7 OCTOBER 1972, Page 7

Corridors . • •

PUZZLE AWOKE the other day from that sleep imposed on him by the parliamentary recess and went boldly north to Blackpool. He had dinner with John Silkin, Harold Wilson's former chief whip. Silkin was reminiscing and offered the nicest historical generalisation Puzzle has heard for some time. It seems that when Ted Heath became leader of the Tories Willie Whitelaw and Silkin were discussing his prospects. Silkin said that he thought British politics were about to enter a new Gladstone/Disraeli era; but that this time Disraeli was on the left.

PUZZLE WAS QUITE SAD to see Tom Driberg deposed from his position on the Labour National Executive. It reminded him of an earlier episode in relations between poor Tom and Chairman Wedgie. Tom used to have a semi-stately home in Essex. He charged visitors for the privilege of inspecting its appurtenances. Chairman Wedgie once trotted up to the house, paid his few bob, and dutifully tiptoed past the room where — according to an awed housekeeper — the great Tom was working. A week later, however, Wedgie told poor Tom what he had done, and the late member of the NEC was furious.

PUZZLE WOULD like to rebuke a youngster called Cosgrave who occasionally writes in these pages. The child recently made a bad hash (appropriate word) of a story about Harold Lever bringing a Fortnum and Mason hamper to breakfast with Chairman Wedgie. The " hamper" in fact consisted of smoked salmon sandwiches Made by the delectable Mrs Lever: friends of this Harold will be reassured to know that he managed to squeeze some wine and fine cheese on the menu as well. The Fortnum and Mason hamper was in fact a figment of Roy Jenkins's imagination, though Puzzle doubts if it was Roy who told Cosgrave that.

PUZZLE DOES NOT consider himself to be a pressman: rather is he an historian of morals and foibles. Nonetheless, at Blackpool, he finds himself in quite a lot of sympathy with those overworked reporters. He particularly extends a friendly hand to George Lockhead and Wilfred Sendall of the Express. On the opening day of the conference the Express produced a scoop poll showing Harold Wilson massively ahead, in the opinion of the people, of all rivals for the Labour leadership — he enjoyed a 79 per cent chunk of the potential vote. Lockheed and Sendall, however, sensing that Harold was going to have a triumph on Tuesday saw the importance of this poll as showing how closely their paper was in touch with Labour feeling. Judge of their disappointment — dare Puzzle say annoy ance? — when no Express 1111‘ posters, advertising the great poll were to be seen within range of the conference hall.

Tom Puzzle