28 SEPTEMBER 1974, Page 11

Election Corridors

The more devout Readers of Puzzle — and 'tis alleged that this sheet is read in every Rectory in England — will not always have noticed much Religious Influence in these jottings. True, . Puzzle is no Churchgoer, but he is not oblivious to the claims of Religion. For example when he first started to observe Politicians and noted some grave misdemeanour, some weakness of the Flesh, some Venial Sin, some Immodesty, some lack of Humility Puzzle's first shocked instinct would be to mutter, "God knows what Lord Longford will make of it all."

Having become a wiser, older man, Puzzle would be more liable now to say, "Lord Lon_gford knows what God will make of it all." Indeed Influence of Religion in Politics is more than we dare acknowledge.

By now the gentle Reader will be distressed perhaps imagining that Puzzle has had dread intimations of his own mortality. None of it. Puzzle remains as sound in wind and limb as any other roue of his age. No. Puzzle is seized by the efficacy of Religion in changing the Character of our Leaders. Let the Rectories of England rejoice at the strangely warmed hearts of Mr Wilson and Mr Heath.

It seems only yesterday since the Prime Minister's Abiding Sin was personal conceit: the hundred dynamic days, the promenading through the streets to let the Citizenry touch him like a Heathen Emperor. But that was only part of his unreformed Character. There was the cruelty towards Chancellor Healey which kept him trapped at the Defence Ministry, there was the banishment of dashing Douglas Jay into Outer Darkness for his opposition to the Market, and of Secretary Callaghan into the Outer Cabinet for his views on Industrial Relations.

But what a Reformed Character now. He is self-effacing, stressing the qualities of his team. Chancellor Healey leans closely on his breast, and Secretary Callaghan is deeply beloved. Puzzle marvels at it all. It must be the workings of the Almighty — perhaps through Mr Percy Clark, the Press Officer who is a renowned Quaker.

And what of Skipper Heath? It is not so long since he was the Crustiest Seadog that ever chewed a weevil biscuit or ordered thirty lashes. He spurned many a Colleague, called for the Nation to confront the Miners, and frightened the wits out of sensitive young men like Master St John-Stevas, and Sir Timothy Kitson. Happily now all is transformed. He is not the Abrasive Character of Yesteryearbut asks for all his Opponents to join him after the Election. It is even rumoured in the Hostelries of Fleet Street that his first Act on returning to Power would be to ask Master cosgrave to be his Press Officer.

Such is hiConcern for Democracy that he has even tried to persuade his old friend Mr Falkener to stand in South Down so that he does not feel even frictionally unemployed, and so that Mr Powell, Democratic Pedant that he is, might be assured that the Electors of that Ripened , Borough will have the widest possible choice in the Fight against Inflation. It is also rumoured that an early Act, if the Skipper should return to Number Ten, will be to give Captain Orr a Peerage. There are other indications of a Purer Spirit in Politics. Secretary Rippon was obviously much concerned about the waste of Human Resources among the Veterans of the Local Defence Volunteers and that is why he saw a role for them in defending the Homes of England. Puzzle has heard it abroad that in a New Government he would be given a-Tin Hat and. Whistle and allowed to blow mightily on it.

And it is rurnoured that, if Mr Wilson triumphs, he will make sure' that .none of his Colleagues are embarrassed by his Referendum on the Market by allowing them all a Free Vote. What Charity is abroad. •The Old Order may indeed be changing, the Times of Sandys may be sinking but Joseph comes from Egypt. .. and so on. Most Curious Religious, says Tom Puzzle.

Tom Puzzle