A presidential slur has been cast on the virtue of the Girl Guides. But it may have been a case of mistaken identities. It was reported around the world yesterday that a Girl Guide handbook had been banned in Kenya, on the grounds that it promoted promiscuity. A morally outraged President Daniel arap Moi pronounced: "It talks about sex, and I direct that the book be removed from the shelves."
Sexual licentiousness is not a charge to which the Guide Association is accustomed. What could the handbook, innocently entitled Family Life, possibly contain? "We have no idea. That's just the point - we've never even heard of the book before," explained a distressed spokeswoman for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
The mysterious and problematic Family Life, it emerged, is not published by the Guide Association at all, but by the Girl Guide Association of America. "That is not - and I repeat, not - a member of our organisation," the spokeswoman stressed. "Our ladies in Kenya are very concerned about this. They are great respecters of traditions and cultures, and now all this has happened. We have no idea what this other Guide association is, but we want to protect our good name."
Eagle Eye's inquiries could not unearth a single trace of the rogue Guiding outfit. The "ladies in Kenya" could offer no insights, and the Girl Scouts of America, bona fide representatives of Baden Powell across the pond, professed to be equally baffled.
If there is a fifth column of Guiders dedicated to sullying such a wholesome institution at the highest levels of international politics, Eagle Eye is pledged to hunt them down.
If Michael Foot had become Prime Minister, "half of us would be walking around without our testicles". This political analysis is not mine - a eunuch-dominated population was one of the few things not promised in Labour's 1983 manifesto - but that of John Sutherland, Professor of English at University College, London.
Last month Professor Sutherland reviewed Michael Foot's biography of HG Wells in the London Review of Books. Noting that Wells had publicly advocated concentration camps and sterilisation for undesirables, and that Foot's biography was largely sympathetic, Sutherland wrote: "If this represents libertarian socialism, thank God Michael Foot never became Prime Minister: half of us would be walking around without our testicles."
In the issue of the LRB out next Friday, Foot replies in high dudgeon, taking on Sutherland and other Wells critics, including the late Malcolm Muggeridge, in a letter stretching to well over 1,000 words. He concludes forcibly on the accusation that a Foot government would have had a minister for castration: "I would not wish to make light of such a prodigious hazard. But if the aforesaid Wellsian-Foot regime had been in existence, he (Sutherland) and his friends, male and female, would have the compensation that they could choose their lovers without fear or favour. Moreover, they could have escaped one world war and possibly two, and the nuclear explosion which might still blow us all into Muggeridge's kingdom come."
This is all very confusing. Can we under a Conservative regime not choose our lovers without fear or favour? Does Mr Foot know something we don't? Or has he been reading too much science fiction?
The Cabinet papers of 1965, released this week, have thrown up one footnote, which shows that there was a time - clearly before EEC directives - when Prime Ministers were as concerned about the language of policy as the policy themselves. Harold Wilson's response to the draft of the first (and last) five-year National Plan was conveyed in a short note from his private secretary to the DEA (Department of Economic Affairs) on 5 August 1965: "The Prime Minister was told this morning by a senior minister that the draft of the plan contains somewhere the word 'containerisation'. The Prime Minister found this barely credible but has instructed me to arrange that this word should be banned."
Barely credible perhaps. But, inevitably the word now exists, defined by the dictionary as the noun from containerise "to convey cargo in standard- sized containers". National Plan, on the other hand, is not dignified with an entry.
An opera-goer in Sydney, Australia, was so dissatisfied with the artistic interpretation of Australian Opera's production of Nabucco that he demanded a refund. His complaint was upheld by a consumer claims tribunal, and the company ordered to repay him the cost of his tickets. The incident is deplored by the leader writers of the Stage, the showbiz industry's journal, this week: "This is surely a case of consumer rights taken to ridiculous extremes," it says.
Could this mean that Britain's producers are getting worried that a precedent has been set? Eagle Eye is with the consumer on this one. The latest London production of Macbeth has Jane Horrocks as Lady M urinating on stage. One for the ombudsman surely.
The first baby born this year was Annabel Cliff, born 30 seconds after midnight on 1 January in Auckland, New Zealand. No money in that for all the British press agencies on the story. Except the West News press agency in Truro. "Proud parents Blair and Sam Cliff left St Agnes in Cornwall in August, meaning the world's first 1996 baby was conceived on Cornish soil," it proudly reports. That's what I call resourceful.
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