Skip to main content

Russell

Russell Johnston was a civilised man. He embodied a certain courtly Highlander tradition that is the antithesis of the provincial. His interests were many and each of these he pursued with a passion. Those who only knew his honeyed Highland cadences could be caught out, for Russell did not tolerate fools too well and his peppery comments could be as acerbic as they were funny- delivered in words of one syllable, yet still in his beautiful Skye accent.

In many ways Russell was a visionary, famously well travelled, he could also be the source of surprising and detailed arcane knowledge. He was at his best, perhaps, in discussion after a good meal, clutching the inevitable glass of Scotland's wine. His passionate belief in the value of the European Union is not today a popular cause, but as the years passed he grew even more convinced of what he termed "the necessity of Europe". He grew yet more convinced of this after he became involved in the crisis surrounding the breakdown of Yugoslavia. He became an astute and -as ever- pithy observer of the protagonists, several of whom he grew to know well. He thus became a trusted advisor to Paddy Ashdown in his own journey though the Yugoslav Calvary.

Above all Russell was an often generous and loyal man. His commitment to Liberalism was absolute, but his charm made him many friends across the political spectrum- except perhaps Left wingers, who he famously had many runs-in with. A Liberal, He believed, was one who put humanity well above the demands of mere ideology. He would not accept conventional wisdom simply for the sake of it, and he was always determined to plough his own furrow- even if that could sometimes place him at a disadvantage.

Although the joke was "Russell's in Brussels", he nevertheless served his constituency with distinction until his retirement. His delight in Scotland would always bring him back to his beloved Highlands. Though in later years he encountered much sadness, he remained a popular figure, viewed with great affection across the Highlands, across Scotland and Europe as a whole.

A true original- he will indeed be much missed.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie.  The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship.  The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election". OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.   BUT, and it really is the bi

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo