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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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George would not be impressed

When the late George Macdonald Fraser began writing his Flashman novels, could he have imagined that his work would be mentioned in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions?

Fraser was born and bred in Carlisle. He is best known for his novels based on the character Harry Flashman, from the Victorian classic Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Flashman drank and womanised his way across the world. A cowardly rogue, he nevertheless emerged from each episode covered in glory.

The character was mentioned in the Commons last week when David Cameron referred to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls as “the muttering idiot opposite me”. The remark sparked uproar, with shouts of “Flashman” from the Opposition benches.

The taunt is a favourite among Labour MPs, who think Mr Cameron is at his weakest during Prime Minister’s Questions when he is visibly riled and angry.

What might Fraser have made of it? He spent his later years on the Isle of Man and died in 2008 at the age of 82. Fellow Carlisle lad Eric Robson worked with the author on a Border Television documentary. He said that Fraser “hated politicians of most complexions. He thought they were self-serving.”

Melvyn Bragg has noted that Fraser “became more and more right wing and worried that the country was going to the dogs but was never offensive about it”.

Whatever his political persuasion, it is difficult to imagine that Fraser would be unhappy at his work living on in Britain’s corridors of power.

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