The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Politics: a correction

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MY OLD quaffing partner and fellow Sabbath scrivener Miss (Msss]) Mary Kenny has performed a most useful service in raising the alarm in another Sunday newspaper that 'musicals like Annie Get Your Gun will almost certainly be banned in a few years' time', which she blames on the current plague of - dread phrase - 'political correctness'.

How very right that lovely member of the fairer sex most certainly is] Barely a day goes by without the forward march of the sullen battalions of the Politically Correct, ordering us first to call manholes 'Personholes' and then to retitle dwarves - yes] - 'vertically challenged'] Many is the convivial dinner party I have enlivened in recent months by humorous dispatches from the front of political correctness. No longer are we to employ the terms 'shirkers', 'scroungers' or 'layabouts': henceforward they must be termed 'the unemployed']

Similarly, the highly affectionate term 'bloody nig-nog' (in my day a term of the most tremendous endearment) is now firmly out, to be replaced by 'people of Afro-Caribbean origins'. Personally, all my - how shall I put it? - 'not quite top drawer' friends and staff infinitely prefer to be referred to with great love and respect as 'The Great Unwashed' rather than finding themselves degraded by such a euphemism as 'workers'.

Why can we not call a spade a spade? I first raised this point a few years ago when working with fellow clear-thinking intellectuals at the Centre for Policy Studies on proposals for the Community Charge. This, you will remember, was a perfectly reasonable charge which was later to encounter a small measure of opposition from politically motivated Hampstead-based pressure groups. These were minority forces of opposition who, for purely party political reasons, wished to bring down the Government at the next election.

Not for them the far-sighted sweep of radical Tory ideas, brushing out the cobwebs of old practices with rigorous intellectual reform, so as to modernise this country for the 21st century. No: these embittered polytechnic lecturers, many of them living on taxpayers' money, many of them card-carrying members of the Labour Party, wished to alter forever the very fabric of the Great Britain we know and love.

For purely ideological reasons, they chose wholly irresponsibly to attack a democratically elected government and its salaried employees, and all in the name of - pure PC at work here, methinks] - 'the mass of ordinary decent working people'.

'Is it not time,' I remember saying to our Conservative think- tank, 'that we considered teaching good manners to those who would make political capital from our little local difficulty? The Community Charge is an on- going and innovative reform which the so-called 'politically correct' movement must not be allowed to travesty as 'the poll tax' or any other such nonsense. Those who would destroy our fine old English language for their own ends, abolishing all shades of meaning in pursuit of 'political correctness' must be - ahem - denied the oxygen of publicity.'

Though the Community Charge had a very firm measure of support throughout the country, we as a party decided that pragmatic reform of some aspects of it would be in the long-term interests of the nation as a whole, bearing in mind the international situation. Thus the forces of political correctness were routed, if only temporarily.

Now that the Government, led by the modest, unassuming and admirably 'classless' Mr John Major, is experiencing a small downturn in fortune, it is up to all of us, whether rich or less well- off, whether in full employment or temporarily disadvantaged, to stand up to the onslaughts of the Politically Correct. Let us not allow the mealy-mouthed euphemisms of the Hard Left to betray our love of plain speech and practical solutions. Let us never, for instance, be tempted to throw money at the problems of the less well-off. And let us never cease to offer the fullest resources of government to the pursuit of an enterprise culture. Truth, methinks, is a rare commodity.