The Death of Quoodle
QDOODLE was a bitch. In my editorial will I have left a request that no witty com- ments on this undoubted fact should be pub- lished. We know .from G. K. Chesterton that Quoodle (half-Cairn, half-Aberdeen) was a lovable bitch. We do not know whether her bark was worse than her bite. In due course she died. So with her reincarnation. Nigel Lawson gener- ously invited me to continue the Quoodle column in the Spectator, but, although I hope to write for him from time to time during his editorship, I feel that to let Quoodle live on would make it seem that I was still growling and snapping in the editor's room. So this column ends, and I bequeath my unfinished crusades to my successor. H. Wilson is still in Downing Street, H. Greene in Portland Place, and the Great Man ate his turkey in Yorkshire instead of in Australia. The new editor is, I know, abso- lutely sound on the subject of the first two Aunt Sallies. I am not yet satisfied that he has exactly the right mixture of awe and salesman- ship in his approach to Frederick Seward Trueman.
Divisa in Tres Partes
Last week's Spectator leader—we went to press in Christmas week before the Black Tuesday division—observed that the Tory party mirrored the country in its confused divisions over Rho- desia. Too true. And yet I feel the Tory party can only gain from abandoning the pretence of a monolithic approach to the infinitely complex problem of Rhodesia and her rebellion.
In the foreign affairs debate there were two main issues, Vietnam and Rhodesia. In the division which followed on oil sanctions directed against Rhodesia, the Tory party split three ways, with fifty MPs declaring themselves against the official policy of their party. But suppose the vote had been on the provision of oil for the American air-bombing attacks on North Viet- nam, what then? This time the Labour party would have splintered—if, of course, it had had enough courage to vote. Probably around fifty MPs would have defied their leaders and their Whips.
I think, too, I must complete the argument. If it be true, and I believe it-is, that the country is bitterly divided over Rhodesian policy and that the Tory split reflects this faithfully, I must also concede that the Labour party divisions over American policy match opinion in the country more precisely than does the solid support for America offered by the Tory party.
Soft Shoe Shuffle Believe it or not, the little man meant his first Cabinet shuffle to go like this. Jenkins was to replace Soskice who was to replace Longford who was to replace Greenwood who was to replace Castle who was to replace Fraser who was to replace Jenkins. Happily, Tom Fraser opted out of this ludicrous game of ring-a-roses, so, to his obvious horror, Mr. Wilson had actually to promote one PPS to the Front Bench.
Roy Jenkins is highly regarded in Gower Street. He would be the Spectator's first choice for any, or indeed every, post in a Labour government. He will be a very good Home Secretary. But even this cannot excuse the pathetic charade which Mr. Wilson has just
executed. Political commentators, admitting to being baffled, offer two theories. The first says that Mr. Wilson is such a charming, sensitive, loyal man that he can neither bruise a fly nor hurt Sir Frank Soskice. The second that he is utterly incapable of taking a decision. I subscribe to one of these theories.
Mystery at Gower Street We have survived these past two years with a little trouble from the courts, but no contact with the police. Until last week. Then, on press day, Eileen came in with the grim news that the copy had been stolen. It appeared that some dastardly thief, wandering with the usual throng in and out of 99 Gower Street, had lifted the holdall which awaited the printers' man. Eileen from her tele- phone booth had observed no one odder than usual. It looked as if we would have to come out with several blank pages, like the Bulawayo Chronicle. Still, there was just the chance that the criminal would discard the holdall in disgust when he found it contained page proofs instead of bank notes. With Quoodle, to think is to think is to act, and within seconds I was in touch with the local Inspector Barlow. Two detectives arrived with lightning speed. Somewhere along the line the message had got mangled a bit, and they had been sent to investigate the theft of one copy of the Spectator. They appeared a bit dubious about the whole affair, and it was at this moment that the messenger announced that 'le had completed his share of the pre-planning for my farewell party. He had taken the drink up to my room, and had put the holdall 'with the food in it' under my desk. I left rapidly, leaving Eileen to explain. After all, she is a policeman's wife.
• Richard Dimbleby De mortals, of course, and it would be easy to write only nice things about Richard Dimbleby. I am sure he was a brave man: just how brave in these past few years only his family and his closest friends knew. He was also the complete professional and he set new stan- dards in television. And yet I wonder if the Westminster Abbey service and its extended coverage on BBC are appropriate. True, many less worthy men have been honoured in the Abbey, but it is a tribute we do not normally pay to our greatest surgeons or scientists, matrons or bishops, judges or trade union leaders. Are we not losing our sense of propor- tion when we thus do homage to a television personality?
Tailpiece I had thought of ending this colunin by revealing the worst-kept secret in journalism— who is Quoodle? But I think not. The name Quoodle is a pleasant literary conceit : I shall keep it. For me, the name stays as the symbol of two very happy years; of many friendships made; of my attempt to prove the truth of something Lord lieaverbrook said in his last speech on his eighty-fifth birthday—that politics and journa- lism are closely allied.
Sot-then, with malice at most toward one, a happy New Year to you all. And if anyone feels that anything I have written has been unfair to them, I leave them Goldsmith's words—and the Reynolds portrait of Oliver Goldsmith is absurdly like Quoodle-
The man recover'd of the bite, The dog it was that died.