22 JANUARY 1965, Page 8


The handout is a (necessary) curse of modern political life. It shackles the speaker and bores his audience, but it delights tf.1 reporter who doesn't have to sit through a fifty-minute speech hoping, often in vain, for one nugget of news. The hand- out, however, is often, perhaps usually, no more than an extract of two or three hundred words from what may be a long speech. It is more than an academic question to wonder whether a re- porter (not present at the meeting) is entitled to write as if the handout were the whole of the speech, and to make assumptions which the actual speech would contradict. I raise this question be- cause of some remarkable interpretations put on a speech of mine last Saturday. For example, what I said about Mr. Heath, the Tory Party's chief of staff on policy, was: 'The machinery that is neces- sary to develop policy recommendations over the whole field is being set up by Mr. Heath and is a vital part of our planning . . .'—that was in the handout. And I added: 'It could not be in better hands, and we can look forward to excellent reports.' However, congratulations to the reporter who turned that into an attack on Ted Heath.