David Miliband, the UK Foreign Secretary, is of course perfectly right. Friendship requires confidence, trust. Lots of cuddles and warmth. And little bits of torture here and there.
When we were at school together, I and another friend brought Carol Thatcher to see David Miliband. She had been a friend too until she’d offended him in some way. Anyway, we held her down whilst David stamped on her hands. Naturally we felt badly about this afterwards, although our consciences were clear since only David had done the stamping.
And so time passed, as it always does…
One year at the school reunion I said to him, ‘David, don’t you think you behaved rather badly, stamping on Carol’s hands?’
‘What do you mean?’ he replied. ‘I only held her down along with you. It was Hassan who stamped on her hands.’ And, of course, he was right. I remembered that after he said it.
A short time later, we were all sitting together in the green room of a well known TV company when we overheard Carol Thatcher saying in her inimitably loud and rather vulgar way, ‘You know three of them attacked me after school and took turns to stamp on my hands.’ And, obviously, after a breach of trust like that, no friendship can survive. So we dropped her. And, in addition, we sued her for defamation.
Well eventually the case did get to Court, where it was heard before Jonathan Ross LJ, a Law Lord of some note. In his rather testy summing up, Ross stated:
‘I am unable to try this case. The plaintiffs have hidden the evidence. I find it intolerable that any Court should be put under this kind of pressure.’
Tonight David and I are going round to Ross’s house. We are going to stamp on his hands.
The Soviet agent and Keeper of the Queen’s Pictures, Anthony Blunt, famously defended himself with E M Forster’s observation that it was better to betray one’s country than to betray one’s friends.
David Miliband has adapted this principle. It is, in his view, better first to go along with torture in secret and then to go against international law than to go against whichever friendly country carries out these acts.