Retreat from Moscow
`WHAT the devil does that mean?'
`It means "Fasten your seat- belts." And don't snap.'
`I'm not snapping.'
'Well, you sound as if you are.'
`I—oh, for Heaven's sake let's not start quarrelling now. I suppose I am a bit on edge. No matter how long one has been expecting it, it still comes as a jolt, doesn't it?'
'It does rather. Well, I suppose we'd better get down to it. I take it the lit. is all ready?'
'I hope :so. Though Morgan hasn't been too well lately, of course. Still, the last report before we left said everything was under control.'
'I hope he remembered what I told him about not protesting against them bringing out their Wales pamphlet the day before ours, as he did over the leisure programmes.'
'What did you say'?'
'I told him not to make such a bloody fool of himself, as a matter of fact.'
.`Oh, dear, was that quite wise?'
`Wholse side are you on?'
'Who's snapping now?'
'Oh, dear, I suppose I am again. Do let's get down to it.'
`All right. How about the overall strategy? I rather like that bit about "the squalid crew." Couldn't we use that a lot?'
`I don't know. It might upset Harold. People might think it was about the Bank rate business.'
'I warned you not to let Harold go as far as he did.'
`How could I have stopped him?'
`Well, you could have—never mind, we're get- ting off the track again. I suppose the cost of living's out?'
`Well, it has been rather stable lately, hasn't it? Though we could say that with internationally- falling commodity prices, domestic price stabilisa- tion is not enough.'
'What did you say?'
'I said, "That'll fetch 'em in Galashiels, won't it?" '
'All right, leave the cost of living out of it. What do you suggest?'
`How about nationalisation of steel and road ha ulage 7'
`What did you say?'
`I said I didn't think it was a very good idea.'
`Do they serve refreshments on this flight? I could do with one glass of whisky.'
'Aren't we getting off the track again?'
'What about foreign policy? And the bomb?'
'Haven't we said rather too much about that lately? I mean, people by now can hardly have a very clear idea of what our policy on it is.'
`I'm not absolutely sure that 1 know myself, as a matter of fact. And by the time the boys have finished at Blackpool, it may be something entirely different, anyway.'
'Perhaps we'd better leave it, then. Incidentally, did I tell you what Barbara said? She said we ought to do a dramatised version of your speech about going nake'd into the conference chamber for one of the TV programmes. "That would
serve the silly fat right," she said.'
`And who got me into that, may I ask?'
`I hope you're not suggesting it was me?'
`Did you, or did you not, tell me that we couldn't go divided into the election?'
`Well, what if 1 did? It's true, isn't it?'
`And did you, or did you not, say that it would be a bit tricky for me at the Foreign °Bice if I didn't support the line on the bomb?'
`Well, wouldn't it?'
`I suppose it never occurred to you to change your line, did it? Oh, no, it's always me that has to compromise. And you're the younger man, too.'
'I wish you wouldn't go harping on your age so much. It didn't go down well at all in Scar- borough, you know.'
'Oh, hell, sometimes I wonder whether it's all worth it. I've a jolly good mind to give it all up; and where would you be then? I said where would you—what the devil are you smiling about?'
`Just thinking. But let's get back to the subject. What about Nyasaland?'
`Well, it would look better if we had kept up•the pressure, wouldn't it? 1 always said that waiting to see whether Federation would work or not was a mistake; we were against it at the time, then we shut up for a few years. Now we're saying, "I told you so." Not very inspiring, is it? Still, that's always been our trouble. Look at you and Suez.'
`What do you mean? I was against it, wasn't I?'
`I suppose so.'
`What do you mean, you suppose so? Didn't 1 make speeches about it? Didn't I move votes of censure? What more can a man do?'
`Which of us turned up in Trafalgar Square— me or you?'
'1 was busy.'
'1 suppose you were bugy the weekend before the Devlin Report debate, too, were you? Too busy to make a speech about it?'
`Well, and did you make a speech about it?' `Which one of us is leader, may I ask?' 'Judging by some of your behaviour in the last couple of .years, I should say it's by no means clear.'
'Shall we go back to the subject in hand?'
'By all means.'
'What about education? Anything in that for us, do you suppose?'
'There would be a good deal more in it for us, I should say, if you and others like you didn't go on about the public schools quite so much.'
'Look here, 1 left school at the age of eleven, and—'
'I must say I have often thought you make that abundantly clear.'
'I left school at the age of eleven, I repeat, and I don't see why another seven years' education should he available only to those who can pay for it.'
'The trouble is, most people don't seem to agree with you.'
'1 do wish they served refreshments on this flight. Do you think there will be a crowd at the airport?'
'Barbara said she would be there.' 'I think we're both on edge.'
'Not really surprising, is it? Ever thought what you're going to do if it doesn't come off?' 'I could always be a full-time farmer, I suppose,' 'You'd find that pretty dull, wouldn't you?' 'It was meant to be a joke. How about you?' 'Carry on. Rebuild. Keep trying. Why, you weren't thinking of having a go yourself, were you? You're the older man, you know.'
'I wish you wouldn't rub it in.'
'You raised the subject yourself, you know.' 'How about pensions?'
'Question of putting it over, I imagine. How about their detergent-campaign?'
'Look a bit silly if it came off, wouldn't we?'
'Well, what have you to suggest? As far as I can see—hullo, we seem to have arrived. Don't go putting your foot in it right away, for Heaven's sake.'