’t exactly been ‘the year of liberty’ for some in the British political and cultural establishment. Already we have witnessed the cell door bang shut behind two of its more colourful figures. A few months ago M’Lud sent down the former Tory Party chairperson Jeffrey Archer for four years. This week his learned friends could not protect the pop mogul Jonathan King who almost doubled Archer’s term when the judge’s hammer beckoned him on his way to a seven-year stretch.

Archer’s celebrity lifestyle was anchored both in politics and the literary world. On top of his high profile within the British Conservative Party he was the successful author of a number of novels including the blockbuster Kane and Abel which I read while in prison – voluntarily; it was not part of a punishment regimen handed out as part of Governor Stanley Hilditch’s infamous No. 1 diet. King, despite a brief foray into politics, made his name elsewhere. He had his first chart-topping hit in 1965. In 1972, under the cover name Shag (why that?) he released Loop di Love which remained at the top of the charts in Greece for two years. I bought it as a young teenager which probably prevents me from saying that whatever the Greeks excel at it is hardly their taste in music.

As both men sit in their prison cells does the thought ever cross their minds that most of the republican political prisoners they hated for so long are now out and that they who sought to keep us incarcerated are now in, and as common criminals to boot? Perhaps not - Archer is probably thinking of a new novel and King’s nocturnal ruminations may be taken up with thoughts of boys.

I suppose at one level there are similarities that can be drawn between politicians and paedophiles. Alistair McAlpine, a member of the British House of Lords, once asked of Archer ‘how this consummate conman managed to take in so many intelligent people for so long?’ Exactly the same could be asked of King.

But it would be both unjust and disingenuous to overdo the comparisons between the two men. Archer was a rogue, not all that different from the rest of the political class; he just got caught. As part of the Tory establishment he pitted himself against those who sought to end repression in Ireland. Whether he really believed any of it is another matter. He, after all, was more criminal than those he opposed. But he was much less irritating than King and ultimately in terms of generating social anathema was considerably less culpable. King, a pompous and arrogant Colonel Blimp type permanently accompanied by a lecherous twisted grin, believed himself to be of the stature of Cecil Rhodes flying the flag abroad for Britannia whenever some critic needed battered with the flagpole. Did his sense of patriotism extend to attiring himself in Union Jack boxer shorts? Perhaps nobody over the age of ten was permitted to know.

I recall those dark days of 1981 when Bobby Sands and his comrades were dying to register their outright refusal to allow Britain to designate them as criminals. In the United States at the time the real criminal, Jonathan King was busying himself describing the hunger strikers in the most pejorative of terms. He sought to persuade his audience that they were gangsters, criminals, murderers, terrorists and low lives not worthy of support or sympathy.

During that fight for political status the prison administration made much use of an acronym for non-political prisoners. It was ‘ODC’ - Ordinary Decent Criminals. It is a term that is too generous for Jonathan King. He is neither ordinary nor decent. Those who died on hunger strike and their comrades occupied a moral stratosphere too cleansed for the morally reptilian King to soar within reach of. Evidence perhaps, as Nietzsche once wrote, that those who are born to crawl shall never fly.



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