Thursday, October 18, 2007

on oona and i

Last night I watched, and greatly enjoyed, Nora Meyer's excellent documentary on Oona King, which aired on the BBC this week. Meyer, a friend of King, delivers an accomplished, very personal film about the former Labour MP's electoral battle with the fearsome and unscruplous George Galloway. Clearly sympathetic to King's dreadful treatment at the hands of the Respect man, the film-maker documents the daily barrage of abuse and pressure she is subjected to as a result of her decision to back the toppling of Saddam. King's position in British politics is unique; a headstrong, outspoken MP, and one of only two black women in parliament at the time, King had been made scapegoat for her local community's fury at Blair's disasterous foreign policy. Harangued on a daily basis by a mostly Muslim population, it's impossible not to feel sorry for a woman being made to pay a huge prize for a well meant, if bad, decision.

Meyer, despite her friendship with Ms King, makes clear - as does almost everyone in the film - her bafflement as to how King could have supported the invasion, but allows the MP the chance to justify herself. It makes for the most moving section of the film, where King expresses her absolute disbelief that it is not a subject the friends had discussed earlier. For King, it was a conversation which she had several times on a daily basis for month upon month. As she attempts to reason through her decision, her exhaustion is palpable. Her argument, too, is weary and unconvincing. She even goes so far as to describe George Bush as 'mentally retarded', making it all the more unlikely that she could have supported his actions. In the end her reasoning is half-hearted; if Bush owes Iraq to Blair, then he might feel beholden to him and compelled to sort out the Israel Palestine issue. As we all know, it didn't work out like that.

Since the documentary, King has recanted, admitting that in retrospect she was wrong to support the war. The tragedy is that she made the admission too late, and Bethnal Green and Bow ended up with a drastically inferior MP, the demagogue Galloway, who Oona King recently dismissed, refreshingly, as a 'cunt' in a Guardian interview. Yet Nora Meyer's film, which never takes the easy route, also shows a King far too happy to play the game in order to work her way up the greasy pole of politics, and for all her good work in her constituency, it remains hard to see beyond Iraq. I could never have voted for Galloway, but I would have had great difficulty voting for King either. Happily the presence of a Labour MP who voted against the war in my constituency meant it wasn't a problem I had to face.

Either way, I feel for King and wish her all the best. With luck, too, the people of Bethnal Green will be shot of their odious MP before long.


John said...

"King has recanted, admitting that in retrospect she was wrong to support the war"

She may well have said she was wrong to support the war, but she has also said that she 'could never have voted against removing Saddam Hussein'. She said this just a few months ago in an Independent interview.

Yes, incredibly, despite the deaths of over a million people, she arrogantly and pathologically still maintains she was 'right'.

Nora Meyer's documentary was indeed excellent, showing as it did the full extent of the anger King faced from constituents who were shocked and disgusted by her vote for mass slaughter, the pathetic way she tried to justify her vote (of course, she could never come out and call a spade a spade - she did it to be loyal to Blair and further her career. End of.), the awkward position she placed her parents in as life-long anti-war activists with a passion for social justice, and also showing the dirty tricks employed by Ms King and the Labour party to smear Respect during the campaign.

I highly recommend it.

jonathan said...

What an absurd comment. I was totally opposed to the war and believe that it has been a catastrophe. To say that Oona King voted for 'mass slaughter', on the other hand, is patently ridiculous. Regardless of whether King in particular did what she did for the sake of her career, I am able to understand that many people - including some decent socialists whom I know - supported the war. I don't agree with them; but nor do I think for a moment that they were automaticatically callous in making the decision that they did. Many of them were simply mistaken, which happens occasionally to the best of politicians. I wouldn't vote for them again, but nor would I abuse them nor vote for a man like Galloway.