6 AUGUST 1977, Page 36


Old bore

Richard Ingranns

Reginald Perrin, whose. Fall and Rise as chronicled by David Nobbi is being repe

ated on BBC 1, is an admirable figure com pared to Reginald Maudling, who in a better world would have sunk without trace many years ago. It was hard not to feel nauseated listening to this jowled old bore banging on to David Frost about the won derful world of politics: 'You know, you shouldn't talk of politics as a game, David. We shouldn't run Parliament down . . . Most people go into politics because they want to serve their country'. If anyone wanted to know why polititians are held in such low esteem this perfOrmance by a man who could easjly lidve become Prime Minister should have been invaluable.

I imagine, however, that thanks again to David Frost's ineptness many viewers went to bed wondering why there had been all this fuss about poor Reggie, who seemed a decent old bean. Proses interrogation was as flabby as the lower part of Maudling's face. Nothing is to be gained by asking questions like 'Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?' Quite apart from that, Frost just had not done his prep. To take one example: Maudling, it is true, resigned, though not as quickly as he claimed to Frost, from the First Presidency of REFA when Jerome Hoffman was exposed in th.e press, but he continued publicly to give the fund his blessing and he hung on to his large sharehblding for some time. Frost let him get away with the idea that as soon as he found.out what was wrong he very properly washed his hands of Hoffman.

A more peculiar omission was any reference to the fact that Maudling had been recently kicked out of the Shadow Cabinet, for reasons that apparently had nothing to do with Poulson. To leave unchallenged therefore, as the programme did, his assumption that, after a five-year ordeal, he is now in a position once more to be of service to the nation is inexcusable. This programme confirmed my view that it is high time for David Frost to retire and write his memoirs.

As an example of what an interview of this kind should be like we saw an American trio from' NBC grilling our new man in Washington, Peter Jay, on Sunday. It was marvellous proof of the old maxim that an ambassador is an honest man who is sent abroad to lie for his country. Here was Jay, who until his recent appointment was the most articulate and informed of our economic Cassandras, prophesying doom and decay not to say 'anarchy followed by. the rule of the strong man', now by an abrupt transformation compelled to act as the spokesman of the gpvernment presiding over the coming catastrophe. Only Jay could' have got himself into this absurd position, the irony of which was not lost on his American questioners. In the circumstances he made the best of a bad job by pretending that his prophecies had proved to be incorrect thanks to a number of unforeseen factors such as the 'magnificent response' of the trade unions to the Government's campaign to beat inflation. 'What we are doing in Britain,' he concluded, 'is enormously exciting and important for everyone in the world'. I would say that was pitching it a bit high, even for an ambassador.