JOURNAL - 1994 - JUNE
Sunday 5 June 1994, London
The day started bright sunny and clear but even now as I write, at 8:45am, clouds are starting to scud across the sky and wipe a brush of grey tint outside and turn off the spotlights inside. I shall go out with Adam soon, although I’m not sure where yet.
My return from Brussels was horrible in more ways than one. The North London line has closed the section between Woolwich and Stratford, which passes Silvertown, the City Airport station. This meant I had to catch a bus to Stratford and then a train. And then on top of that the train was caught by 45 minutes of delays. When I got back, Adam was all bright and cheery (he is always so wonderfully welcoming) and looking forward to giving me my birthday presents. I didn’t feel at all like opening any presents, but after a cup of tea and a wash I let Adam drag me into the bedroom. There, on the bed, was a paper cut-out man-monster, half-way in size between Adam and I. All the detail is (for it is now on my wall) in the head. It has huge teeth in giant jaws which open and close, there are antennae which can be put down or up, and there is a large flame which can swivel out from behind the head. In the middle of the body, Adam had stuck a detailed pencil drawing with the words happy birthday, and all over the legs and arms was written ‘I am 42’. Tucked into some paper pockets were my presents. Two pens from Adam, a book and a smart blue hammock (one arm was wrapped around the hammock). I have since tried the hammock on the hammock hooks (on the roof terrace), and I am well pleased with it.
Friday 10 June 1994, London
EC Inform-Energy number 17 is on the streets, as it were. I had a shock this morning. A letter arrived from Financial Times Management Reports asking me if I wanted to write a new edition of my report on EC Energy Policy. The letter came from someone replacing Vivien Korn, who is, apparently, ill. I dug out my contract with the FT for the first report. Article 10 says: ‘SUBSEQUENT EDITIONS - 1) The author shall where so requested by FT: a) supply any new matter that may be needful to keep the Work up to date; b) edit new editions of the Work. The entire copyright in all new material so added shall be assigned to FT.’
I spent most of this morning in a panic trying to work out what this would mean for my own book venture, on an identical subject. I rang Julian, but he was away for the day at the York races, where the Innovative Marketing Sprint was the main event of the day. (Dad and Michele had their moment of glory on Channel 4 as they presented the prize to the winner - Michele was wearing such an ostentatious hat!). I rang Norman Beckman, but he was away too. I then got in touch with my friendly Frank to ask him if he had ever known the FT take legal action against another newsletter. He told me he hadn’t, which reassured me. But he also suggested I turn myself into a limited company so that if there was any legal action against me, I wouldn’t be sleeping in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, as Frank put it.
As the morning wore on, I became convinced that the letter was a purely innocent one, and that I am surely forgotten by all at the FT. Why would my ex-boss bother harass me - you cannot force a writer to do something he doesn’t want. The question remains, though, as to how do I reply to this letter, so as to shake up as little dust as possible.
I meet Lucy at the Lyric Theatre to see ‘Uncle Silas’, directed by Mike Alfreds with design by Paul Dart. Paul used to work with Alfreds and Luke Dixon at Shared Experience. Uncle Silas was not as thought provoking, or as interesting as ‘Mill on the Floss’ (Shared Experience minus Alfreds) and it was too long; but it was funny, entertaining, beautifully acted, and the set was fabulous - truly giving the atmosphere of a gothic psychodrama. I noticed one reviewer drew a parallel with ‘Turn of the Screw’, and there certainly were echoes of it.
We didn’t have much time to talk, so we swapped news. There has been a new shake up at ‘The European’, with an old editor being brought back, but Lucy seems to be coping OK. She went out on the campaign trail with Glynnis Kinnock for a few days, and is getting the hang of dealing with stringers. She tells me she wants to get a cat for her birthday.
On Wednesday, I took Adam for an interview at St Anthony’s school on Fitzjohn’s Avenue. I was a bit nervous, but Adam was fine. We met the overall headmaster, who was five years younger than me and really very friendly. Adam was interviewed by the head of the junior school who looked under 30. The school wanted to see Adam first and assess him, before we got a chance to look round. I think I’m fairly sure Adam won’t go. It costs about £5,000 a year, and the logistics are horrible. Even worse, if you consider B might be working at Wisley some days next year. I am in several minds over Adam’s schooling as well, and have no confidence to take a decision. It is pointless moving him, if we are going to move away within one year or even two. And yet if we don’t move, he could fall well behind the standards of a prep school if he spends another year at state school.
