Of Two Men – And One Short Story

This is a tale of two men. The first of these men was brutally murdered. He was a good man who helped people. The second man cares nothing for others. He is egotistical, loud-mouthed, and uncaring of anything but enhancing his own power and success.

In 2004 I wrote a short story entitled, “The Room.”** It was, perhaps, the most harrowing piece of writing I have ever attempted. It was a work of fiction, but was inspired by the plight of a British man in Iraq.

Kenneth Bigley, alongside two American colleagues, was working there as a civilian soon after the U.S./U.K. invasion, when Saddam Hussein was toppled from power and al Qaeda moved into the country.

Bigley and his colleagues were captured by al Qaeda. The two Americans were beheaded soon after falling into their hands, but Ken Bigley was held in an al Qaeda hideout for weeks, in hideous conditions, while his captors tried to elicit concessions from the British government.

With its usual arrogant stance of never negotiating with terrorists, the British government failed to save Bigley’s life. Eventually, after three weeks of mental and physical torture, he was beheaded and his body buried in a ditch from whence it has never been recovered. He left behind a young Thai wife. They’d been married for seven years. It was to be Bigley’s last job before retirement. They’d planned to live in Thailand.

Ken Bigley didn’t deserve to die. He didn’t deserve to be abandoned by the country he came from. He went to Iraq to help the Iraqis through their trauma. He was a Liverpool man, and courageous. He needed every ounce of that courage during his imprisonment by the fanatical jihadists who held him, and who eventually took his life in the most brutal manner. Most British people were incensed that so little was done to try and save him. [1]

The other man in this tale used to be the editor of the British newspaper, ‘The Spectator’. He went on to become the Mayor of London. He’s now the British Foreign Secretary in Theresa May’s government. His name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

He comes from a family that would be called, “distinguished.” He married into another “distinguished” family. During that marriage he had a number of extra-marital affairs and in 2012 fathered a child to one of his paramours, Helen McIntyre, an arts consultant. He tried to gain an injunction to prevent the matter being made public, but three judges refused, stating:

“The core information in this story, namely that the father had an adulterous affair with the mother, deceiving both his wife and the mother’s partner and that the claimant, born about nine months later, was likely to be the father’s child, was a public interest matter which the electorate was entitled to know when considering his fitness for high public office.” [2]

Boris Johnson is keen to be the next British prime minister. Some consider him a likeable clown, a buffoon. He’s neither; it’s all an act. In October 2004, just days after Ken Bigley’s brutal murder, Boris Johnson the then paper’s editor, published this editorial in the The Spectator:

“The extreme reaction to Mr Bigley’s murder is fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian. Liverpool is a handsome city with a tribal sense of community. A combination of economic misfortune — its docks were, fundamentally, on the wrong side of England when Britain entered what is now the European Union — and an excessive predilection for welfarism have created a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche among many Liverpudlians. They see themselves whenever possible as victims, and resent their victim status; yet at the same time they wallow in it. Part of this flawed psychological state is that they cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society. The deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters at Hillsborough in 1989 was undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley; but that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon. The police became a convenient scapegoat, and the Sun newspaper a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident.”[3]

(The Hillsborough tragedy referred to in this quote occurred at the Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield, on October 15th 1989. The venue was chosen to host a football match between Liverpool Football Club and Nottingham Forest F.C.. It was the worst disaster in British sporting history. Ninety-six people died and over seven hundred were injured. An inquest found “…that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to grossly negligent failures by police and ambulance services to fulfil their duty of care to the supporters. The inquest also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions.”)

I have had personal experience of the inhabitants of Liverpool. I worked in that city for five years, from 1963 to 1968. Even then it was a cosmopolitan city, a major port, and my interaction with people from all walks of life never failed to impress me. Their warmth, generosity, and kindness are, I believe, unmatched anywhere else in Britain. Johnson would never have known those sort of people where he came from – Oxford, North London, a family farm near Exmoor, upper class boarding school (Eton) from the age of eleven, before moving on to Oxford University (where else?).

The editorial in The Spectator wasn’t written by Johnson. He only passed it for publication. By so doing he signaled his approval of the content. The first draft was actually written by another sleazebag journalist, Simon Heffer, who like Johnson, writes to appeal to the minority ‘landed gentry’ rather than the ordinary folk who make our nations work.

But Heffer is just another puffed up, narcissistic, pseudo-intellectual, Oxbridge educated, right-wing Tory supporter, (he’s supported UKIP and Nigel Farage – but then it’s a known fact that rats run together) and deserves no more than a mention here due to his acrimoniously penned attack on Ken Bigley and the city he hailed from. Heffer will never be anything but an arse-crawler to the rich and powerful. Johnson, on the other hand, could become the premier politician in Britain.

This week marks the thirteenth anniversary of Ken Bigley’s death. Most will have forgotten him. If you were to ask Boris Johnson who he was, he’d probably look at you blankly. The people of Liverpool will remember – those who were around at the time. They’ll also remember the man who belittled his good name and libelled his city and its people.

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wasn’t fit to lick Ken Bigley’s boots. He’s certainly not fit to be the next Prime Minister of Britain.

**The short story, ‘The Room’, can be accessed from the Sparrow Chat sidebar.

[1] “Hostage Bigley murdered in Iraq” BBC, October 9th 2004

[2] “Public has right to know Boris Johnson fathered child during affair, court rules” Guardian, May 21st 2013

[3] “Wikipedia.

2 Replies to “Of Two Men – And One Short Story”

  1. I had forgotten, or perhaps was never aware of the 2004 story of Ken Bigley’s horrific experiences. In the autumn of 2004 I was packing up, selling house etc. ready to emigrate to the USA with Anyjazz, we having married some 6 months earlier.

    Thank you for the enlightenment on that sad story . The second man, though his name is familiar, hadn’t been front and centre of news during my last years in the UK, so though I’d seen him on TV a few times, I hadn’t really taken much note of him. Since then he has shown true colours, it seems. A very unpleasant character.

    I went to “The Room” – your story, but was unable to finish it. You are such a good writer, RJ, so good that the scene and atmosphere became too much for the overly delicate sensitivities of this reader. How the heck did you manage to do that? You were very angry, weren’t you? Anger can harden the most sensitive among us.

  2. Twilight – I suppose I was angry. I just felt so much for this poor man and couldn’t help but put myself in his place, imagining the almost unimaginable horror he was experiencing. In fact, so unimaginable was it that I never felt I did it justice, though I remember the writing left me drained, more than any other piece I’ve ever written.
    As for Boris Johnson, he’s now a big man in U.K. politics, and strangely is often mistaken for Donald Trump, particularly by foreigners.

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