1 DECEMBER 1984, Page 7


Mr Neil Kinnock can do himself noth- ing except good by his trip to Mos- cow. Communism may be disliked by the British, but the Russians remain extremely Popular, not perhaps so admired as the Dutch and the Danes, but not so hated as the French, the Germans and, most recent- ly, the Spaniards. This is not, I know, a view taken by several contributors to this Paper, notably Mr Auberon Waugh. Nor is it borne out entirely by the opinion polls. But those polls which I remember on this subject muddled up peoples with states, a great error. During the last war, of course I write 'of course', though many people I talk to do not seem to have the vaguest notion of all this — the Russian state was officially exalted by the British state. Prop- aganda poured out daily about our glorious ally, her glorious leader, kindly 'Uncle Joe' Stalin, and her if anything even more glorious military commanders, whose names became household words and were the subject of little stories, such as that Marshall Timoshenko was really a Welsh- man called Tim Jenkins. Talking of Wales, I remember that in the cinemas of my childhood newsreel shots of Churchill were always booed, those of Stalin always cheered. Churchill was particularly hated in South Wales, not altogether justly, but throughout the country he was never the folk-hero of middle-class mythology, as the 1945 election demonstrated. Irrespective °f the Churchill Government's pro- Russian propaganda, there was also throughout the country the feeling that Russia was bloodily winning the war for us, while we were having by comparison a cushy time. This feeling was correct corresponding to the facts — and accounts to some extent for the popularity of Rus- sians today.

My friends on what is called the new or radical Right become quite upset when I point out these bits of history to them. Similarly they will not accept refuse to believe — that Communist coun- tries make better jam than capitalist coun- tries. For example, Oberon Apricot Jam from Bulgaria is, price for price, better than an any British product. The only new rightist who is prepared to believe me on this is Professor Lord Bauer. The others w ill not allow truth to stand in the way of 110,....

5.y As we are on my ideological friends of the new right, I should apologise t_or writing a few weeks ago that Mr John ,O. Sullivan's column rarely deviated from

been State Department line. It should have u,cen the Pentagon line — or the White alip.ase line. To Mr O'Sullivan and his

weeds, the State Department is a tangle of w eds, weirdos and pinkoes. ...........

One effect which I hope the House of Lords decision in the GCHQ case will have is to end the big talk about the royal prerogative. Ministers and civil servants are alike prone to indulge in it when they are merely taking powers which no actual law tells them they cannot take (a ploy not open to a local authority). In the Chel- tenham case the Law Lords havered rather about whether the prerogative was in- volved: Lord Fraser thought it was, just about, while Lord Diplock was inclined to think it was not. Most of them were content to say that it was unnecessary to arrive at a decision. Behind it all lies an obscure and unresolved but still important constitutional question. A. V. Dicey de- fined the prerogative as the residue of power left in the hands of the Crown. His 18th century predecessor, Sir William Blackstone, said that the essence of the prerogative was that it was `eccentrical', that is, peculiar to the Monarch. I think Blackstone is right. I could, were I rich and foolish enough — I should have to be very rich and very foolish — set up my own GCHQ to monitor the messages of foreign powers. In so doing I might be in breach of certain Wireless Telegraphy Acts, but I should not be breaking the general law. If I issued a proclamation from Islington dis- solving Parliament my friends would say: `Are you sure you're feeling all right, old lad . . . been working too hard, have you . . . drinking too much? You see, only the Queen can dissolve Parliament.' Just so. The Queen, and only the Queen, can likewise appoint a Prime Minister, exercise the prerogative of mercy and so forth. But setting up a GCHQ is no more an exercise of the royal prerogative than operating a fleet of shiny black Rover cars — which the Government also does, and some private citizens do as well. Afeature of the Cheltenham case was that Sir Geoffrey Howe, who carried the can to start with, disappeared smartly from the scene, to be replaced by Mrs Margaret Thatcher. But where was Lord Gowrie all this time? Mrs Thatcher may be the big cheese in theory, but Lord Gowrie is the minister who is supposed to be in charge of the civil service. I hear that behind the scenes he was one of those most adamant for action against the unions. And yet he leaves the court without a stain on his character. There is a parallel with other episodes in his ministerial career. At the Northern Ireland Office he was praised for his humanity, but his tenure there was accompanied by several escapes from prison, and hunger strikes within. At Arts he wins golden opinions, but — whether he gave a guarantee or not — he certainly caused the English National Opera to lose lots of money in America. I do not know whether the loss to the British Museum of the Chatsworth drawings was any of his responsibility, but he was undoubtedly frolicking on the margin. Altogether Lord Gowrie is displaying an enviably Carting- tonian ability to remain popular and stay away from trouble. He is a formidable politician in another respect as well. He insisted that Mrs Thatcher appoint him to the Cabinet. Appoint him she did. Mr Norman St John-Stevas must envy that achievement particularly.

Miss Prue Leith is cross with me (Let- ters, this week) for adversely criticis- ing her for not frying meat in making a daube. I too have been doing some scholar- ly research. Some recipes tell you to fry the meat, while others, for different daubes (though in the same book) do not mention frying or searing. Some recipes specify a whole piece of meat, while others tell you to cut it up, usually in largeish bits. Here is the relevant portion of one recipe for daube a la provencale, the original cause of controversy between us: 'When the bacon has melted, add remaining onions, quar- tered, and sauté till brown. Add the meat and vegetables drained from the marinade. Cook till the meat is brown, stirring from time to time': A. Escoffier, Ma Cuisine, trs. V. Holland (1965). I neither gloat about this nor say that Escoffier is better than Leith — merely that his method is likelier to produce nicer results than hers. The curse of most writing on cooking is dogmatism allied to knowingness. I hope I am not guilty of either. Meanwhile, that's enough about food.

T must, however, tell the story of the 'daughter of a friend who found a job as secretary to a couple of 'executives' on the Daily Mirror. Asked about her duties, she replied: 'I have to get them bacon sand- wiches when they come back to the office hungry after lunch.'

Alan Watkins