Dennis Potter has died. The most original television dramatist ever. I loved his TV dramas. While dying of cancer, he is supposed to have written two new series; we shall have to see. Oddly, his wife died of cancer just a few weeks ago.
In five by-elections, the Conservatives have been humiliated and beaten into third place. The liberals took Eastleigh, even though the Tories had a 17,000 majority at the last election. The European Parliament polls will only be counted on Sunday with all the other Union countries. I look forward to all the commentary on Sunday night, and I expect the Tories will have suffered a notable defeat.
Thursday 23 June 1994, Brussels
Things have become increasingly difficult with Barbara, so that the most likely outcome now for the future is that we will stay in London and live in different houses. She is talking about moving out of this house by the end of the year at the latest. I have been trying my best to organise another segment of our future but we don’t seem to be able to find a way together.
I have decided to call this flat my Brussels Labour Camp. That’s what it has been since I first rented it over three years ago. I do nothing here but labour. This trip is all writing I need to make very few interviews. I hope to spend most of the time through to next Monday working on the book, thereafter I will have to focus on the monthly and quarterly newsletters which come out together the week after, and are my last issues until September.
I spent a mildly interesting couple of days at the Unipede conference in Birmingham earlier this week. Eurelectric paid for me to stay in the fancy Hyatt Hotel which is connected to the impressive new convention centre in the very heart of the city. The Convention centre boasts any number of meeting halls as well as the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s main concert hall which was the venue on the Sunday night for the Welcome Pageant. This was a show with pipers from Scotland, folk dancers from Ireland, a choir from Wales and the band of Coldstream Guards from England - all of the highest calibre. I’m sure it was wonderful for all the visitors, but it left me somewhat cold - like seeing pictures of my country round the edges on a tourist plate.
On Monday night, I went with a hundred or more others on coaches to Stratford upon Avon to see ‘Twelfth Night’ at the RSC Theatre. I was quite looking forward to this even though I’ve seen enough ‘Twelfth Nights’ to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, it was a very mediocre production - perhaps one just for tourists, I don’t know if they keep certain productions in rep and use them as testing grounds for the less experienced actors. It was a long evening as we ferried to a restaurant for a meal before coaching back to Birmingham. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a new subscriber at dinner and learning something about changes in Sweden.
Although nearly 10:30pm, it is still light outside, and the sky is streaked with pink and white.
I met up with Henry (and Niamh) at Birmingham and we exchanged notes. It’s quite amazing to think that nearly a year has gone by since we last spoke. It is as though nothing much has changed. I hear that the FT has appointed a launch editor leaving David Hurst (who beat me to the managing editor job) doing not much more than checking expenses and other administration. Kenny has not sold his flat in Brighton so he and Liz are renting a flat in Edinburgh and Liz is helping him on the production of ‘European Energy Report’. I suppose he must be earning nearly as much as I was. Cecil Baux was very sweet to me. She had only been given leave to pay for two journalists to attend the conference - and she took me and Gillian Handyside. She kept insisting on setting up interviews for me so much that I had to restrain her.
Saturday 25 June 1994, Brussels
Our great and glorious leaders are meeting in Corfu today. Yesterday they signed the accession treaties with four new recruits to the Union, and an important treaty with Russia (I’ll come back to this in a second), but the whole proceedings (worse luck for the Greeks) have been entirely overshadowed by the negotiations, or should I say tussle, for a new Commission President. Delors has been in the job ten years and must step down (most probably to become the French president next year - some people just manage to get their timing perfect!). There has been moronic and obsessive coverage of the talks by the media. Every now and then one issue emerges out of the swamp of possible news items and is possessed, really taken into possession (in whatever meaning you care to give the word - demoniacal or sexual) by the media. It becomes their property and they abuse it to death. Such is the case with the leadership context. And how much of the reporting is accurate or valid? 5% would be a reasonable guess.
In the run up to Corfu there have been three declared candidates - Sir Leon Brittan, Jean-Luc Dehaene and Ruud Lubbers (prime ministers of Belgium and the Netherlands the last two). Only the UK has backed Brittan, so by repeating its support for Brittan right up until the negotiations, and indeed after them (I heard Hurd on the radio this morning), the UK is simply sending a message - why don’t the journalists ask what that message is, what is it meant to convey, why go on supporting a dead duck.
From the minute-by-minute account of responses of people leaving the meetings last night, we understand that on a first count there were 8 backers for Dehaene, 3 for Lubbers, and 1 for Brittan. At a later count, Dehaene had 10 and the UK was saying for the first time it could not accept Dehaene.
