15 MARCH 1975, Page 7

A Spectator's Notebook

Strange things are happening in the Conservative Party in other places than Smith Square. The Conservatives of Skipton recently wrote to Mr Wilfred Proudfoot, an active and energetic Member who recently lost his seat, inviting him to submit himself for their vacant nomination. Mr Proudfoot's friends were delighted, as were many of those who have not agreed with him in the past, at the prospect of his return to the House of Commons. Imagine his and their surprise when, after submitting himself for nomination, Mr Proudfoot received a letter telling him he was too old. Mr Proudfoot is, in fact, a vigorous fifty-three. Aside altogether from the discourtesy involved in simply refusing to interview a man Whom you have invited to submit himself, the thinking of the Skipton Conservatives would look strange indeed if, as seems likely, they choose one of the modern Identikit young Conservatives in preference to Mr Proudfoot.


.1 hear that Mr Ray Mason has, for the second time, cancelled an appointment to lecture on Britain's Defence Policy to the Royal United Services Institute. As this second lecture was not due until April 2, there is some speculation about his reasons.

There are three possibilities. One is that the consultations with NATO on the defence cuts have proved to be more real than anticipated; another is that the minister felt it unwise to lecture to, and answer questions from, an audience more knowledgeable than himself on defence matters. It is also of course, possible that Mason has simply realised that on that particular day he will be too busy.

Booker booby?

was naturally delighted to hear that The

ectator's young literary editor, Peter AckroYd, is to be on the Booker Prize jury this year. Pelighted, and a touch surprised — since it was this same Ackroyd who contributed to these Pages a swingeing attack on last year's jury under the title, 'Booker Prize boobies.' There can have been nothing like it since the young Ken Tynan, years ago, attacked the Evening Standard's then drama critic, the late Sir Beverley Baxter, in the paper's 'letters' column and was promptly invited to replace him. I near from Ackroyd that even now he is at work on a polemic against the Nobel prizewinners from 1970 to 1974. Incidentally, while I am sure he will perform his jury service with exemplary conscientiousness, I am disturbed by his admission that, While other reviewers forget novels as soon as forget finished reading them, he tends to rorget them while he is still reading them.

Smoke filled room •

It is likely that you will have, or have had, a glirripse of The Spectator's lifestyle on television this week. At least, the Midweek cameras were on the premises the other day to

have a word with the editor on our anti-Market position.

. What I found interesting was the bland way in which the camera itself did a bit of 'editorialising.' The interview took place in this journal's renowned lunchroom, immediately after a lunch at which two or three political

figures were present as well as the editorial staff, and the table was a rare old litter of bottles. The production team seemed a little worried over the fact that the pro-Marketeers are getting the sort of wealthy 'image' that is apt to antagonise the electorate, and the director may have had some Potion of redressing the balance. Offered a cigar before shooting commenced, he accepted it gratefully — not only to smoke, but to ensure that he could blow plenty of rich-looking smoke in front of the camera. And just to emphasise the point, at the close of the interview, the camera zoomed in on the cigar in the editor's hand.

Forewarned, we should all, of course, have been smoking Wilsonian pipes.

Arts bores

I am probably not the only person to sigh with relief now that that dreary TV arts programme, Aquarius, has finished its current series. The idea of bringing 'culture' to a mass television audience has always been a misconceived one. Whether it be books or ballet, TV is the great leveller and the great trivialiser. I squirm with embarrassment when Robert Robinson interviews Saul Bellow, or Melvyn Bragg interviews Kingsley Amis (helped in that case, I am told, by a hidden bottle of Bell's whisky) since they generally end up by being pretentious; Or smug and pretentious — which is worse.

And, while I'm on the subject, do we really need to have actors and actresses reading out, in their variously dramatic and fruity ways, poetry? It is enough to have the occasional tedious festival ("Jill Balcon reads John Donne . . .") but now they're on the 'epilogue', too,

Pavlovian response?

I see that Clive James, whose television column in the Observer is often the only readable section of that great liberal newspaper, has come under attack for some rather unkind remarks about dogs. He has now confessed that he is afraid of them: I wonder if we could apply the same principle to his no less unkind remarks about David Frost, Michael Parkinson, George Steiner et al?