LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
Reader suggestion of the week comes from John Ormerod of Bury St Edmunds who complains about the phrase "Anthony (now Lord) Barber" and switches between Lord and Roy Jenkins. He writes: "Could you consider becoming the first newspaper to drop titles altogether? (I believe the New Scientist has done so). Do away with Lords, Ladies, Misters, Mrs and Misses, doctors, professors and all, using them only when needed for identification. Strike a blow for equality!"

It is an intriguing idea. What, I wonder, do readers think? Would you resent a missing piece of information - for instance that X was a peer, or Y an archbishop - or would you prefer the newspaper to be a democratically flattened meeting place, at least as far as titles, honorifics and other handles go? Most views welcome - though perhaps, on this occasion, it would be fair if members of the Royal Family and Highland clan leaders refrained from taking part.

The most interesting party of the week turns out to be Tribune's 60th birthday bash at Brown's restaurant in London. New Labour, sleek and brimming with confidence, rubs padded shoulders with dishevelled veterans from the Campaign for Real Socialism, florid trade unionists and the flotsam of radical hackery. Surging Labour optimism about their chances in the election and, not far behind that in importance, a free bar, help ensure general bonhomie.

But tension is just below the surface. For instance, a discussion among hard-edged and earnest Blairites about the need for radical changes to pensions, not so different from Peter Lilley's proposals, is broken short by a characteristic display of operatic from Barbara Castle. She and Michael Foot are the "Gog and Magog of Old Labour". Some elements of the party, she warns, have been trying to exorcise the two of them for years. "They will not succeed," roars the Red and profoundly octogenarian Baroness.

And Lilley's proposals on pensions? If the Labour movement doesn't scupper this kind of thing "It - is - DEAD!" Just as youthful Blairites grimace and wince at one another, Castle offers a double-edged but generous tribute to Blair himself - she is deeply impressed by his (short pause) presentational skills, though she also admires his readiness to "fight the buggers on their own territory." New Labour exhales with relief and prepares for a burst of only slightly patronising applause. But then Castle concludes that the role of Tribune under a new government is more important than ever ... "It is to make sure they KILL THE RIGHT PEOPLE." We often use the phrase "nervous laughter". Now I know what it sounds like.

On Thursday evening, we endure the cheerful abuse of allegedly fraternal colleagues at the British Press Awards annual journalistic beano in London. Deeply unfair, bug-eyed, rotten damn judges, affected, no doubt, by too many years on the fortified British sherry produce a situation which has developed - as Emperor Hirohito would have put it - not entirely to our advantage. (Oh, all right then, Independent - nul points.) A boyish wine waiter is particularly abusive. Later I discover that the youthful hotel functionary is in fact Piers Morgan, editor of the Mirror. Our table agrees that The Guardian's award for the Neil Hamilton affair is well-deserved, then spends much of the rest of the evening thinking up Not the Press Awards - biggest newspaper lie of the year, most catastrophic redesign, most pompous columnist, and so on. We are much cheered up by this useful thought. Would anyone sponsor these awards? On the other hand ... what if we won any?

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