The UK seems to be making a fool of itself. If it wanted to reject Dehaene it should have said so publicly a long time ago, and given the other States a chance to believe the message and prepare a second choice. But what is the UK saying? It has nothing against Dehaene personally, it praised his work in the Belgian Presidency. But it strongly opposes the way that Dehaene has been chosen by France and Germany getting together a few weeks before the summit and making their common choice known. Well, what an absurd reason for blocking agreement. Why does it pick fights it cannot win. Will Douglas Hurd resign after this is cleared up. I’ve felt for a long time he is implementing Major’s policies without believing in them. When interviewing UK politicians, why don’t the journalists ask how the UK can expect 10 States to change their mind, when the UK alone won’t change its mind. How can they listen to Douglas Hurd argue that the UK cannot accept Dehaene because of the way he was ‘crowned’ by the German/French axis and not ask how the UK can expect 10 countries in favour of Dehaene to change their minds. We have a dud government and a blind media.
I have been predicting that Lubbers will in fact be made President, and in fact the UK has finally, for the first time, accepted that it could go along with Lubbers. (Has it really served any purpose to hide this until now, it was plainly obvious.) But because of the attitude of the UK (the way it is arguing its case in public), the other delegations are hardening their position. I heard a German refuse to accept that Lubbers could be called a compromise candidate because he was already a candidate. However, he did not actually say Germany would reject him. There’s hope yet for my prediction.
Sunday 26 June 1994, Brussels
So much for my prediction. The Corfu summit broke up in, what every journalist called, ‘disarray’. When the leaders reconvened during Saturday morning, both Brittan and Lubbers withdrew their candidature and every Member State agreed to Dehaene, with the exception of dear old Britannia. Our Johnny has done it again. Somehow, he has managed to get the UK entirely isolated, and publicly so. If there had been proper consultation, Major tells the media, then we would not have been forced into using our veto. Balls, Mr Major, balls. What is proper consultation? It is you that have failed to pass on the right signals; almost as though you wanted this situation to arise (could it really be in Major’s interest - survival as leader perhaps - I hadn’t considered that he may have stage-managed this whole business, in the way that some say the UK invited Argentina to invade the Falklands by not providing sufficiently strong signals. Is this too tangled a web for John Major to have woven?)
New candidates must now come forward and the German Presidency will reconvene the leaders (and the press pack) in a few weeks time - that’ll cut into a few holidays. Although I don’t quite understand this, it seems that Lubbers, having stood down, cannot now be considered. There is renewed talk of Peter Sutherland. I expect John Major will be quite content to get an Anglophile with such good free market credentials in to the Brussels job; but if I were Germany, France, Italy and Spain, I would be very keen on finding another candidate to embarrass John Major. One wonders how the last ten years would have evolved with Cheyson as President instead of Jacques Delors (Cheyson was vetoed by Thatcher).
Last night, at 8pm, I nipped out to a local bar to catch the closing minutes of the Belgium-Netherlands World Cup match, partly because I am in Belgium, partly because I like to take a passing interest in the World Cup, and partly because David Winner, my neighbour in Aldershot Road, is so keen on Dutch football (he wants to write a book on the Cruyff phenomena, but his agent cannot find a backer - if Holland can do well in the World Cup it might help). When I arrived the score was 1-0 to Belgium and the dozen beer-drinkers and three waitresses were all rather subdued. But the last twenty minutes contained some fiery football, the Dutch never letting up with their attack, and the Belgians getting an occasional break in the empty Dutch half. There were several shots that missed the Belgian goal by a whisker, and I was glad to witness the exciting football and the relief of one and all when the match was over in Belgium’s favour.
I have completed the first draft of 8 of 11 chapters in my book. I have still to write the chapter on security of supply, and the introduction and finalise the chapter on East Europe. I have written about 80,000 words so far and I can’t see the book coming in at under 150 pages. Apart from the writing there is still so much to do - preparing the database, designing and writing the brochure, all the tables and charts, proof-reading, sending off chapters to various readers, preparing a press release etc. I am quite pleased with the way the whole is shaping up - it really will be so much better than my first attempt, under the FT banner. If I could sell as many as the FT did of my first volume, I could buy a cottage in the country with the income (well not after tax!) as it is I alternate between thinking that I’ll probably only get 50 sales and just cover my expenses, and thinking how nice it will be to get some press coverage and get invited to speak at conferences again.
