An Orwellian misrepresentation

October 27, 1994

My collection of essays and journalism, Frustrate Their Knavish Tricks: Writings on Biography, History and Politics, seems to have upset the Tory ex-MP Sir Robert Rhodes James badly (THES, October 15). Even Steve Bell's hilarious cover -- showing a diabolic Lady Thatcher excreting Tory politicians into a pit of darkness -- rouses his ire. But that does not excuse an almost Orwellian misrepresention of the text.

It is untrue to state that in July 1993 I was "convinced that John Major was finished". On the contrary, unlike many people I was convinced of his durability.

And it is breathtakingly false to say that I missed "the entire point" of the Kurt Waldheim episode, namely (as he puts it) "that Waldheim consistently lied about his war record, and had made the classic Austrian excuse of being a victim of Nazism rather than one of its most enthusiastic exponents".

Miss it! This was something I stressed, underlined, and repeated.

"There is not just the need for a bloodstained nation to proclaim the moral distance it wishes to keep between its modern identity and its past," I wrote. "There is also the matter of the cover-up. You are not guilty just because you know about something, Waldheim told a British television interviewer . . . Perhaps. But, even if knowledge of murder was the only accusation, no country can preserve its self-respect and retain in office a president whose publicly distributed curriculum vitae has been shown up as a tissue of lies."

It is inexplicable that Sir Robert should have overlooked this paragraph. He suggests that I am guilty of political bias. I would suggest a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

BEN PIMLOTT Milner Place London N1

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