When Peter Hitchens came to the University of Lincoln last Monday, I spent a good two hours hearing him speak about a range of issues – predominantly Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
He’s a very serious but funny man. At the moment, I can’t quite come up with the word to describe his style.
Anyway, he made me laugh a lot – which is a rarity with a political commentator – but there was one moment in his Question and Answer session when he talked about our former Prime Minister Tony Blair which really tickled me.
The comments were prompted by a question asking whether he thought Mr Blair should be trialled for war crimes.
Peter Hitchens’ response was brilliant!
“In the case of Blair, I knew him before he was elected and he’s prolifically dim. He never understood what he was doing so in a way it would be unkind to put him on trial.”
He then went on to recall a very amusing anecdote about the former Labour PM which casts doubt on his basic knowledge of South America:
Shortly before the 1997 election, I met him in the concourse of Oxford Station, and I was about to go over and tease him when he was surrounded by quite a lot of people.
This was before the days of selfies when they had ordinary cameras and they all wanted to have their pictures taken.
I waited for all this to be over and they all melted away. His entourage were at the far side of the station buying cappuccinos and had forgotten about the soon to be leader.
So he was standing there in the middle of Oxford Station so I sidled up to him and said: “Who were they?”
He said: “Oh, they were Brazilians.” I couldn’t think of anything to say so he carried on talking because there was one of those embarrassing silences.
He said: “I’m very popular in Brazil.”
So I said, again grasping for something to answer this: “I suppose you’d better start learning Portuguese then.”
And he said: “… Portuguese!?” He thought, in 1997 six weeks before he became Prime Minister and got his finger on the nuclear button, that they spoke Brazilian.
That’s true, that’s absolutely true! I was there and I’m not making it up.
What a brilliant story and it shows that caricatures may be more realistic than you’d ever believe …