December 11, 1981 (London -
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
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
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
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
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..!"
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.
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.
wiped out the opposition, winning 25 to
55. No doubt Auberon Waugh
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.
December 12, 1981 (Durham -
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