Brexit, Cameron and Ivor Claire

Dominic Green, who recently wrote an essay about Waugh’s military career (see previous post), has now written a report about the march of 700,000 people in London last weekend demanding a “People’s Vote” on Brexit. The story appears in the right-wing Weekly Standard, so it should be no surprise that it supports Brexit. But Green does concede that the original procedure for making the decision was flawed:

When David Cameron decided to pose the most important political question since 1945, he should have made it the central issue of a general election. That would have framed Brexit in a national framework, and it would have given the election’s outcome the force of law. But Cameron’s mistake was one element of a larger misjudgment. He expected that “Remain” would win, and thought a referendum would be a good way of permanently shutting up the Euroskeptics in the Conservative party. When “Leave” won. Cameron jumped ship in the worst display of public fecklessness from a man of upper-class background since the cowardice of Ivor Claire, the spineless soldier who abandons his troops in Evelyn Waugh’s Officers and Gentlemen. […]

How Cameron might have engineered a decisive vote on the issue in a general election when his own party was hopelessly split and the Labour party leadership were at best luke warm Remainers is not explained. Just as the Conservative Party’s inability to govern after the referendum was probably foreseen by Cameron, Ivor Claire saw equally clearly that to become a prisoner of the Germans was pointless. So no wonder they both did a bunk.

Dominic Green has also interviewed novelist and critic David Pryce-Jones in a recent  Spectator podcast. Most of the interview is devoted to history and politics as experienced by Pryce-Jones and recently described in his memoir Fault Lines. Evelyn Waugh is mentioned briefly when Pryce-Jones recounts an aborted visit to Combe Florey at the time both  he and Teresa Waugh were Oxford undergraduates. Arriving in Pryce-Jones’ small car, they were waved away by Waugh standing in his window. Teresa thought embarking on a weekend visit with her father in that state of mind would not be much fun, so they drove straight back to Oxford.

Waugh surfaces later in the 42-minute interview about half way through when Green turns the discussion to literature. Noting that in the mid 20th century, when Pryce-Jones came of age, the major British writers were George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh and Cyrill Connolly who were the masters of the essay, the novel and criticism, respectively. Green asks to what extent Pryce-Jones may have known each of them. Pryce-Jones answered that he never met Orwell but learned of him when he read a proof copy of 1984 sent to his father, Alan Pryce-Jones, who was then editor of the TLS. He had met Cyril Connolly during the war when his family were bombed out of their London residence and moved out to the Sumerhill estate of Henry d’Avigdor Goldsmid, where Connolly also was a frequent guest. Connolly was, according to Pryce-Jones, delightful company. The interview then, alas, switched back to politics and history before Pryce-Jones got to talk about his acquaintance (or lack thereof) with Waugh. If they had stayed on script, we might have learned how Pryce-Jones came to edit the ever-useful and entertaining 1973 collection of memoirs entitled Evelyn Waugh and his World and why Waugh so disliked his father.

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