MIDWAY : Tongue in cheek
If I had the choice between smoked salmon and tinned salmon I’d have it tinned. With vinegar,” the British PM in the 1960s and 70s Harold Wilson once claimed. He might as well have added that he bathed in coal dust, slept in a bucket and changed his socks once a month. The real Wilson went to Oxford University, drank brandy and smoked cigars — but he needed working-class votes.
Hillary Clinton needs votes too, which is why she has started misremembering her past. First, she claimed to have played a big part in the Northern Ireland peace process, which came as news to the Northern Ireland politician of the day David Trimble. This week she described a dramatic arrival in Tuzla during the Balkan wars. “I remember landing under sniper fire,” she said. “We just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” All very impressive and just the sort of experience a future president needs. Except that it
At least Clinton made it to Tuzla. Tony Blair once told the UK TV chat show host Des O’Connor that he had been a child stowaway on a flight from Newcastle to the Bahamas — implausible, since the route didn’t exist. Back in the US, John McCain has been editing his history, too. His autobiography describes the heroic moment he survived an airplane crash in North Vietnam. It omits to mention Mai Van On, the peasant who saved his life by dragging him from the water and driving away an angry mob. Lyndon Johnson always wore the Silver Star he won for bravery in the World War II but he was only in combat for 13 minutes, as an observer. That was probably the most undeserved award for valour.
The British PM Gordon Brown once tried a New Labour piece of reinvention, declaring that business was in his blood. His mother had even been a company director. Except that wasn’t really true. “I don’t know why Gordon is saying all this. It’s all a bit embarrassing. I was not a working director at all,” Gordon’s mum said when a journalist rang her. She added that his dad had “no time for business” either. The moral of that is keep your parents under wraps. It would be nice to say that the wider lesson is don’t lie. But most of the time, politicians probably get away with it.