Richard Ingrams: Boozy lunches, smoke-filled rooms, gossip. All gone


Related Topics

I snatched up The Independent on Sunday last weekend hoping to get some insight into the bizarre political situation from its veteran columnist Alan Watkins, only to be greeted by the very dismaying news that he had died.

That Alan should go out at the same time as Gordon Brown and the Labour government seemed appropriate in its way. He was a survivor from an earlier age of old-fashioned politics – the age of smoke-filled rooms, boozy lunches and, above all, gossip. Alan had relished that world though he always found his fellow journalists more interesting and more amusing than politicians and, of course, he was right.

But then again the Fleet Street world that Alan Watkins graced has long since vanished. There were few of the old characters left, men such as his former editor, John Junor of the Sunday Express, who had impressed Alan early in his career with his guiding principles: "No first-class journalist ever has a beard. It is never libellous to ask a question."

As it happened Alan was unintentionally involved in disproving this last assertion. Reviewing a book which reprinted some of Junor's columns he commended the skill with which he managed to avoid possible litigation. He instanced Junor's paragraph about a headmaster who on three separate occasions had escaped prosecution for indecently assaulting his pupils.

After unreservedly accepting his innocence, Junor posed the question, "Might he not be wise to jack in a job which seems to carry such a high risk of false accusations?" Claiming never to have seen the original paragraph, the headmaster sued and Junor's book had to be withdrawn.

Have women really been snubbed?

Following the example of his great hero Tony Blair, David Cameron made sure that when the new Cabinet was photographed there was a smiling female face in the foreground – in this instance that of the Minister Without Portfolio Baroness Warsi – not only a woman but a Muslim. But this was not enough for the feminist lobby, urged on by all the Glenda Slaggs in the newspapers, who complained that once again the female sex had been rudely snubbed and was inadequately represented.

It is interesting that when you hear this argument made, you don't actually hear the names of any individual women whose claims have been overlooked. It is the female sex in general that is champion. This is perhaps not surprising in view of the way so many of the Blair women have come a cropper – Hazel Blears, Margaret Hodge, Baroness Scotland, Ruth Kelly and notably Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown's former Home Secretary. Will history repeat itself in the case of Theresa May, another woman who looks as if she's out of her depth doing the arduous job of Home Secretary?

When men select women like this, not really on merit but simply to appease the feminists, they tend to pick the wrong ones, the ones who they think won't make trouble. Meanwhile, independently minded women like Clare Short and Ann Widdecombe are getting out of politics altogether.

Winged creatures invade the home

In case you hadn't noticed it, tonight is National Moth Night when we are all being asked to keep a tally of any moth that may come our way and report the results to the moth census authorities. Though no friend of the moth – an excitable creature that flaps around my reading lamp causing intense irritation – I shall do my best to oblige, but I am at present more interested in the crows that have made a nest in the chimney above my bedroom. This means being woken up most mornings by raucous calls and croakings. Never mind. The crows have my support, particularly as they seem to share my dislike for the ubiquitous red kites.

However, there are problems involved when it comes to being kind to the bird population. The other day two small boys known to me found an abandoned bird's egg in the garden and took it inside hoping to be able to hatch it artificially. When their mother rang the RSPB to seek advice, she was warned that by harbouring a bird's egg she was committing a criminal offence.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
Ed Miliband said the Tories are a danger to family finances  

Election 2015: Me, my 18-year-old son, and why I’m voting Labour

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before