“Nelson Mandela – what a c-nt!” the comedian Jerry Sadowitz used to begin. “Lend him £10 and you don’t see him for 27 years”.

Is Benazir Bhutto of the same calibre? Is she even playing the same game? Is she part of the Opposition, or part of the emergency?

Bhutto was allowed out of house arrest, almost as soon as she was put in it, which the west has taken credit for, but which may simply be part of a shadow game. General Pervez Musharraf has given Bhutto immunity from prosecution over myriad charges of corruption.

At the same time he has detained a whole range of alternative opposition leaders from former chief justice Chaudry and hundreds of lawyers, to former cricketer and political leader Imran Khan. Some would suggest he already has a deal that Bhutto will win the election and then grant sinecures to Musharraf and his cronies.

However, others on the Pakistan left suggest that Bhutto’s opposition is genuine, even if only because so many in her Pakistan People’s Party have been arrested

General Musharraf has said he will be sticking to the timetable for January elections, but won’t say when or if the state of emergency will be lifted – leaving the possibility that poll campaigns may be conducted in a situation where most of the free media is shut down. Condoleezza Rice has called on Musharraf to end the state of emergency and once again to “shed the uniform” (will somebody please take this woman to dinner?) but has said that the US will not abandon a key ally – ie: do what you like.

Should Bhutto triumph, Pakistan will go from dictatorship to kleptocracy – several European countries have warrants out for her arrest. Meanwhile the Islamist groups are sitting this round out, waiting to see which way things break, and whether, eventually power will flutter to the street like a feather to be picked up…

And now, while you were sleeping…

Scandinavia has already felt the first repercussions of the Finland high school massacre, with panics over (hoax) copycats there, and two students in Sweden being arrested for allegedly planning the assassination of their headmaster – which strikes one as an old-fashioned case of fragging, rather than your average post-modern school massacre. Much of subsequent attention has focused on what the Finnish shooter thought he was about. Did he shout ‘revolution’ as he fired? Was the fact that he was wearing a “Humanity is Over-rated” t-shirt (from the TV series House) indicative of anything other than standard-issue teenage angst? And so on. One thing is certain – there will be a showdown on guns in Finland. The huge numbers of handguns – virtually unused even when domestics go ballistic – are both symbolic and real. Throughout the Cold War, the Finns were in readiness for a Soviet invasion, which they would have resisted inch-for-inch, as they had in 1940. Thus, they have a symbolic, mythical function. But since a Russian-European war will become a real possibility in the next twenty years, civil readiness is real.

Enoch Rising. The job of a Tory leader trying to reconstruct the party for electoral acceptability – take note Turnbull – is a little like a George Romero film. Everything would be fine if those green drooling corpses didn’t keep coming at you. In the UK the most fearsome of these is Enoch Powell, the towering polymathic Tory – poet, professor, linguist (twelve languages from Welsh through Greek and Russian to Urdu and Hebrew) – whose reputation is damned by his ‘rivers of blood’ speech from 1968, warning that multiracial immigration would cause a civil disaster. Powell is a figurehead to those who don’t know his maverick politics (he closed down mental asylums and began Care-in-the-Community, supported legalisation of homos-xuality etc) and a bete noire to the new middle classes – they would have studied him in history classes – that Dave Cameron needs back. Which is why Tory candidate Nigel (of course) Hastilow has been dumped after refusing to apologise for saying ‘Enoch was right’ at a private, subsequently-leaked meeting. Politically, Cameron is right to do so – where would the Enochians go in an FPTP election – but it’s gutless as hell, notwithstanding the fact that Powell was simply wrong. It’s been forty years and of blood there is barely a trickle – instead mass migration has made the UK a dynamic economy, and reinforced London as a global capital, and cultural leader. Reference back to Enoch – a lifelong melancholic who once said his greatest regret was that he had not been killed in the Second World War – always has a whiff of wishful thinking about it. Comments on the Conservative Home website include ‘political correctness gone mad’ from Bunny Blenkinsop. It’s a measure of the task Cameron has on his hands that it’s impossible to tell whether it’s a hoax or not.

Envy management is so much a part of modern life they should teach it at school (OIIJM – or is it just me). Take this Guardian interview with Rose McGowan, which begins with her lounging at 5 star hotel in Locarno, on how she became an actress:

“I didn’t. I lost my lease on my apartment and I was going to have to go back to live with my dad. So I was in Los Angeles, staying with a friend who knew this lady who was a producer, and she offered me a part in a movie.”

Really, is there such a thing as film-acting at all? Or is just having a certain poise, a certain cool comportment that the film context invests with meaning. After all, many of the most celebrated actorish actors from classic films – John Gilbert, Kate Hepburn – are frequently unwatchable now, while the stooges who got lucky – Robert Mitchum, Veronica Lake – grow more compelling each time round. If theatre isn’t your game, is it better to skip NIDA and just run out of money in LA? By that token, come 2010 Oscar should be knocking on Ben Cousins’s door.

With a two-week state of emergency declared, th- what? No, not Pakistan, Georgia, keep up with your crises – the rule of President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi seems to have been stabilised for the moment, ahead of elections in January which may turf him out, should he agree to be turfed. Commercial TV stations are off the air, but despite that Saakashvili is unpopular. The crackdown will probably stave off a coup by TV station owner Badri Patarkatsishvili (from the town of Cyentral Kastingi). Aren’t cultural differences amazing? David Gyngell’s idea of a coup would be beating SBS.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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