22 OCTOBER 1954, Page 6


0 F the men who have earned, or anyhow received, pro- motion in the Cabinet reshuffle perhaps the most interesting, and almost certainly the most single- minded, is Mr. Nigel Birch, who takes over the Ministry of Works. To describe as evidence of a precocious aptitude for politics the slogan (` Shorter hours and longer sausages 1') which he coined at the private school where we both, during the First • World War, had cause to deplore the disproportion between vitamins and Virgil would be going too far; but his intellectual approach to politics is wholly free from the disarming amateurism sometimes discernible among Old Etonians—and others—in the Tory ranks. Mr. Birch has read and thought deeply. You might say that his erudition is the scabbard in which he houses the rapier of a witty, brilliant and sometimes intolerant mind; and you could certainly say that he is quick on the draw, and that the opponents whom he pinks tend to recover rather slowly from their wounds. He went straight into the City from Eton, made a lot of money and retired in his early 30's (as Who's Who puts it) ' to study politics.' In the war, which broke out a few months later, he served with distinction in the Queen's Westminsters and on the staff. A courageous idealist who does not care if he is mistaken for a reactionary, Mr. Birch may lack those reserves of pliancy which get politicians round awkward corners in their careers; but (writing as a non-politician) I do not find that this diminishes my esteem for him.