Bill Carmichael: The leaks and conspiracies

CONSPIRACY theorists have enjoyed a field day following the arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on an international warrant.

One bizarre theory proving popular on the swivel-eyed fringes of the left is that the two Swedish activists who have accused Assange of rape and sexual assault are in fact CIA agents out to revenge the leak of US government secrets.

Anything is possible in the world of espionage I suppose, but in the absence of anything approaching hard evidence, let's just say that outside the plot for a James Bond film such a scenario seems a bit unlikely.

The problem here, I suspect, is the left-wing mindset that is capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast so long as they conform rigidly to their blinkered world view. And because Assange is perceived to be anti-American he can, in the eyes of many, do no wrong.

So you have the bizarre situation in which feminists and socialists are demanding that the serious sex charges faced by Assange be dropped without proper investigation or consideration by a jury.

As fugitive Roman Polanski, who admitted child sex charges in the US, discovered, you can get away with absolutely anything if you are considered suitably fashionable and politically sound by left-wing opinion formers.

As to the leaked cables themselves, they have told us little we didn't know already – Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous lunatic, Pakistan is a basket-case of a country on the verge of collapse, Afghanistan is corrupt and Silvio Berlusconi has an eye for the ladies.

Who knew? There is also the wider issue of whether governments have the right to keep anything secret.

I'm all for more open government, but to expect every government discussion to be made public is juvenile nonsense.

For example, we expect the security services to carry out clandestine operations against terrorists and criminals in order to keep us safe. They could not do so if all their plans were publicised.

And what of the brave souls in Iran, Saudi Arabia and China who risk their lives to fight for democracy and to undermine tyranny? Will the Wikileaks revelations put their lives in danger? Very possibly.

Clearly a balance has to be struck between informing the public on the one side of the scales, and keeping things confidential when the public interest demands it, on the other.

And although I am a great admirer of the Fourth Estate, I am not convinced my colleagues in the world of journalism are better qualified to make that judgement than anyone else.

And to think secrets of the world's greatest democracy are at the mercy of a preening self-publicist such as Assange is enough to make one shudder.

A right Charlie

WHO better than Charlie Gilmour, the posh anarchist son of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour (estimated wealth – 78m), to become the face of the students' tuition fee protests?

It was Charlie who was pictured swinging from the Cenotaph and apparently trying to set fire to the Supreme Court building.

It was Charlie who posed for photographers while tossing a rock in the air and waving a red flag. It was Charlie who boasted he needed two Savile Row suits because of all the formal dinners he had to attend at his Cambridge college.

It was Charlie who expressed outrage at the 9,000 a year tuition fee – which by a delicious irony is precisely the same as the cost of a single term at his public school, Lancing College.

If it wasn't for this proper Charlie and all his privileged chums, we'd be forced to take the students' protest seriously.