I have been entertaining Alan Clark all weekend! He stinks of privilege and it is so galling to think that a stuck-up upper class git, who’s barely developed beyond adolescence managed to get into government. Not this time, but last time I was in Brussels, I was listening to a story about Clark’s recently-published diaries, and about a judge who had arrived in London from South Africa to expose Clark as a terrible man (the diaries reveal Clark’s long-term liaison with the judge’s wife and two daughters!). This was the first time I had thought about the book since it came out and received loads of publicity. I thought, I’m still not going to buy it - he’s a pompous ass and I don’t see why he should be rewarded for by my fiver for writing up his infantile thoughts. I was thinking this at EXACTLY the moment the bell rang - the postman asked on the intercom if I could open the door so he could leave a package - it the was that very book sent me by Barbara!
Early in the diary there is a reference to ‘the coven’ but there is no direct telling of any sexual encounters, although one gets the impression there are many. The South African judge claimed in endless interviews with the newspaper that his wife and two daughters were both seduced by Clark. He himself had been a friend of the cad for years. The diaries had just been published in South Africa and they could not stand the malicious gossip based on the reference to ‘the coven’. The women claimed Clark had breached a confidence and that was the only reason they were now after his blood. They want the world to know what sort of man he his. The slanging went on in the newspapers for days; every commentator took the opportunity to judge how society should view such a vile wicked man. The upper class commentators came to his defence - and, reading between the sheets so to speak, blamed him only for getting caught - others were more moralistic. Lots of hoary details about Clark’s private life came out but his wife stood solidly behind him.
I have now finished the book. And my opinion hasn’t changed. Most of it is a reasonable read. There is very little about policy, it’s all just gossip, and self-congratulation, alternating with self-pity. I find him neither likeable, nor particularly funny, nor even intelligent. He provides no insight at all into modern political or cultural thinking. He shows off his book learning now and again, but to no real effect. Through the whole book, covering nearly ten years, the only one main policy he appears to have been interested in was cutting back defence spending. When you compare these diaries to the autobiography of Nigel Lawson, there is no comparison - Clark comes across as playing a child’s game of Monopoly; Lawson gives insight into the real machinery and complexity of how governments are run and how policies are made. All we get from Clark is tittle tattle and willy flashing. I hope the South Africans get him.
The news this evening tells me that the German foreign minister has insisted Bonn will bring Dehaene’s candidacy forward again at a summit scheduled for 15 July. Several other foreign ministers have been making the point that it is unreasonable for the UK to expect the other 11 delegations to stand down so Major can have his way. Hurd has insisted again that we will not agree to Dehaene. Wonderful stuff. Everyone is saying that Major is simply appeasing the Eurosceptics in the Tory party.
Lots of seeds lose out early in Wimbledon this year, and Jeremy Bates winning through to the last 16 has the girls screaming on the Centre Court.
I am finishing an early Brian Aldiss collection - ‘Galaxies like grains of sand’. It was written over 30 years ago when Aldiss was 35. It’s an overly ambitious attempt to snatch fragments of human life from a sequence of millions of years, and its chock full of interesting sci fi ideas but they often don’t hang together very well. One loses all belief in his chronology very early on. I only mention him because I’ve never tried my hand at science fiction, and his stories gave me the idea to have a go at exactly the same formation - a dozen stories, each of them stretching further and further into the future.
Monday 27 June 1994, Brussels
Pink streaks again this evening across the pale blue dusk sky I can see through my large lounge windows and above the houses opposite. We must be very close to the longest day - I shall be going to bed in half an hour or so and it will still be light! These long balmy evenings are not meant for work but for a stroll along a favourite country lane to the top of a hill, where there’s a perfectly situated rock to sit on and watch the sun go down over the village. Susan strolls up behind you with a bottle of cold Chablis plucked from the fridge as she heard your calls to follow him to the Seat. You make room for her on the rock, you both take alternate swigs from the bottle (she has remembered to undo the cork but not to bring glasses), and you sit there in silence for half an hour, until it is dark, and the cooler air wraps you round each other.
I lunch with Brooks. Unusually, I do most of the talking - about my arguments with Barbara, about Adam’s schooling, and about Frederic my father. I’m sure I’ve talked about Frederic, Vera Caspary, IG and all that before, but he seemed to have forgotten and found it all very interesting. ‘Laura’ is one of his wife’s favourite films. I mentioned that Gail had promised to send me some of Frederic’s photos etc, but it is a long time now and she hasn’t sent them. Talking to Brooks about Vera made me wonder if I shouldn’t have fought a bit to get some of her possessions - I never fought to get anything from that side of the family - not from Grandma Dolly, not from Vera, not from Mike and nothing from Frederic. Nothing but my games chest. What a shame. Where is IG and Vera’s history now?
