13 JANUARY 1996, Page 25

Sir: I have long regarded Mr Paul Johnson as an

erratic genius. His historical books are a wonderful one-man achievement. His journalism delights me when I agree with him and has the opposite effect when I dis- agree. Nowadays I seldom agree with him on politics but we are at one on things deeper than politics. I am a long-time reader of The Spectator — since 1932 — when I was for a short while assistant editor. I have never read a more brilliant article than that of Mr John- son in last week's number. Not that he is altogether fair to Mr Major. I agree that Mr Major shows no discernible signs of having any political views on anything. Hav- ing written a book on his 11 predecessors I would agree that he is the least intellectual of the last 12, but he is probably the most friendly. And friendliness is a moral virtue, as no doubt Mr Johnson would agree.

Be that as it may, I can think of no living writer who could have introduced so many vivid analogies into a single article. Mr Johnson does not need me to add that Cur- zon called Baldwin 'a man of the utmost insignificance' and later served under him. Dalton said of Attlee when he became Leader of the Labour Party, 'A little child shall lead them'. He became his Chancellor of the Exchequer in due course until dis- missed for indiscretion. (Later he was recalled into a minor post.) The notables mentioned by Mr Johnson started life with many advantages. Mr Major left school at 16 with few 0 levels and became Prime Minister 30 years later. Training at the hands of his father, the old trapeze artist, may have helped him to per- fect his balancing act. But surely 'guts' come in somewhere.

I am sorry if the article caused distress to some homosexuals. I seek their indulgence to recall that nearly 40 years ago I intro- duced a debate into the House of Lords in favour of the Wolfenden Report when few politicians would touch it. Lord Boothby called me 'the non-playing captain of the homosexual team'. When notable homosex- uals come out of the closet (all credit to them) they must surely share the derision extended to all of us who poke our noses above the parapet. Mr Matthew Parris is much too gifted a man and too entertaining a tease to mind a bit of teasing.


House of Lords, Westminster, London SW1