9 JULY 1977, Page 18

Language and politics

Sir: 'Contrary to what most Victorians feared, the coming of democracy has brought into public usage not the language of the people, which was at least vigorous, but the evasions of the vulnerable.' Thus Mr Robert Skidelsky honours your publication (18 June) with words fit to be included in the smallest Dictionary of Quotations. But the opening words of the next sentence spoil the effect. 'With upward social mobility. . Why the qualifying adverb? The particular consequences of social mobility to which the author refers are quite clear from the context, without specifying the direction of it which leads to them. The qualification is, indeed, misleading; for it suggests that social mobility is all one way. If he had said instead 'With so many more people going up in the world, . .' he would not have led himself into the trap of appearing to exclude those who go down. As he has fallen into it, we are entitled to ask him whether he is trying to hide such unfortunates from our view in order to assist in 'the evasions of the vulnerable'.

Mr Skidelsky may not be quite as shy of vigorous language as those he criticises, but he is evidently not immune from their disease.

D. E. Pokes 5 Queen's Walk, London W5