Ponting bites back

Tam Dalyell

  • The Right to Know: The Inside Story of the ‘Belgrano’ Affair by Clive Ponting
    Sphere, 214 pp, £2.50, March 1985, ISBN 0 7221 6944 2

Contrary to the impression formed in some quarters, I do not know Clive Ponting well. Apart from a three-hour meeting in the presence of Brian Raymond, his remarkably gifted and industrious solicitor, in the early autumn of last year, I have never had a proper conversation with him. And that meeting related to the issue of whether I should lend my voluminous files and records of letters – some thirty-two boxes which would have taken up a large part of a pantechnicon – since he found himself in the position of having to defend himself without access to the Ministry of Defence records. I felt that I should keep my distance from Mr Ponting, and doubtless for his own good reasons Mr Ponting felt that he should steer clear of me. As Bruce Laughland, his counsel, and Jonathan Caplan, the deputy counsel, were to reiterate in court, they were counsel for Mr Ponting and not Mr Dalyell. There were differences. For example, before the trial Mr Ponting said he did not share my contention that the Belgrano was sunk, above all else, to scupper the Peruvian peace plan. Now, he displays an open mind on the role of the Peruvian proposals, and on the basis of information available to him from the Foreign Office, does not exclude the possibility that the former USS Phoenix, survivor of Pearl Harbour, was sunk by Mrs Thatcher, not because the 44-year-old threatened our boys, but because politically Mrs Thatcher could not afford peace.

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