Letter: Old maids have sting in tail

Sir: References to the Prime Minister's supposed "warm beer and cycling old maids" vision of Britain are proliferating. Before they get completely out of hand it might be as well to recall what George Orwell actually wrote in "The Lion and the Unicorn", from which the original was taken.

In this extended essay, published at a time of national crisis in 1941, Orwell notes how different Britain appears when one returns from abroad, including the fact that the beer is bitterer (not warmer!). He goes on:

And the diversity of it all, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pintables in the Soho pubs, the old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning - all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene.

Later in the essay appears the famous simile that Britain is like "a family with the wrong members in control". Indeed, the essay adds up to a sustained argument for a democratic English socialist revolution: not a particularly congenial message for those of more conservative views.

STEPHEN POLLARD

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

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