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Friday, December 11, 1981 (London - Durham)

3:35 pm Train to Durham, arrived half an hour late in heavy snow. Students met me and drove me to the University. Brian Jennings was there, a mild, affable young man, whose parents were there for the evening's Last Debate, which he handed over to his succesor.

John Arkle, former BBC chief of administration spoke for the Motion "This House believes that Private Lives are the affair of Public Personalities". Auberon Waugh, who arrived half an hour later than I, although he had taken a train one hour earlier, spoke enormously wittily and had the house in fits of laughter, so that when I came to second him at 9:50 pm I had an easy ride.

My speech opened rather like this:

Mr President, Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a shocking memory, and when I returned a few days ago from America all I could remember was that I was due to speak here on some topic this evening.

I was not sure what. My secretary found the letter: Private Lives, Public Personalities, etc. It was when I got to the station this afternon that I realized that I was not sure whether I was a Public personality, proposing the motion, or attacking it. Was I poacher or gamekeeper?

I telephoned him and he set me straight. I thought: Dammit, but I'm a bit of a personality myself, wouldn't like anybody prying into my private life. Then on the train something happened which set my mind at rest and proved beyond peradventure that I am not a public personality at all.

I saw a man sititng in front of me, not a few feet away, doing something in public which I have not seen a man doing in public for twenty years.

He was a reading one of my books.

The War Between the Generals. Now, perhaps to distinguish between War, as in World War II -- that kind of War I abhor -- perhaps I should distinguish from the Honorable co-Opposer of the Moton, Mr Waugh, by referring to him as Mr Woof, in view of his close association with dogs!

Uh, I saw this man reading one of my books, published this year. A library book. Admittedly not many people can afford my books, but I assumed he was coming up to Durham because of the debate, because he got off the train here at Durham.

So as we would no doubt be sharing a Union taxi, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Good evening, I'm David Irving."

The man wheeled round, looked at me blankly and said, "I beg your pardon? Should I know you?" And walked off, clutching my book and discussing my remark animatedly with his wife.

By this time the audience was in fits of laughter, and the rest went well. I continued,

By the time my train reached Doncaster, I had realized why it was important that people's Private Lives should be open to inspection. I am going to offer you a new caveat. We all know the dictum, "Beware the English diplomat who speaks fluent French..!" (Laughter.)

And I suppose Mr Jeremy Thorpe by now has reason to remark Cave Canem, beware of the dog.

I now offer you a new beware: Beware of the Public Personality who has no Private Life. What man is not made more human and likeable by having some blot revealed on his escutcheon.

... Etc

And so I went on, dealing five minutes before the end with Mackenzie King and his thing about clocks and clockhands, and ending on the dot of 10:19 with a warning that I must end now "I must snatch defeat for the Motion from the jaws of victory" because the hands of the wallclock would shortly be in line at 10:20 pm, which observation brought the House down.

WaughWe wiped out the opposition, winning 25 to 55. No doubt Auberon Waugh (right) had the lion's share of the credit. The House had held around 200 people but a lot left in the interval after our speeches before the vote was taken.

Great fun: the first Debate I have won since 1953 or 1954, I think.

Left the students around midnight and was put up in the ice-cold and unheated Bishop's Room in the Castle.

Saturday, December 12, 1981 (Durham - London)

Rose at 7:45 am, breakfast in the University, then caught 8:45 am train to London. Ice delayed seven trains, we were an hour late back into London around 1 pm.

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