25 DECEMBER 1964, Page 10

Defence Talks From time to time the Prime Minister of

the day offers private talks on the nation's defence to the Opposition. Invariably the offer sounds statesmanlike and constructive, and it is sure of a warm welcome from the country, who love coalitions in theory and detest them in practice. Usually the Opposition decline. Why? Partly, of course, because they fear they will be in- hibited -in criticism. But in the present situation there are two more cogent reasons. There is no' common cause betireen the Government's de- fence policy, in so far as it is comprehensible, and that of the Tories. Mr. Wilson now has

to sell to Paris, Bonn and Mrs. Anne Kerr a policy that is and will be seen to be farcical. Even so, the Prime Minister's offer of talks might have been accepted if it had not been for the last ten minutes of his second speech in the foreign affairs and defence debate. There are some fields of national security which are never invaded in public. So, if one thinks it seemly, one can assert anything in this field, one can leak anything, knowing that no detailed refutation can or will be made. Knowing, too, that any challenge can be turned by another little dribble of half-told snippets. Mr. Wilson, Prime Minister of Great Britain, thought it seemly to lift a corner of the nuclear veil, being rightly confident that. the Tories would not play the same game. And by doing so he torpedoed, and I would guess meant to torpedo, the small chance that remained of useful private discus- sions. For after that speech I cannot see Tory leaders supping with Mr. Wilson. Not even with a long spoon.