Diary: A 1945 hit to get the party swinging

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The Independent Online
SEEKING ways to avoid a fifth successive general election defeat, the Labour Party is harking back to its greatest triumph, in the hope of gleaning some tips for the next time round. Armed with a tape recorder, Dan Weinbren, professor of modern history at University College, London, is appealing for Labour Party members with wartime memories to relive the 1945 election, when Clement Attlee won a landslide victory over Winston Churchill (Labour won 393 seats, the Conservatives 213, Liberals 12 and Independents 22).

Initially, he wants to hear from those who lived in areas that make up Southwark in south London, but plans to expand the project nationally next month. 'At the moment, the party has this credit-card, de-energised image, so what I'm trying to do is establish where we have come from in order to see where we might go to in future.'

Michael Foot is one luminary who has already become involved in the project, and others are likely to follow. Dr Weinbren feels a study of the results by the national executive will also pay dividends. It will learn, for example, that voters have long memories. At the last election, a Conservative voter in Bury South told me she had voted Labour in 1945, but had never done so again because Attlee had kept on with food rationing. A party that did something like that in peacetime was not to be trusted, she said.

OF ALL the newspapers that have attacked John Major, the Times has been the most outspoken in wanting him to go. Now Conservative Central Office has exacted revenge on its editor, Peter Stothard, by returning, unanswered, his ticket application to this year's party conference in Blackpool.

However, Central Office insists the reply is not a snub. 'We are returning forms to absolutely anyone who has forgotten to send us their photographs or fill in the details correctly,' a spokesman said. 'If they send them back to us quickly, they will still be admitted. We only ever refuse entrance to those we considered disruptive or undesirable.' Such epithets do not apply to Mr Stothard, of course.

ODD BETS

A colleague who recently opened a 'betting agency' in Larnaca, Cyprus, was surprised at the local eccentricity, illustrated by the following exchange.

Customer: I want to place a bet.

Bookmaker: Fine. Who do you want to place a bet on?

Customer: Well, which is the best horse?

Bookmaker (nonplussed): I can't tell you that. You've got to pick your own horse.

Customer: What do I know about horses? You're the one who knows about racing. You pick me one.

After receiving a number of such visitors, the bookmaker gave in and plucked horses out of a hat, many of whom romped home, to the delight of the punters. Quaint, but I can't see it catching on here.

CHRIS PATTEN is the new Education Secretary. Not a diary scoop, but the considered opinion of yesterday's Daily Express. John Patten, who is unwell, is no doubt convalescing in Hong Kong.

TRICKY TRANSLATIONS

Last week, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to London, Dr Ghazi Algosaibi, warned me against English translations of Arabic poetry, even those penned by himself. I can now tell him that the reverse also applies. Wilfred Thesiger, the elderly gentleman adventurer and subject of a television programme last night, is none too pleased with the recent 'dreadful' Arabic translation of his English book, Arabian Sands. Nor does he approve of his photograph on the book cover facing the wrong way.

AFTER Scot of the South Circular by Henry Lewis, introducing Lewis's Joan of Kent, a musical about one woman's fight against the Channel tunnel railway link, that opened at the King's Head theatre in Islington last night. It tells how the woman started her campaign, a la Maid of Orleans, after hearing voices. It's not quite the same as Joan of Arc's story, however. This maid heard her voices in the car park of her local Asda.

A DAY LIKE THIS

10 August 1902 Julia Cartwright describes in her journal the coronation of Edward VII: 'The police let us walk down the procession route to Whitehall Gardens, where we climbed up to our seats. We had a splendid sight of the Abbey route and saw all the grand carriages rolling up. We saw one peer riding a motor in his robes, holding his coronet in his hand. But the most exciting thing was the soldiers. Khakis and Rhodesians and tall West Africans, and one troop in white turbans and long robes. Just under us were the dear Sikhs with their handsome faces and black brushed-up hair and fine-looking Indian bodyguards and Bengal Lancers and Punjab Infantry. The King looked a picture of happiness, very stately in his gold crown and imperial purple, as little Ciss said, the image of Henry VIII] The velvet hangings of the Canadian Arch were drawn back and a hundred cameras and Kodaks and whizzing cinematographs were set going.'

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