Non-PC, but Simple fun to read

THERE can be no more acerbic or reactionary observer of the political scene than Michael Wharton, the octogenarian author of the ultra conservative Peter Simple column.

THERE can be no more acerbic or reactionary observer of the political scene than Michael Wharton, the octogenarian author of the ultra conservative Peter Simple column.

Wharton is politically incorrect big time. Who else in Britain would dare to recount the goings-on of Marylou Ogreburg, the doyenne of the Bread and Marmite People's Multiracial Street Dance Theatre? or to predict that the Rev. Mantissa Shout, live-in partner of Dr Ed Spacely-Trellis, go-ahead Bishop of Stretchford, is odds-on to become the Church of England's first woman bishop; or call for all subsidies to the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission to be withdrawn and all European treaties to be denounced.

My favourite among his many creations is the 500-bed St Bogwena's General Hospital in Nerdley, a "microcosm of the virtues and defects of the NHS" which admits patients only if they are obviously due for a very short stay. Not only does St Bogwena's possess an anti-racist squad and an anti-sexist squad, there is a crack anti-smoking squad commanded by Sister Grimgerda Craggs. A former military policewoman who was discharged for excessive zeal, she spares nobody from the humblest "terminal" pensioner to the loftiest consultant in her never-ending search for illicit cigarettes.

Peter Simple's Domain (New European Publications, £12.99) covers the Wharton-Simple columns from 1999 to 2002 originally to be found in the Daily Telegraph. His obituary of Ardleigh resident Mary Whitehouse is typical of his railing against libertarianism. While admitting that Mrs Whitehouse was "often naive and aiming at the wrong targets," Wharton believes that the mass of "left-wing thinkers – some of the most bigoted and unpersuadable people in England – "mercilessly ridiculed and venomously hated this well-meaning woman."

Also published by New European is Politics of the Forked Tongue (£13.95) by Aidan Rankin, who argues Peter Simple-style that political correctness is a form of liberal fundamentalism. In particular, he believes banner waving agitators for `identity' groups achieve the very opposite of their aim of a settled, harmonious society.

n THE British National Party, which won a council by-election in West Yorkshire last week, giving the party its 17th local councillor in England, thrives on publicity. Every time a newspaper gives it front page banner headlines proclaiming it "nasty, extremist and racist," the more the BNP is pleased – it would cost thousands of pounds to buy equivalent advertising space. In a democracy, all parties should be heard and opposed, but let's all relegate the stories to the bottom of column eight on page 16.

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n IPSWICH welcomes 25,000 international soccer fans tomorrow for the televised England-Croatia international. Council chief executive Jim Hehir and the borough's public relations officer Max Stocker have used the occasion imaginatively to promote the town far and wide – perhaps one day city status might yet be achieved.

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