Charming, Elegant and Ruthless
Wellingham, the silver-haired string-puller,
is examined by David Koukol.
Who’s worse: a dirty, disheveled thug who robs you at
knifepoint; or an elegant, gentlemanly fellow who purrs with social
grace and good manners — and then lies and sells you short
in order to further his own ambitions?
At least the thug’s appearance betrays his intentions,
but the moral is not to judge others on outward appearances alone,
least of all Sir Geoffrey Wellingham. Ian Mackintosh displayed
a literary quality rarely found in television writers: his characters
are multi-faceted and endlessly fascinating.
Fewer are more complex than Sir Geoffrey Wellingham, brought
to life via superb performances by Alan MacNaughtan. Here is a
character who, by his own admission, is a slave to his natural
courtesy. Wellingham is, in my opinion, the most dangerous character
featured in The Sandbaggers.
This is due, in part, to the aforementioned faĦade, but also
to his position as Permanent Undersecretary of State at the Office
of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He can be as selfish as Burnside
with the added advantage of access to the Prime Minister and the
political mechanisms of the British government.
True, he cannot, for example, send an officer on an unauthorized
assassination mission; but he can pull other equally powerful
strings. Wellingham’s motivations and ambitions, unlike
his methods, seem quite straightforward. In his own words. 'I
intend to retire as Baron Wellingham.’
He has worked damned hard to get where he is. His concern is
also for the welfare of the United Kingdom, but as his fortunes
are inextricably linked to the political well being of the UK,
we must not rank this above his own self-interest.
Though, to be fair, a thin strand of patriotism may run through
his character, but it seems less of a driving force to him. By
far, Burnside values patriotism further. Global affairs seem of
consequence only in so far as they affect Wellingham’s position,
his ambitions, and the political and economic well-being of the
UK — probably in that order.
In First Principles, the Norwegians lose a spy plane in Russia,
Wellingham only cares about whether Norway can be wooed into buying
British missiles if SIS mounts the rescue operation. His utter
disregard for the human lives involved is quite apparent —
once more, Burnside is the one who seems more concerned with the
moral and compassionate issues.
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