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According to this article, more than half of places visited by Nikita Khrushchev in the UK were "silly":

When Nikita Khrushchev visited Britain, Muggeridge made up a list of the silliest places the Soviet leader could visit. At least half the places on the list were in Khrushchev's actual itinerary.

I managed to find the list of places visited by Khrushchev, but I could not find the list created by Malcolm Muggeridge to compute the intersection.

Question: What "silly places" (according to Muggeridge) did Nikita Khrushchev go to during his visit in United Kingdom?

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    Interesting question! Greenwich and a speech to the Admiralty comes out quite fast, but in his memoirs he doesn't really cover the other places, except for Eden pleading that he'd go to Scotland.
    – gktscrk
    Jul 4, 2020 at 6:18
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    You might find Muggeridge's list in one of the 1956 editions of Punch as he was the editor at the time. Copies up to 1922 are freely available but for later dates it seems you have to pay. Jul 4, 2020 at 12:35
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    He probably went to Marx's grave in Highgate cemetery like all Soviet leaders did, I don't know why that would be "silly" though.
    – Ne Mo
    Jul 4, 2020 at 17:47
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    @NeMo - the article suggests that half of the total visited places were included in the "silly list" and I guess that Marx's grave in Highgate cemetery is not included in that list.
    – Alexei
    Jul 4, 2020 at 17:57
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    Thanks for the rep :) interesting question!
    – CDJB
    Dec 20, 2022 at 7:26

2 Answers 2

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Muggeridge's itinerary was printed in the 6033rd issue of Punch magazine on April 18th, 1956. This issue, and the itinerary, can be viewed on archive.org.

The overlap of the two itineraries appears to be as follows.

Wednesday, April 18th

Muggeridge suggested that after arriving at Westminster Pier, being received by members of the Royal Family, the two would drive to Parliament and take tea on the terrace before dining with Harry Pollitt, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In reality, the delegation undertook a sightseeing tour of London (presumably including Parliament), and then dined at Claridge's Hotel (presumably not with Mr. H. Pollitt). Claridge's is mentioned later on by Muggeridge, in the entry for the 26th. The delegation dined again at Claridge's, not with Pollitt, but with the Soviet Ambassador, on the Tuesday.

Thursday, April 19th

Muggeridge has the delegation 'graciously dining at Buckingham Palace'. In reality, the delegation attended Buckingham Palace to 'sign the book'.

Wednesday, April 25th

Punch states that the delegation will have lunch at the House of Lords. In reality, the delegation dined in the House of Commons with the Labour Party on the Monday. Furthermore, Muggeridge suggests that the delegation will drive to Windsor, where the two would be invested as Honorary Constables of the Castle. In fact, the two had an audience with The Queen at Windsor on the Sunday.

Friday, April 27th

Muggeridge states that the delegation will tour the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell. This tour did in fact take place, on the Saturday. Muggeridge also lists 'Lunch privately at the Russian Embassy'. This visit also took place - the delegation took lunch at the Soviet Embassy on Thursday, April 19th. Rather than a visit to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, the delegation flew to RAF Marham for an air display.

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As a follow-up to CDJB's answer, some context on the origin of the so-called "Muggeridge's law". The anecdote of Muggeridge's satirical list being the same as the actual list appears to originate from an article by Tom Wolfe in Harper's Magazine from November 1989, discussing the background to Bonfire of the Vanities. In Wolfe's account half Muggeridge's satirical suggestions were deleted before publication, when it was realised they appeared in the genuine itinerary. That's slightly different from the more recent version mentioned in Conservapedia linked to by the OP. However, as CDJB notes, there are significant parallels between the Punch itinerary and the genuine one.

The law, attributed to Muggeridge, but written in Wolfe's words is as follows:

We live in an age in which it is no longer possible to be funny. There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known.

The "law" seems to be gaining legs now in conservative circles as a statement about political correctness (as Conservapedia claims), but it should be noted no such concept existed at the time of Muggeridge's piece. While Muggeridge was of a conservative and anti-communist perspective by the 50s, the "law" could apply equally to absurdity arising from any bureaucratic pomposity. There's nothing remotely "PC" about an audience with the queen by a visiting head of state, nor a visit to Farnborough Air Show.

One can criticise the real itinerary as dull and mundane diversions for two people Muggeridge despised, but they're not "PC". And what else was the government supposed to do with them? It was also just months after Kruschev had publicly destroyed Stalin's reputation and begun the temporary "thaw" of relations with the west. It's therefore not easy to spot what Muggeridge's problem was, other than that he was a man already somewhat out of his time.

Ultimately the facts of the event say more about Muggeridge's brand of "satire" than anything else. Muggeridge seemed to find the fact of Kruschev's visit to the UK at all to be the absurd, informed by his profound anti-communism, and his satirical itinerary therefore simply appears not to be very funny, full stop ... to my 2020s eyes, at least. Kruschev's visit is a long established moment in history when the Cold War briefly warmed. Why wouldn't he have been welcomed?

While known for satirical writing, Muggeridge was increasingly not a particularly funny person. I don't mean by saying that to denigrate his output as "unfunny", I mean he was perceived as a highly serious public intellectual, and not in the business of comedy. His later life was characterized by criticism of the non-religious, anti-religious and the sexually "permissive" (to use his vocabulary) society. His conversion to Christianity and opposition to the contraceptive pill and cannabis came to dominate his commentary, and was entirely unhumorous.

As a result, his most renowned moment today is his part in a television interview with Michael Palin and John Cleese where he denounced "The Life of Brian" as blasphemous, and called the film "buffoonery", "tenth-rate", "this miserable little film" and "this little squalid number".

Whatever one may think of "Life of Brian", it is certainly not "politically correct", and it was Muggeridge who objected to the use of language and themes he found offensive and objectionable to his beliefs and background, not Monty Python. He was the one stomping on free expression with the tacit threat of the still extant and actively enforced British blasphemy laws (used within the previous two years to convict Gay News) being used to silence satirical humour.

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