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Kevin Wicker, 'Letters from a Bunker'

A Pen Press Publication, 2004; ISBN 1 904754 75 9; £7.99

Many Peace News readers will have written polite(!) letters to their MPs and various ministers.

Usually a reply comes, written in mandarin, full of comforting phrases, often regretting that such and such a question could “only be answered at disproportionate cost”. A waste, perhaps, of time and postage, with no satisfaction. What if, though, you stopped being polite to the criminals who run the show? Kevin Wicker has found out, receiving a few anodyne replies and even fewer (im)proper counter-attacks.

Compilations of letters written from a “nonentity” to the Great and the Good are not new. Wicker acknowledges this: “any resemblance to Henry Root is purely intentional”. Like Root, he writes brisk, venomous and hilarious letters to the usual suspects; President Blair, Straw, “Dalek” Rumsfeld, QE2, the Pope, Michael Howard (page 72, sidesplitting) et al. He obviously knows what he is talking about (footnotes would have been nice!) and pulls no punches whatsoever.

He gets personal replies from Peter Kilfoyle, Joan Ruddock (his MP), Michael Meacher and Charles Kennedy.

Sadly, the letters stop just before Abu Ghraib's exposure. Wicker also publishes the long “boilerplate” replies that emerge from the Foreign Office without comment. This is a missed opportunity, since effective footnotes to the official line can be devastating - as Private Eye showed when targeting Jonathan Aitken.

Wicker closes with a letter that is not his but rather from the Project for a New American Century, urging then-President Clinton to topple Saddam.

It is unlikely to win over the doubters, since Wicker's rage and rudeness might alienate people who have not felt it themselves. Nonetheless, it could make a handy gift for a fellow activist in search of a dark chuckle or three.

Topics: Westminster