I make a quick visit to Eurelectric and Cecile, sweet Cecile, who leaves shortly to work for the Red Cross, has given me another diskette of her databases; there may be nearly 1,000 names. Wonderful, all of them prime, prime targets. It was Cecile who, when I launched my own business, fixed for Eurelectric to cancel ‘EC Energy Monthly’ and take my newsletter instead, and Cecile who made it possible for me to go to Prague (and Birmingham).
Telephone calls with Brian Raggett at the E&P Forum. I want to know what his members think of the European Energy Charter. He cannot tell me (nor could Peter Claus at Eurogas). We spent most of our time on the phone speculating about the Commission Presidency.
Brian Jensen tells me that he had a row with Simon Burgess when he found out that I hadn’t been paid for the Thermie work. He rang two months ago in London for a chat and I told him in passing that I hadn’t been paid. He had a fit and pulled out of his partnership in Simon’s company ETP. They are still working together but as separate legal entities. Anyway, Brian told me there was some money going in to ETP shortly, and that I would be paid soon. At the very worst, he would pay me himself and never work with Simon again. I am pleased that my trust in Brian has paid off (well, it hasn’t yet because I haven’t been paid, but I’m sure I will be). He says they have won an OPET contract which will mean a lot of work in the autumn - maybe for me also.
Cecilio Madero explains that DGIV has rejected entirely the French proposal for a single buyer system in parallel to third party access. I ask him if he really believes the Council will approve a TPA Directive on qualified majority without the support of the French. DGIV is most afraid that the Council, in collusion with the Energy Commissioner, will agree a Directive which limits the Commission’s possibility to use Treaty law to help open the energy markets.
Mr X, at the German Permanent Representation, answered the phone when I rang for Karl von Kempis and (perhaps) foolishly admitted that he too covered the CO2/energy tax; so I quizzed him instead of Karl. I had already got a pack of papers that were used at the last Environment Council, including the Greek Presidency’s draft Council Conclusions; they were rejected but I wanted to know how the Germany Presidency would proceed. He gave me clues.
Dufeil, in DGXVI, told me the Community Initiatives Decisions would be published in the OJ on 1 July. He said Regen was unchanged from the Commission proposal but that Rechar had been slightly modified to make the conditions for aid to coal mining regions more flexible, in line with the Parliament’s Opinion (which I wrote about last month).
Tuesday 28 June 1994, Brussels
A very warm day again. I went out for a short while this morning, and for a short while this afternoon, and I will go out to the cinema in a minute. This morning I dropped in to see James Spence, the administrator of the Parliament’s energy committee (CERT) - we have a twenty minute chinwag about all the main issues, and agree on most things. Life is unusually quiet for him, at present, while the new MEPs sort out their priorities and negotiate among the groups as to who gets what position. He tells me it is unlikely that Claude Desama will be reappointed chairman of CERT. Although he scraped in under the Belgium system of proportional representation, it seems that among Belgian MEPs they must alternate jobs between Flemish and Walloon members. His appointment or not, as the case may be, is of some interest. Desama took over the chairmanship of CERT and at the same time became rapporteur on the important gas and electricity liberalisation Directives. Although professing an open attitude to liberal markets, he told me in an interview before he became chairman (one I had organised a while back for the FT management report at the suggestion of James who had understood Desama’s rising status in the committee) that he was against third party access. He spent much effort throughout 1993 in chairing (and somewhat manipulating CERT) towards a rather negative Opinion of the liberalising Directives. The Commission and the Council have moved on and there may yet be progress in the Council, but the EP Opinion will remain critical because the Directive falls under the codecision procedure.
Finally, I manage to extract some information on the 1993 nuclear safety programme from the Tacis unit in DGI. When I ask for information on the press conference given at the start of June, I am given a photocopy of an article in ‘Nucleonics Week’ (yes, that rag that I used to write for) about the meeting and a report on the RBMKs. But they can give me no original material at all. Absurd.
I talk to David Knight at the UK Permanent Representation about the CO2/energy tax. Up to now, the UK has argued against the imposition of a Community-wide tax, but in fact the UK will not agree even to a framework if that framework obliges them to raise domestic taxes. The UK would be happy with a system of raising the minimum levels of excise taxes, which were agreed as part of the Single Market. But only so long as those levels do not exceed the current levels of UK taxes (the UK rates being a bit higher than the minimum rates). There are no excise taxes on light fuel oil, electricity or coal, and the UK would resist strongly any suggestion of putting on such levies.
Paul K Lyons
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