It is being seriously suggested that Donald Trump should be pardoned by Joe Biden, the incoming President of the United States, to “help to heal the nation.” What dangerous nonsense!
The deaths and destruction caused by the mob that raided the Capitol building, plainly egged on by Trump, cannot be glossed over that easily.
As a condition of the pardon it is proposed that he should accept that Biden won the election fairly and call off his supporters, who threaten to cause mayhem at the new President’s inauguration this week – an event that Trump has decided to boycott. Fat chance of him doing any of that. The impeachment charges of insurrection, brought by the Congressional leaders who cowered in terror from the attack on the Capitol, would go ahead anyway. Perhaps, though, they should be careful what they wish for.
It is by no means certain that enough Republican Senators will vote to convict Trump. It needs 17 of them to ensure a conviction, but only ten supported the vote to bring on the impeachment proceedings. It is possible that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, could persuade others to support the vote for conviction, since he has expressed anger himself at Trump’s role in the march on the Capitol, but they will be acutely aware that such a verdict would be extremely unpopular with Republicans around the country, half of whom still think Biden’s election should not have been ratified, even after the violence.
It would be disastrous if Trump were to be found innocent on a second impeachment, making it unlikely that Congress could pass a vote banning him from public office in the future. If that happened, he would press on with his declared ambition to fight the Presidential election again in 2024 and, astonishingly, there appears to be enough support among Republicans for him to remain their favoured candidate. America would then remain as bitterly divided as it is now, possibly more so.
Any verdict handed down by mainly Democratic members of Congress would be rejected by Trump supporters as partisan and simply as vengeance for the violent attack they experienced on their headquarters. It would be better for Trump’s transgressions to be dealt with by the law, rather than by rival politicians.
Tribute to a brilliant woman
Few people under 80 will remember Katharine Whitehorn in her prime in the 1960s when she revolutionised women’s journalism. She died last week aged 92.
She wrote for The Observer from 1960 to 1996. I worked with her on the paper for 27 of those years.
She was the wittiest and cleverest of all female writers and engaged readers with her humour and her frankness. She made readers laugh and talked openly about daily domestic life rather than tell them, as other women’s pages of the time did, to be perfect wives and mothers.
When she published a column called “Sluts” it found such an echo among female readers that the paper was inundated with hundreds of letters. One line in the column, which became famous, was: “Have you ever fetched anything back from the dirty-clothes basket because it had become, relatively, the cleaner thing.” One simply didn’t say things like that in those days.
She wrote a book called “Living in a Bedsitter” which remained in print for 40 years and others on Survival: How to Survive in the Kitchen, How to Survive in Hospital, How to Survive Children, all based on her own down-to-earth experiences.
An article much recalled when she died was one she wrote about how to carry a bag, gloves, a plate, a cigarette, a drink and a fork at a party and to keep one hand for shaking hands. What people didn’t remember was another one where she listed all those things to carry and added advice on what to do if your knickers then fell down. The answer? “Kick them under the nearest sofa.”
What to do when the maid comes in with the Christmas roast and tips it onto the floor? “Tell her to take it out and bring in the other one.”
She always insisted that if her column had to be cut for any reason: “Cut the facts, not the jokes.” Two lines I remember from her columns are these: “Outside every thin woman there is a fat man trying to get in” and “The trouble with born-again people is that you wish they hadn’t been born the first time.”
Other papers envied her so much that Hugh Cudlipp, head of the Mirror group, persuaded The Observer to allow her to write a mid-week column for them, the proceeds to be shared between Katharine and the paper. She stayed loyal to the paper for all those years despite the fact that it didn’t pay her anything like what she could have earned elsewhere.
She was attractive and had a beautiful speaking voice which made her a popular figure on radio and television programmes. She also sat on a number of government committees and had a strong voice in the decision to give the vote to 18--year-olds.
It was especially sad that such a sharp and witty person had to spend the final years of her life in a care home with Alzheimer’s. She had often written in favour of assisted dying, pointing out that people had their cat put down to save further suffering but wouldn’t extend that charity to human beings.
How absurd that she had to wait until she was 86 to be awarded a CBE. Even then she should have been made a Dame or – had the award come earlier in her life – a member of the House of Lords, where she would have shaken things up.
Cricket, lovely cricket
How marvellous to be able to watch a Test match again – and to see England captain Joe Root score his first Test century for two years. Dan Lawrence’s promising performance on his debut adds to the list of talented young batsmen England can call up, such Ollie Pope, Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley. It was also good to see Johnny Bairstow back in the team. Let’s see how they all fare against India and then the Aussies on their home turf.