David Trimble, who features, of course, in Jonathan Powell’s account of the peace process, Great Hatred, Little Room, has reviewed the book for the Guardian today. He takes issue with some misrepresentations of his positions, and points out some of them in his review, and also takes Blair and Powell to task for their “feel good” approach to things. He also adds to the Clinton debate by noting there is only one reference to her and it involves her secret service agent. It’s worth reading to get an insider’s perspective on the dish and dirt in Powell’s book.I’m currently halfway through the book myself. It is disarmingly candid, and it appears Powell never met someone who did not, in the end, get it right; he is careful to be full of praise for those who came before, ever the diplomat. He is also either amazingly naive or not wanting to reveal the extent of his knowledge; this was most striking when he described as “odd notions” Trimble’s concern about the IRA’s listening to his phone conversations: “He did, however, have slightly odd notions of the IRA’s capabilities. In one phone conversation with Tony in September he suddenly said they had to find another way to communicate because he was convinced the IRA were bugging his phone.” For Powell to seemingly dismiss this as either impossible, fanciful, paranoid or odd on Trimble’s behalf is bizarre, and shows either a weakness at the top levels of the British government, that they would not know that the IRA were capable of such and in fact, as the bugging of Brendan Hughes’ flat demonstrated, actively doing such things, or it shows that Powell is being quite cagey, for what reasons we do not know.
For all its seeming candidness, you are quite aware you aren’t getting the full story. In another example, what Trimble called “a brief, poorly balanced, chapter on the historical background” omits some curious events – namely, he goes into quite some detail about The Link – Brendan Duddy and the Mountain Climber – and its role during the first (1980) hunger strike, but makes no mention whatsoever of the second, arguably much more important and influential, 1981 hunger strike. This is especially curious given the current controversy over the deal between the Mountain Climber and the prisoners which would have averted the deaths of six of the hunger strikers. Given what is apparent that Powell knows about the Link, he would be in a position to explain much about that period, but strangely chooses not to say anything at all. This colours the rest of his account, making you aware of what he is leaving out as much as what he has put in.
Still, it is a fascinating book, and I am looking forward to finishing it.