And the ones who got away

July 23, 2004

Laurie Taylor gets a peek at the minds Prospect turned down and finds out why.

It was not an easy matter for Prospect to compile its list of Britain's top 100 public intellectuals. Extensive consultations had to take place with many of the regular contributors to the magazine and then the total of more than 400 suggested names had to be whittled down to the final lucky 100.

This complex process also had to be kept secret in case any of the unlucky contenders learnt about the reasons for their exclusion. We have, however, been fortunate enough to obtain some of the names of those who were deemed unworthy as well as the records of the deliberations that led to their exclusion.

Below are extracts from this material, printed in the belief that it will do something to temper the understandable complacency of those who made it onto the list as well as provide some solace to those who were discarded:

Jeff Slob
(Professional Political Agitator)
Although the Prospect selection committee was impressed by the verve that Slob had displayed over the years in his "street-wise radical polemics", it was felt after some consideration that he had to be excluded from the final list by virtue of his inability to satisfy the "Party At My House" rule.

This rule specifies that no one can be on the final list unless it is possible to envisage them being satisfactorily introduced to someone who is already on the list. So while the following examples clearly satisfy the rule:

"Ah, Melanie Phillips. Have you met Roger Scruton?"

"Martin Amis. You're very welcome. Do you know Tom Stoppard, Salman Rushdie and Germaine Greer?"; the same can hardly be said for: "Ah, Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, can I introduce Jeff Slob."

Doctor Pangloss
There was a general recognition that Pangloss had made important public contributions to metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology. But it was felt after extended debate that his determinedly optimistic view of human affairs sat uneasily alongside the general mood of social and cultural dissatisfaction exuded by most of the other intellectuals selected for the final list. (The committee was, however, at pains to point out that it excluded such generally satisfied final-list members as Melvyn Bragg and Gordon Brown from this generalisation).

Another Woman
The selection committee spent a short period considering the claims of Another Woman for the final list. But after the chairman pointed out that the list already contained as many as 12 women's names, it was decided that the addition of Another Woman might create the misleading impression that women constituted more than 12 per cent of the nation's public intellectuals.

David Goodhart
(Editor, Prospect )
There was very strong support for Goodhart's candidature from those members of the committee who'd already allowed their own names to go forward for inclusion in the final list. (Melvyn Bragg, David Cannadine, Timothy Garton Ash, Charles Grant, David Green, Will Hutton, David Marquand, Geoff Mulgan and Robert Skidelsky). But after a lengthy and at times heated debate, it was reluctantly agreed that Goodhart be left off the final list because of his editorial readiness to boost the sales of the "most intelligent magazine in Britain" by recourse to the cheapjack device of filling four pages with yet another absurd list.

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