By George, you can't beat all this lovely murder

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
LIKE the majority of those on the intellectual right, I am a fully paid-up member of the George Orwell appreciation society. We admire the man for his lean, no-nonsense prose. We admire him for his independence and honesty. And we admire him for the tough, right-wing libertarian line he took on many a controversial topic.

Of course, it is many a long year since I read a word of Orwell, but his views and opinions have lodged firmly in my mind. In his brilliant essay, "Death of an Elephant", for instance, he took a characteristically robust view of what should be done with that most out-dated and cumbersome of beasts: shoot the bugger.

And no matter how much our Friends on the Left might holler and squeal, they know full well that Orwell would consequently have been the most doughty supporter of the Government's privatisation policy. For Orwell, and for those of us who are proud to number ourselves among his followers, the "Elephant" was undoubtedly a symbol of the old, hidebound Nationalised industries, hideously unionised and grotesquely inefficient. Ergo, destroy the "elephant" and replace him with a streamlined private utility at once.

I have been pondering much on Orwell these past few weeks, for I am writing a short pamphlet on the man for the Centre for Policy Studies, called simply "St Orwell" and subtitled "Pioneer of Free Enterprise". But it is to another area of this great man's oeuvre that I should like to address myself today, namely his views on the Classic English Murder.

Topical, indeed! As the Vice-Chairman of Conglomerate Newspapers PLC, and like many in the newspaper business, I have found the past month especially trying. With the Princess of Wales out of the country, no earthquakes, airline crashes or major famines to speak of, and Miss Elizabeth Hurley heaven-knows-where, journalists and commentators have been left to scuttle around the bottom of the news-barrel in search of suitable material.

Needless to say, our most distinguished commentators - many of them titled - have experienced little trouble in discovering enough about which to write. "The severe, perhaps catastrophic, crisis facing this country as a direct consequence of the burgeoning economies of the Pacific Rim," began the ever lively William Rees-Mogg in the Times on Wednesday, "may be considerably abated by a close perusal of photographs of the comely figure of that most illustrious of thespians, Miss Elizabeth Hurley. But I fear that this delightful creature is at present nowhere to be seen. I would urge the Foreign Secretary to concentrate the considerable resources of his department upon her discovery, for then, and only then, will the British peoples be in with a chance of national regeneration."

First-class stuff, with that distinctive Orwellian ring of truth about it. And my old friend and quaffing partner Mr Paul Johnson proves himself similarly adept at pinpointing the national mood. "As this Government lurches from crisis to crisis in Ulster, in Bosnia and on the streets of Brixton," he writes in this week's Spectator, "how one yearns for the bikini-clad Princess of Wales to fly back from the Bahamas to lighten our darkness."

But the number of our lesser brethren in the inky profession have found the going somewhat harder, racking their brains for something - anything - with which to fill their pages. Enter Orwell, stage right! For if memory serves, the great man espoused a diet with which to enliven our daily reading of murder, murder and yet more murder. Hence, Conglomerated Newspapers PLC have instituted a news policy of at least one murder per page in the Christmas and New Year Season, with the proviso that if the murder takes place on foreign soil, it must be the work of a record-breaking serial killer.

"Kiddie Goes Missing", "Blood Spurts From Senior Citizen, Stains Carpet", "Woman In Mini Skirt Arrives Home Unmurdered" - these were just some of the headline stories we have managed to come up with over the past fortnight, and very entertaining they were too. Subsequently, our leading columnists have emerged with some razor-sharp opinions, including "Has Your Kiddie Gone Missing - Why Not Take A Look?", "Keeping That Carpet Clean - 20 Handy Tips" and "How To Check If You've Been Murdered", as well as Mr Geoffrey Wheatcroft on "This Murderous Isle". Oh, George Orwell, thou shouldst be alive at this time!