22 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 18

HALF AN OAF SIR,—As a member of the audience at

a meeting in Lincoln's Inn Fields on November 8, 1 drew the attention of Mr. Ratcliffe (the regular Conservative speaker there on Fridays) to the article by David Watt a couple of weeks ago in which he talks about hearing Ministers referring to each other as 'oaf, buffoon, liar, etc.' His rejoinder went through various stages (it is not unusual for politicians to call each other these names; Bevan called Gaitskell a desiccated calcu- lating machine, Stafford Cripps told a lie about de- valuation, etc.), but I am not writing to bore you about such trivia. The reason for my letter is that when Mr. Ratcliffe drew attention to the significance of Mr. Watt's not having mentioned actual names I asked if it was suggesting that he was himself lying and the answer was simply 'Yes.'

I countered that (a) it was highly unlikely that your correspondent would lie and (b) no challenge to the authenticity of his remarks has appeared in your columns from any of the thousands of Con- servative readers of your paper. Finally, it was agreed that I should write to you to see what you have to say about this attack on your correspon- dent's good faith.

[David Watt writes: 'I cordially endorse Mr. Weidberg's generous defence and I can assure Mr. Ratcliffe that the words complained of were not only heard by me but are a mere selection from the wider and even choicer stock available.'—Editor, Spectator.]