Leading article: The Case of the Literary Snobs

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The Independent Online

Hark! Is that the sound of a dog not barking? A watchdog, in this case, called English Heritage. It did not bark, or bare its teeth. It just dribbled. It failed to support an application to upgrade the listing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's house in Surrey. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, it drivelled, "cannot be said to be an author of the standing of... Charles Dickens or Jane Austen".

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has a hinterland as wide as her smile, meekly accepted English Heritage's literary judgement. She did not say, "I'll give you Austen but Dickens's serials were the EastEnders of his day, while people still read Conan Doyle for pleasure rather than because they feel they should." She did not notice that Tennyson's grandmother's house has a higher level of protection, Grade II*, than Conan Doyle's. Or ask who reads Tennyson these days, let alone his grandmother.

What are ministers for, but to disagree with the quangos and committees of the great and the good that produce recommendations based on conventional wisdom?

As Holmes said to his good friend, it is "a long shot, Watson, a very long shot!". But we look to you, Ms Jowell, to solve this Case of the Literary Snobs. Woof, woof!