6 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 7

A Spectator's Notebook

Being had is never a very happy experience, and I have recently been pretty comprehensively had. The story goes like this.

In July The Spectator carried a leading article on the subject of population levels, and in it we argued that Britain should have a larger, not a smaller, population. Though not necessarily a part of the same argument, this was of a piece with previous articles, and signed columns, opposing the 1967 Abortion Act and attacking provision of contraceptive devices by the state. Anyway, Lady Medawar, Wife of Sir Peter and one of the editors of Family Planning, the journal of the Family Planning Association, wrote a letter for publication to the editor, and another inviting him to contribute an article to her magazine amplifying the case made in our leader. A little later, at one of our parties, I was introduced to Lady Medawar as the author of our editorial, and her invitation was extended to me. We discussed the me The Spectator has taken on abortion and amily planning over the years and she sugg ted that I should broaden the scope of the piee I was to do for her, and give a full account of my views on abortion, family planning and p vlation levels. I demurred, suggesting that CY magazine would never print it, and reca,:ing my last clash with the FPA: they had announced their intention of suing us because of a letter we published from Mrs P. D. Riches. Our response took the form of a two-page attack on the FPA which quoted, inter alia, a pamphlet they had once sponsored encouraging young girls to masturbate, and said that we would fight the court action on the proposition that the effect of the Association was evil. We heard no more from their lawyers. When I had recounted this Lady Medawar assented enthusiastically to my judgement on Mr Caspar Brooke, denounced several of the practices of the FPA, assured me that her magazine was editorially independent and renewed her invitation. I accepted. End of ,Act One.

One can never be sure of a briefing given at a party. So, a little later I telephoned Lady Medawar and we agreed that I would cover three areas in about 3,000 words — abortion. family planning and whether it should be encouraged by the state, and population levels. I then received a gushy letter from Lady Medawar insisting how life-loving she was (we had suggested that family planners were life-denying) and enclosing, as proof, she seemed to think, several copies of Family Planning the glossy cover of which was adorned by naked and half-nake.d relatives of hers. I wrote the article (for no fee, incidentally), including in it some discussion of a Family Planning article by one of the outstanding hysterics of the family planning movement, Dr Madeleine Simms, and sent it off. A fortnight passed and I received another letter, not from Lady Medawar, but from Dr David Pyke, telling me I had not written the article requested, which should have been confined simply to population levels. While I was spluttering with rage my wife said, "It serves you right if you were ever a big enough

fool to think they'd print something as contrary to their views." I rang the FPA to find that neither Lady Medawar nor Dr Pyke was available, and, I fear, vented some of my annoyance on a perfectly pleasant but rather oppressed young woman. As I said at the time, realising ho‘.::horoughly you have been had does not make you stop kicking yourself.