2 MAY 1987, Page 7


CHARLES MOORE Hassan II, King of Morocco, comes on a state visit to Britain in July. It was he who kept the Queen waiting for 40 minutes when she visited him a few years ago. I recently experienced the habits of his family myself. Just before Easter, my wife and I were staying in a comfortable hotel near Taroudant, in the south of Morocco. By chance, friends of ours appeared too. Mr Michael Portillo, a Conservative whip, was there, and Mr Nicholas Coleridge, the editor of Harpers and Queen. It was all very jolly. Mr and Mrs John Profumo also turned up and Mr Profumo wore a striking tweed hat in the swimming pool. There were chic Italians, Germans and French present, and there were some Belgians as well. Towards the end of our stay, we noticed feverish activity round the hotel. A steamroller went up and down the uneven drive. Flags appeared. The fountains were drained and hastily repainted. The numer- ous frogs which inhabited the fountains lay disconsolately on top of one another, mating. One of them stuck to the paint and died. Carpets were put round the swim- ming pool. Then after dinner, it was announced that we must all leave the hotel the following day. The Crown Prince wanted it to give lunch to the President of the Cameroons. 'Does the Prince own the hotel?' asked an angry Englishman. He owns the whole country', was the reply. The rage of the guests was terrible and the offer of a free coach trip to Agadir did little to calm them. Several chose the other option — a day at an inferior hotel in Taroudant. Mr and Mrs Portillo sat by the pool there in what they described as a `cloacar smell from the lavatories for which coach parties queued continuously. When the Profumos returned after the Prince's lunch, they found that the security men had ransacked their room. We were almost the only guests unaffected because we had earlier decided to go to the mountains. When we left in the morning we passed soldiers ordering servants to sweep up tiny specks of dust. When we got back in the evening we found that the Prince's cooks had filled the kitchen literal- ly to overflowing with rubbish. The news- paper the following day said that the Prince had shown the President 'realisations agro- mdustrielles' and that tens of thousands of people had given them a warm welcome.

At the end of last week, there was great excitement at the Spectator. The Periodical Publishers Association awards were imminent, and it was rumoured that it was fight between us and Running for the winner of the consumer Periodical of the Year Award. On Monday we were in- formed that we had certainly won a prize. I

was told to leave another engagement on Tuesday night early to collect this award at a great dinner in the Royal Lancaster Hotel. After a long wait, we received the news — a Highly Commended. We were jointly beaten by Bird Life and Country Living. Running, despite the rumours, limped way behind. Now we have a framed Highly Commended certificate signed by one Bernard Audley. Journalism may be a tough occupation, but who can say that it lacks glamour?

In a letter this week (p.20), Cyril Ray takes up John Grigg's complaint about the inaccurate use of titles in the press. He is right, but should we really believe him when he says that he cares nothing for title itself, only for accuracy? Newspapers should be accurate, naturally, but I wonder if Mr Ray minds anything like so much when they botch football results as when they mangle titles. I certainly don't. The point about titles is that they represent honour and mark its fine distinctions. They

become meaningless when the distinctions are blurred. But if one cares to get the distinctions right, it implies that the thing itself matters and it follows that one should so defend this thing and not affect to be indifferent to its fate. Newspapers should not just get titles right because of historical precision — as one might with forms of householding: copyhold, pot-walloping, scot and lot, etc — but to show that honour is not without honour in its own country.

Sex abuse of children triples in one year' (Daily Telegraph), 'Sharp increase in sexual abuse of young children' (Times). This is not true. The reports of sexual abuse have tripled. As the Telegraph story made plain, this does not necessarily mean that there has been any increase in abuse at all. But one can be sure that people will go round saying and believing that there has been. How can such headlines be justified? It is not even clear from the stories, by the way, whether or not all the reported cases were genuine.

Sad news: Andrew Gimson, our deputy editor, is leaving the Spectator in June. He joined the paper in 1984 and had to acquire an amazing range of skills immediately, without any previous journalistic experi- ence. This he did with such success that offers for jobs soon began to flow in. At last he has succumbed, and is going to the Independent, to give it the backbone which is the only part missing from its otherwise attractive anatomy. I am looking for a replacement. The successful candidate, as the phrase is, will know about current events and politics, will have good news sense and will write well. He or she will be calm, friendly towards contributors, and will have steady nerve and good judgment. He will need flair, but also a readiness to undertake menial tasks and to help with the sub-editing and production of the magazine. The pay will be reasonable. Anyone interested should write to me at our offices, 56 Doughty Street, London WC1.

Good news: we have a replacement for Peter Ackroyd, our film critic. She is Hilary Mantel, novelist and winner of the first Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize. She takes up her post next week.

Imust apologise that so much of this week's issue is written by me. This is due to a lack of foresight. Next week's Diarist will be Alexander Chancellor, from Washing- ton.