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Home > Media

David Blair: Pro or Patsy?

Sean Walsh remembers the school days of the journalist whose 'lucky' find threatened to destroy George Galloway.

19 December 2003

The fuss about Saddam has made me think again of David Blair.

He's the journalist who, with a combination of investigative tenacity and good fortune [note: possible irony], found the 'secret' papers that didn't quite incriminate George Galloway.

As it happens, I was at school with Blair: he was in the year above mine at Ratcliffe College, a third-rate Catholic public school in the Leicestershire countryside (Take the A46, and turn off when the screaming starts. Pugin front, portakabin back. I never heard any double-sourced court-provable accusations of priests touching kids.)

Biographies of him claim he went to Oxford: this is more-or-less true. If our staff believed a mistake had been made when a Ratcliffe pupil was rejected by the real Oxford colleges, the student was sometimes sent to St. Benet's, a 'Permanent Private Hall', meant mostly for the education of Benedictine monks. It's an institution kind of attached to Oxford proper: as far as our school went, it was a back door to prestige for good and loyal soldiers.

Blair was one of these: I'm not sure of his background, but he had the officer class air - priggish uprightness and oleaginous reserve. Definitely an establishment man: he was a Prefect. I've always thought of Prefects as traitors, kids willing to collude with authority in order to gain advantage: do-rights and quislings who'd simply obey orders from above, foregoing integrity in order to enter a special common-room.

But I guess he must have changed: solid investigative reporting doesn't allow that kind of corruption.

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