LETTER from THE EDITOR

I am beginning to wonder whether we should run a small daily box on the front page, simply headed "Government decay - Latest", thereby freeing the rest of it for other news. For months I have been arguing that a Conservative revival is inevitable; that John Major, a superb campaigner who cannot be so glibly written off, and so on. But as week succeeds week of Tory self-destruction and petty mayhem, one begins to think: This lot have had it.

Reporting the resultant decay is not a particularly wholesome activity. One reader, Tony Whittaker from Surrey, accuses us of a "personal hate campaign" against John Major. No! Though not a huge admirer of the Prime Minister, I certainly don't hate him. Personally and journalistically, I'd much prefer not to be faced, day after day, with the relentless chronicle of internal Tory party decay. It is barely decent; an intrusion into deep corporate grief. At some point, readers of all newspapers are, I'm sure, going to sigh with distaste at the picture of yet another pink-faced resignee or rebel. These are not pretty sights and they don't sell newspapers. We may have to resort to putting more Howard Hodgkin paintings on the front page instead, as we did on Tuesday. The trouble is, of course, that he hasn't painted nearly enough.

Lynne Wilkins writes from Wales taking us to task for the report on the rise of the television bodice-ripper; she defends Defoe not as a sex- scene writer but as "a liberal, humane and moral writer", and decries the idea that Jane Austen's world is about tinkling teacups and honourable aristocrats. She is right on both counts, but Marianne Macdonald was referring not to the novels themselves, but to televised costume-drama adaptations of them. They are, surely, utterly different things. Austen was a hard, unsentimental reporter of her world; the idea of her stories being in "costume" would never have occurred to her. But, given TV treatment, it is idle to deny that the big houses, hats, breeches and so on are not an integral part of the modern entertainment: we are served not Jane Austen but "Jane Austen".

Defoe, perhaps, is a different matter. He wrote beautiful, clear, vigorous English and was a great inventor of forms as well as stories - the Homer of our native novel, even. But his books were part of something which has been obscured by the "Great Tradition". It is time to acknowledge that there is another central strain in the British novel, a cascade of vigorous, baggy, energetic fictions by Fielding, Smollett, Thackeray, Surtees, Kipling, John Cowper Powys and Grassic Gibbon. They form our rough, alternative, hedgerow tradition of great writing. They will, in time, make better television too.

The right-wing Christian, Anne Atkins, who has been taken on by The Daily Telegraph as an agony aunt, is starting well. Asked by a reader what to do when her son throws his Buzz Lightyear at his little sister, despite being warned that he'd be smacked, she tersely replies: ``Smack him.'' Apart from demonstrating what an effective deterrent smacking is, I find this a liberating seasonal injunction. There are so many people I've longed to smack - eminent Eurosceptic MPs, minor members of the Royal Family, Telegraph journalists, etc. Up to now, I've restrained myself - typical wet, hand-wringing liberal. No longer: if it's right to smack for throwing around Mr Lightyear, surely it's right to smack people for throwing the Prime Minister at the Chancellor too?

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In my grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel