29 JULY 1972, Page 8

A Spectator's Notebook

I hear that the long exile of Edward du Cann from office may be coming to an end. There is much talk in and around Tory headquarters that the Party's one-time chairman and one of its brightest young men is now regarded, to employ the current teminology, as having purged his contempt (he was never a Heath man) and that the message will soon go out: "Come back, Edward, all is forgiven." And what office Will he be offered? Not one of the economic ministries, but the Home Office, no less. If the Prime Minister does follow this course, it will mean that Reggie Maudling's departure will not, after all, have brought about a general reshuffle.

John Boyd-Carpenter

It is also being said around that it is a great pity that John Boyd-Carpenter has not been available, for he would have made an admirable Home Secretary. When he failed to defeat Selwyn Lloyd for the Speakership, he retreated gracefully from active politics, became a life peer and is now more or less out of things.

Remarkable French

Overheard, the following description of John Davies by one of the Think Tank men: "He has some admirable qualities. He is no good as a politician, of course. And from what I hear he was not much good as a businessman either. But he speaks remarkable French."

Profound despondency

The senior Cabinet minister who rather startled me a fortnight ago by asking "Do you think the country is becoming ungovernable?" has since remarked upon his own surprise at the optimism of my answer, which was to the effect "No, I don't. Not yet." Considering the last few days, it is clear that my optimism may well have been misplaced, and the minister's despondency altogether more profound.

Nervous exhaustion

When Senator McGovern picked the unknown Senator Eagleton as his Vice-Presidential running mate, he said that in choosing a Vice-President it was essential to find someone who would be capable of undertaking the Presidency; and this is no more than the truth. When Eagleton was asked if we would accept, he has said that he replied " Yes " immediately, in case McGovern should change his mind. He also assured McGovern that there was nothing in his past that he, McGovern, might not know about which would or should preclude him from office. Apparently Eagleton did not think that his previous visits to psychiatric hospitals suffering from 'nervous exhaustion' fell within that cate gory; although personally I would have thought that someone who has suffered more than once from 'nervous exhaustion ' was not the sort of man able to undertake the Presidency in case of national emergency. When news of Eagleton's health record became known, he sensibly and properly offered to withdraw; but McGovern foolishly, irresponsibly decided to keep him as his running mate.

Nice chap

This may make George McGovern a nice chap; but it also makes him a rotten candidate and would make him a worse President. 'Nervous exhaustion' I have always understood to be a euphemism for an overpowering, insuperable and intolerable hangover; but apparently Americans who immediately leaped to the conclusion that Eagleton drank too much are being told that they have got it wrong. this makes matters worse: for it is easy enough, provided a man is not an alcoholic, to avoid the nervous exhaustion' that comes from drinking too much — one simply drinks less. But if Eagleton's previous bouts of 'nervous exhaustion' have not had a physical cause, like excessive consumption of alcohol, then how are they to be avoided under the huge pressure of executive office? Spiro T. Agnew may not be everybody's vision of an ideal Vice-Presi dent; but, politically speaking, he looks better than Senator Eagleton, just as Nixon looks better than McGovern. McGovern and Eagleton are, of course, the prettier pair.

Sir Keith

One of the most depressing and eroding features about the Government is the willingness of junior ministers to be cynical and critical about its objectives and tactics. One constantly comes across the cheerful admission that the Government is in a mess; and the equally convinced view that something easy can be done to resolve its problems: The syndrome is interesting particularly when it resolves itself into the question of whether it would not have been wiser to stick to the true Tory policies on which this Government was elected. The Government has abandoned many of these policies: but, a propos our praise of Keith Joseph the other day, one junior minister recently said to me: "Is there any field in which we have been faithful to our preelection promises, except social services? And is this due to Keith's influence, or to the thoroughness of our preparation?" An open question indeed; and one that may indicate either hero-worship of Sir Keith, or extreme dissatisfaction at the abandonment by the Government of the theories of politics which brought it to power. Two things may be said. First, the Tory preparation for Government in the social service field was minimal. Second, it was sensible enough to work, and to gain for the minister implementing it a reputation. If that minister must be moved elsewhere, because of his reputation, who succeeds him?

Poppin's still stands

A few weeks ago I mentioned the imminent closing of Poppins, the ljaily Express pub. It is still standing — but only just, and only until September. I criticised both the Beaverbrook press and Bass, Charringtons, the brewers, for not seeing to it that the dislodged tenant of Poppins, Bob Mason, would become the new tenant of a rebuilt Poppins (or Red Lion, as the pub is officially named). I now learn that the Beaverbrook people are blameless, and that it is Bass, Charringtons who are determined, come what may, to do away with a tenant and to install a manager. The behaviour of big brewers continually astonishes and dismays me. I hope that when Lord Erroll completes his report on the licensing laws, he advises the abolition of tied houses as well as the removal of the present licensing restrictions.

Free the tenants

Every licensee should be entitled, at the very least, to buy his freehold; he should also be free to buy the beers and spirits he thinks his customers want. The present restrictive laws benefit none but the big brewers. I went into a marvellous old pub last weekend: the man who ran it had been there for sixty-odd years. He had, at last and still protesting, been forced to cease selling his beer from the wood because his masters, the brewers (Tolly Cobbold, ill this case) had decreed that kegs were more hygienic, or so he defiantly asserted.