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Richard Ingrams: When the top brass want to ban the bomb


I haven't seen many signs recently that CND still exists. But there's not much cause for it now that the cry of Ban the Bomb has been taken up by a number of respectable and probably conservative retired generals. These old boys are unlikely to be seen marching to London from Aldermaston at Easter time. They pursue their crusade in the correspondence columns of The Times.

There was another persuasive letter this week from generals (rtd) Bramall, Ramsbotham and Beach making the point that the new version of Trident planned by the coalition will be useless as a deterrent – even if we had anyone to deter – while simultaneously costing the country a small fortune at a time when we can ill afford it.

Like most sensible and unarguable points, this will be brushed aside by the likes of David Cameron, even though it is made by a group of experienced generals. Cameron in any case seems to be more concerned about Iran having a nuclear bomb than Britain not having one. But if the deterrent theory still applies (and so far it seems to have been effective), Iran has every reason to have a bomb if it feels threatened by Israel's huge nuclear arsenal. But that again is one of those obvious points that few people want to think about, let alone accept.

What will it be like at Five?

As so often, it has been left to Private Eye to draw our attention to an unsavoury truth – in this case that Mr Richard Desmond, or Dirty Des as the magazine affectionately refers to him, is not really a suitable person to be given control of one of our major TV channels, ie Five. One obvious reason, of course, is that Desmond's experience of TV to date consists in putting on what is politely referred to nowadays as "adult entertainment", the nature of which may be gleaned from the names of his programmes, eg Dirty Talk, Filth and Red Hot Fetish.

It is now up to Ofcom to decide if that sort of thing disqualifies Dirty Des from taking over Five. The regulations state that they have to be satisfied that a successful applicant must be "fit and proper", but an Ofcom spokesman tells the Eye that this applies to a company, not an individual. Just how they can read that into the regulation may not be immediately apparent to the outside observer. But it suggests that all DD has to do is float a new company to make the application and the prize will be his. And if the only opposition comes from Private Eye, it's hard to see how he could fail.

The unsung heroes of the art world

Rather than going to Tate Modern where you can see a bit of an old aeroplane hanging from the ceiling and masquerading as a work of art, I recommend a visit to the Cartoon Gallery in Little Russell Street if you want something to do in the holidays. Here you may see, as I did this week, the original Basil Brush preserved in a glass case just like King Tut. Children will need to be told that this dapper fox is the true Basil Brush, not the very poor dumbed-down Mark II version which the BBC has recently created, possibly under the impression that the original Basil was a bit too much of a toff.

I had not realised that Basil Brush was created by the artist Peter Firmin, who collaborated for many years with Oliver Postgate who sadly died two years ago. Some of their most famous creations can be seen at the Cartoon Gallery including the original Bagpuss, now looking shabbier than ever, and the complete cast of The Clangers – the Froglets, the Iron Chicken and the Soup Dragon.

Peter Firmin, I'm glad to say, is still with us and still working. Neither he nor Oliver Postgate was ever given any official recognition for all that they did. Postgate never even made it into Who's Who.

Postgate came from a famous socialist family: his grandfather was George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s; his father was Raymond Postgate, one of the founders of the British Communist Party. He himself was a conscientious objector and a member of the CND. But you wouldn't guess any of that from the masterpieces he created.