11 FEBRUARY 1989, Page 7


Although I have known for many years of the atrocities committed by the late Rear-Admiral Sir Anthony Miers when he was in command of the submarine Torbay in the Mediterranean in 1941, I am glad that it was the Sunday Telegraph rather than myself who disclosed his name (though the Telegraph might have added that nearly every fact in their ,story came from my book). For if Miers was, as I believe, a minor war criminal, he was also a major war hero, whose courage and aggression on numerous patrols in the Torbay were legendary and whose VC for penetrating an enemy harbour to destroy shipping was richly deserved. And although he always fobbed off my requests to see him, I still could not bring myself to relate what he had done. As I wrote in my memoirs, I was torn between 'the lack of courage of this brave man in declining to discuss what he had done, and my lack of courage in declining to write about it'. Now I feel free to gather my papers on the case and publish my thoughts on it; though it is not as clear-cut as it might seem. In my view it should be judged not only in conjunction with the German U-boat cap- tain Eck whom we court-martialled and shot with two of his officers for doing much the same thing, but in the whole context of war and war crimes generally. In what circumstances in war is killing the enemy wrong? Miers's ordering the shooting of half a dozen Wehrmacht survivors in their rubber raft was dreadful, but was it any more dreadful than the indiscriminate kill- ing of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Hamburg and Dresden, London and Coventry? Are atrocities com- mitted personally more heinous than those Committed impersonally? One feels they should be, but viewed objectively, on what grounds? I pose the question but do not know the answer. The Sunday Telegraph says that the Ministry of Defence is going to launch 'an urgent, high-level inquiry' into the affair. I trust not. Miers should have been court-martialled at the time but for obvious reasons wasn't. All the facts are known. What good would it do now?

e flew to Edinburgh on Friday to W

act as judges, along with the Scottish judge Lord Cameron of Lochbroom, Magnus Linklater, editor of the Scotsman, and Jeremy Paxman (who looks gentler in the flesh than on the box), in a student debate between the Diagnostic Society of Edin- burgh University and the Dialectic Society of Glasgow University. It took place in the elegant Queen Street rooms of the Royal College of Physicians and was master- minded by the Diagnostic's President, George Sitwell, grandson of our friend Sachie and already adding lustre to the LUDOVIC KENNEDY family name. Champagne flowed before and after an excellent dinner, all the speeches were of a high order and the Dialectic's motion, that this House would block the Channel Tunnel, narrowly won. The Prime Minister was over in Glasgow at the same time, savaging the idea of Scot- tish Home Rule. I doubt if she is any more aware than the English newspapers, not only of the strength of Scottish opposition to her policies, but of so many Scottish people's views of her and her persona as something totally alien to the Scottish scene. But then the English have always remained obtusely ignorant of Scotland, which they regard, when they do regard it, as an extremity of England; ignorant of the renaissance of Scottish self-awareness and of the establishment of a Scottish conven- tion in which politicians of all opposition parties are coming together to see if they can agree on a formula for minimum Home Rule — which they will then hopefully submit to the Scottish electorate. Whether this is a genuine Home Rule movement which (unlike the last) can be sustained, or simply a channel for the frustrations of those who command the support of 85 per cent of the Scottish electorate yet are powerless to influence government policy, it is rather too early to say.

In England of course there is no Home Rule alternative for the discontented to turn to. The opposition remains totally fragmented and is likely to remain so until after the next election and an incredible fourth term for Mrs T. For this I partly blame Dr David Owen whose defection from the Alliance was one of the most self-indulgent acts of any mature politician that has occurred in recent times. I chaired two or three joint hustings meetings for him and David Steel at the last election and I can assure any doubters that there was no

disagreement on any major issue between them. Had the doctor stayed on, he would have inherited David Steel's mantle within a year and as the only opposition leader to have held high ministerial office made an impressive figure. I have a high regard for Paddy Ashdown (whose hustings meetings with Alan Beith I also chaired) but he has yet to establish himself. With Owen at the top, the Alliance might even now be catching up or overtaking Kinnock's mot- ley crew. As things are, the doctor and his silly little rump have consigned themselves to political oblivion.

This is the time of year when I look forward eagerly to Saturday afternoons spent in the telly room with a bottle of kiimmel watching the Five Nations Rugby tournament. We were home from Edin- burgh in time to see the Calcutta Cup match, but it was a scrappy affair, the open play which England had shown so brilliant- ly against the Australians being frustrated by (a) the French referee too often bring- ing the game to a halt because of minor infringements and (b) resolute Scottish tackling. All the same I thought Scotland lucky to get a draw. But there is one question I would like answered. The game is becoming increasingly popular: on the eve of Twickenham we were told that thousands of applications for tickets had had to be rejected. So why is it that during the Five Nations championship two interna- tionals have to be played on the same day? Why cannot they be spaced out to cover blank Saturdays, so that those of us watch- ing at home can see all the matches live instead of only some?

Ihave just been watching a cassette of a programme due to be screened last Sunday night on Sky, so if you have a dish (which I doubt) you may have watched it. It has confirmed my worst fears of what satellite television is letting us in for. Chaired by a repulsive middle-aged blonde called Sally Jesse Raphael (who I thought at first was Dame Edna Everage), the guests were four young women who, despite physical infir- mities of one kind or another — an artificial leg, a brace, deformed hands, etc — were yet successful in their chosen professions of model, actress, newscaster, etc. Ms Raphael asked one of the four, Ivy, how her artificial leg had affected her sexual allure. Ivy said, bravely enough, that her husband Don hadn't seemed to mind at all. Ms Raphael then introduced us to Helen Stohl who had been confined to a wheelchair after a car accident. 'She posed in the nude for Playboy', said Ms Raphael, 'to prove that physically disabled women are very sexy — as these clips show.' Need I say more?