24 MARCH 1967, Page 8



A good judge said the other day : 'Most academics are intellectually anti-Labour, but emotionally anti-Tory.' Certainly, among the many causes which one could list as contribut- ing to the Conservative decline in the past dozen years, the lowering of the party's stand- ing in the universities must be among the most important. I presume that, if the Tories' numerous unpublicised efforts to restore their fortunes are ultimately successful, the attempt to establish a healthier relationship with the academic world will be seen to have been crucial.

The rot really began at the time of Suez. During and after the Attlee government the relationship was uneven but vigorous; after 1956 it practically died away. Since the 1964 election defeat, the Tories have been very busy, in a quiet way, attempting to repair the damage and to bring university thinking into the policy- making process. Whether the attempt will pro- duce what the party obviously needs remains to be seen. But it is because of this background that Mr Angus Maude's new commission to direct a long-term study, aimed at projecting economic and social trends into the mid-1980s, is in fact an important innovation.

Such a work, carried out with the intelligence to be expected of Mr Maude, is likely to affect the party's future course for a long time. On top of that, it will involve in the enterprise a large number of bright and influential academics, which could prove at least as valuable to the Tories. Altogether, the Tory endeavour to refertilise their party with ideas from the centres of learning may prove one of the most interesting (and possibly diverting) political spectacles of the next few years.

Plus ca change

Committees may generally be thought to be in some sort of difficulty when they come up with proposals to achieve progress by changing the names of things. I see that this tactic has now been adopted by the Anglican-Methodist Unity Commission, whose newly-published in- terim statement recommended that the word 'priest' should be abandoned in favour of 'presbyter.' Legislation would be required to authorise the Church of England to use the word 'presbyter,' and with admirable candour the commission's statement observes, 'in view of past controversy such legislation will need to make it plain that no change of doctrine is implied in the change of word.' Quite. Or, as Milton put it more succinctly, 'New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.'

The Galbraith version

Ever since Professor Galbraith's Reith lec- tures were broadcast last winter some people have been puzzled by the failure of the real world they live and work in to correspond with Professor Galbraith's picture of it. He de- scribed an economy smoothly manipulated by invincible giant organisations, employing the skills of mass persuasion to direct popular demand into whatever profitable channels their long-term planning required.

This difference between reality and the Gal- braithian version of it has now been examined

by Professor G. C. Allen, of University College, London (Economic Fact and Fantasy, pub- lished this week by the Institute of Economic Affairs). Professor Allen attacks Galbraith's thesis at various points: for example, on this question of the capacity of giant firms to mould public. demand at will. Clearly, it is mistaken to imagine the consumer as merely a puppet who moves when advertisers pull the strings. The .ad-men I know would never en- dorse such a view of their power (they might wish they could), and Professor Allen illus- trates the point with a list of great industries which have been devastated by innovating com- petitors in spite of all their resources.

This kind of economic disruption is painful for those involved, and no one relishes that aspect of it. Nevertheless, it is more pleasant to contemplate than the Galbraithian vision of society as a mass of captive consumers. This, as Professor Allen indicates, sees our condition in too pessimistic colours altogether.

Inn trouble

I hope the recent court decision at Merioneth doesn't tempt innkeepers to go in for a new reign of terror against their guests. The ruling turned on what an innkeeper could 'reasonably' be required to provide by way of refreshment. A member of the public who had been refused dinner, but offered a 'snack,' complained : the jury decided against him. Unhappily, there are still people in the business of supplying meals and shelter who need no encouragement from the courts to deal firmly' with signs of indis- cipline among their customers.

This is not really the time to be unkind about British hotels, though. Because of the selective employment tax and other stringencies, they are having a hard time. It's a pity, because in many ways standards have risen enormously over the years. I found myself being re- minded of the British hotels' blackest hours very recently when I spent a night at an estab- lishment which was, I learned, on the point of closing down. The staff had been reduced to a minimum. Those remaining seemed under- standably disaffected and given to staring moodily out of the windows. Various minor comforts had been suppressed. The restaurant closed with a snap at an early hour. The at- mosphere of doom was so heavy that one was too intimidated to remonstrate. I seemed to be revisiting an old, bad dream. Perhaps a dose of the new Good Food Guide will exorcise it.

Normal service

'Why be cooped-up in the living-room when- ever you watch TV? Philips T-Vette frees you to watch on picnic or beach . . . in caravan, tent or boat. . . . Think of lying in the sun, by the sea, watching your favourite sport on

TV. (From an advertisement in the Sunday Express.)

Or, more realistically, think of being com- pelled to listen to someone else's portable TV, blaring away on picnic or beach or garden.... Think of lying in the sun, by the sea, being driven mad by other people's transistor radios and, now, their outdoor TV sets as welL . .

Don't forget your ear-plugs this weekend.