Tuesday, November 01, 2005


I must confess to being a Hallowe’en curmudgeon. Not, I hasten to add, one of those antsy Christians who get steamed up about festive naughtiness corrupting our children into the devil’s ways… more someone who’s fed up enough with consumeritis to think that training kids to go and get money off strangers through petty menace isn’t a great idea – I mean, we have professional advertisers for that, don’t we? Not that the two are linked only by dubious sales techniques. Hallowe’en is now big business, a kind of neo-religious version of well-established tinsel-fests like Christmas. What will they think of next?

So this year, once again, our household battened down the trick-or-treat hatches, raised a glass to one of the real All Saints, smiled at the agenda-grabbing ‘toxics are the new dark forces’ World Wildlife Fund initiative, and took to the alternative of a good book. A volume I’d recommend right now is also, as it happens, about spooks and devilish details – but in this case those surrounding MI5 and MI6. Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers (The Book Guild, 2005) is Annie Machon’s account of the trials and tribulations which she and her partner David Shayler endured in the wake of his being jailed for breaches of the Official Secrets Act over issues surrounding the British bombing of Libya in 1986. It contains disturbing allegations about the security forces and raises important broader issues of public interest. But it has largely been ignored by the mainstream media. I’m pleased to be a member of the same union as Annie and David (the National Union of Journalists), and enjoyed a chat with them after a public meeting in Brighton a year or so ago. They are brave and tenacious people. Alan slingsby has an article about the book ('Secrets no-one wants') in the latest issue of The Journalist. [Machon radio interview]

As for All Hallows, more on that to follow...

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