Vitriol is right-wing, too

Andrew Marr is absolutely correct about the nasty, vindictive and destructive behaviour of many on Labour's left ("Fear and loathing on the left", 8 January). Alas, it is a simplistic analysis of the endemic behaviour of all who are drawn towards the centre of political power and gravity.

There may be some truth in his conclusion that the reason, on the left, is that "Labour has spent too long in opposition". But that is a salad dressing explanation. The right, to be sure, has had much more experience in the art of sophisticated hatred. They are much more adept at it.

I vividly recall Tory cabinet ministers under Eden, Macmillan, Heath and, most of all, Margaret Thatcher, whispering hatreds into my ear about their political mates. But they always contrived to do this with a certain wicked elegance - no doubt noting they were talking to a Daily Mirror journalist!

Nor were their malicious barbs "mostly about policy", as Marr suggests. Hell, no; they were almost always to do with personal venom. I would not, in this respectable journal, begin to quote what some of them told me about " that bitch Thatcher".

Geoffrey Goodman
London NW7

Andrew Marr is wrong to state that the target of Ernest Bevin's retort to the remark that "x" was his own worst enemy - "not while I'm alive, he ain't" - was Herbert Morrison. In fact it was Aneurin Bevan. See Alan Bullock's Ernest Bevin: foreign secretary 1945-51 (Heinemann, 1983).

As the co-author of Morrison's biography I never found any authoritative source for his being the butt of Bevin's quip. If anyone can find an authoritative source to support Marr, and also to sustain the other often-repeated assertion that Morrison stated "We'll build the Tories out of London", I'll treat them to lunch at LSE.

G W Jones, Professor of Government, LSE
London WC2

This article first appeared in the 15 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, A slight and delicate minister?