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A bouncer for the chairman

ALTHOUGH the Cricketer magazine is not a mouthpiece for the MCC, it usually treads carefully when criticising the powers that be. But every follower of the England team has his breaking point. Following England's sixth successive defeat, Richard Hutton, the magazine's editorial director and son of the great Sir Len Hutton, would appear to be nearing his.

The Diary promised not to get him into too much trouble with the authorities, for whom the magazine is holy writ, so I will only say that Hutton thinks Ted Dexter, the chairman of the England committee responsible for selecting the team, 'can appear to have a fairly oblique way of looking at things, too off-beam to be realistic'.

Brooding in his office, deep in MCC country (the magazine is produced from an office on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells), Hutton also expressed his reservations about the captain, Graham Gooch, the only English batsman to play well in the Test. 'I wouldn't have found him sufficiently inspirational or charismatic to have got the best out of me,' he said. (On this, Hutton and Dexter are at one: Dexter once wrote that Gooch had the charisma of a wet fish.)

Returning to London by train and hearing the conductor address the passengers as 'ladies and gentlemen', the Diary was impressed by another of Hutton's remarks, which not only pointed to a decline in our cricket but also other aspects of our national life.

When Hutton was playing (he represented England seven times in 1971, which wasn't that long ago) there was a style and courtesy about Test cricket that is lacking today. 'When I was picked for England, I received an invitation that said I had been selected to play on such and such a day. At the bottom, I'm not sure it didn't say RSVP.' If that happened today, I wonder how many players would bother to do so?

WHEN the then George Thomas was the Speaker of the House of Commons, and the then Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, there always appeared to be a strong affinity between the two. This surprised (and irritated) many observers at the time, if only because Thomas was a Labour MP who might have been relied upon to stem the Thatcher flow. Now the former PM thinks the former Speaker really is a Tory.

Speaking in the Maastricht debate in the Lords on Monday, Baroness Thatcher described Viscount Tonypandy, now a cross- bencher, as 'my noble friend' not once but three times. As a political opponent, the former Speaker should have been referred to as 'the noble Viscount Lord Tonypandy.' Hansard has chosen to ignore the faux pas.

A graceful exit FOLLOWING Norman Lamont's failure to write the Prime Minister a resignation letter, some may have worried that such formalities were becoming a thing of the past. Outside government, at least, the tradition lives on. Here's a good example from Lord Rix, the former actor, who has just severed his links with the Arts Council after more than seven frustrating years as chairman of its drama panel.

Addressing the council's chairman, Lord Palumbo, he wrote: 'For as long as I have served on the Arts Council, we have been led by the nose. First, the Office of Arts and Libraries and now the Department of National Heritage. We have had to creep and crawl every year for our funds.

'When magnanimity has been displayed, we have gobbled up the crumbs with unseemly haste, raising fawning voices in praise of the minister concerned.

'When parsimony is the order of the day (as now, with the threatened cut of pounds 5m), we rush like lemmings to the water's edge, devising fatuous so-called policies and strategies and visions and corporate plans which are merely feeble attempts to cover up the fact that we have been defecated on from a great height.'

AS PART of his efforts to cut red tape, Michael Forsyth, the employment minister, rang the Health and Safety Executive to ask that a copy of regulations about the workplace be sent to him at once. 'We have only got the one copy,' said a timid voice at the end of the line. 'Well send me a copy of the copy,' said Forsyth. 'We will need a van to send it over to you,' came the reply. 'It fills five filing cabinet drawers.'


9 June 1944 Norman Lewis, an officer in Naples, writes: 'Into the hospital, once again with malaria. Three days as usual of grinding headache and sickness, after which I felt reasonably well. Lola and Susanna appeared, both in slave jewellery and feathered head-dresses. The ward-sister, tight-lipped and muttering, did not approve. Screens were put around my bed while they were present. The great news is that Frazer's affair with Lola has come to an end. Both girls will now retire to Ischia for the summer season, in their own words 'to deflate'. They explained to me that the part of the island facing Naples is radio-active and is of special benefit to the kidneys, the bladder, and the complexion. As part of the cure they will feed on rabbits of a kind bred only on Ischia. These are reared in total darkness and their pale, almost transparent, non-fattening flesh is a gastronomic feature of the island.'