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25 May 2007

Three things in no particular order

Harry Palmer, Orlo Porter, Bertie Wodehouse and the REDS...

By Ben Davies

You may remember a week or two back I mentioned that Harry Palmer was a New Statesman reader and concluded Len Deighton introduced the idea to convey – in that slightly clunky way of his – that the fictional spy was a sophisticate.

I’m not entirely sure that’s true now. In Chapter 5 of The Ipcress File, Palmer goes to London Airport and ahead of boarding a plane buys another copy of the NS. But he also buys the communist Daily Worker and History Today. Given that the book was set in those paranoid Cold War days, are we supposed to think HP is some sort of RED?

Well anyway the reason I return to the topic is someone came into the office today and said: “Guess what, I was reading a PG Wodehouse and the NS got a mention in that.”

Aunts Aren’t Gentleman features a character called Orlo Porter, an old college acquaintence of Bertie Wooster, who had a reputation for making far-to-the-left speeches at the Oxford Union.

In fact, Wooster re-meets this dubious character just after he socked a police officer in the middle of a demonstration.

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Not that Orlo Porter’s politics are anything more than skin deep. It’s driven by his impecuniousness and he confesses if he could get a decent enough allowance – we’re talking champagne and Rolls Royces – he would probably give the revolutionary stuff a miss.

Later, it turns out that Porter – a bird watcher and an insurance salesman – has contributed articles to the New Statesman. Bertie rejoins that he too has been published, penning a piece on ‘what the well dressed man about town is wearing’ his for Aunt Dahlia’s publication Milady’s Boudoir.

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Talking of reds, there was a brief moment when the Communist flag fluttered on the home page of this week. Before you get exercised, this wasn’t a marked change in editorial line but rather a picture on an article by Ted Vallance, a Liverpool academic who is an expert on early modern history.

He did us a piece up on the annual Levellers gathering in Burford, Oxfordshire. He is also writing a book on the subject of English radicals. Have a look and you’ll understand the communist connection!

The CPS’s Ruth Lea meanwhile took part in an online debate with the Lib Dem’s Lynne Featherstone on the issue of global warming. Lea pondered whether the left have latched on to climate change as a new stick with which to beat the capitalist system – this in the wake of the collapse of communism. There are some quite interesting responses on her article…

Then Sir Menzies Campbell wrote a piece outlining his opposition to a bid by (some) Labour and Tory MPs to exempt themselves from enquiries under Freedom of Information laws.

Plus we had a report from a social with the men and women who would be Labour’s deputy leader written by Tom Marchbanks.

We’ve also had a number of articles on the Irish Elections. It’s been a fascinating contest but you’d scarcely know it from the media coverage over here!

Three things in no particular order plus eleven more, in case you were counting.