Shock waves were still spreading in the literary world today after the announcement that Jeffrey Archer has won this year's Booker Prize, a consternation all the greater since his latest novel Adam and Yves (a "prequel" to the bestseller Kane and Abel) had not featured on the short-list. After scenes of disturbance at the Guildhall, the Chairman of the Judges, Dame Iris Murdoch, defended her decision in a speech several times interrupted by angry shouts. Dame Iris said: "We understood when we came to this decision that it might lead to intellectual controversy but the panel of judges felt unanimously that it was time to make a clear statement on behalf of literary standards. Too often the award of the Booker Prize leads to a sterile, relativistic debate about the merits of an individual work, a debate mired in subjective bickering. As a result, we felt, the notion of universal standards of good and bad had become discredited. We wanted to recognize a work that would unite all those who care deeply about literature and quality. So this award is not just for Adam and Yves, but for the Archer corpus - books which have made it abundantly clear that literary merit is not 'just a matter of opinion'. " Asked to comment on the prize, Mr Archer said that he was "absolutely thrilled by this long overdue recognition. I hope certain gentlemen in Stockholm have been paying attention."
A spokesman for the Campaign for Plain English has been defending the society today after the furore caused by the decision to honour Sylvester Stallone with a Special Commendation Medal, the campaign's highest honour. "There's been a lot of elitist nonsense talked about this," said Michael Digmole. "Mr Stallone clearly represents what we have been campaigning for for years. He never uses two words when one will do - indeed he often doesn't even use one if he can get away with a grunt." Mr Digmole explained that society members had first been impressed by the simplicity of expression Mr Stallone gave to American foreign policy in the Rambo films, but that it had been felt that the political climate was not then right for a public award. "But several of us went to see Judge Dredd," he continued, "and we were very struck by the way in which the complex social issues of a post-industrial dystopia were condensed into the simple phrase 'I yam da law'. If only more people spoke with such clarity we might not be in the mess we are." When asked by one journalist if "post-industrial dystopia" was really plain English, Mr Digmole became heated and insisted that journalists substitute the phrase "lawless shithole" in all reports of his remarks.