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Ian Fleming called for park-and-ride schemes and electric cars in 1959

20-Sep-2008 • Literary

Ian Fleming created fiction’s most famous car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the most glamorous driver in James Bond, who drove “hard and well with an almost sensual pleasure” - reports The Times.

A newly unearthed manuscript, however, shows an unexpected side to his obsession with motoring. Long before environmental concerns became fashionable Fleming feared the consequences of traffic and called for park-and-ride schemes and a wholesale conversion to electric motors.

The article, entitled If I Were Prime Minister, was written for The Spectator in 1959. It also includes a suggestion to turn the Isle of Wight into a louche theme park with casinos and the most luxurious brothels in the world.

Jeremy Irons is expected to read from it and other previously unheard examples of Fleming’s writings, in an all-star charity gala at the London Palladium next month to mark the centenary of Fleming’s birth. It will be the penultimate event in a year of commemoration that began with the Imperial War Museum’s exhibition For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, brought the publication of Sebastian Faulks’s bestselling Bond novel Devil May Care and will end on October 29 with the world premiere of the Bond film Quantum of Solace.

Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Faulks, Rosamund Pike Patrick Stewart, Rory Kinnear, Harriet Walter and Charlie Higson are among the other actors and authors with a connection to Bond who will help to bring Fleming’s characters to life in aid of the British Heart Foundation on October 5.

A 60-piece orchestra will accompany singers including Beverley Knight, Lemar and David Gilmour as they interpret songs from the Bond films and, in Gilmour’s case, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soundtrack.

Fleming’s niece, Kate Grimond, found the manuscript for If I Were Prime Minister when searching for material for a volume of little-known or unpublished writing by Fleming, which will be published next month by Queen Anne Press as Talk of the Devil.

The slightly tongue-in-cheek article is interesting for the glimpse it gives of Fleming’s personal outlook, according to James Taylor, the curator of the Imperial War Museum exhibition.

“He didn’t put himself about and he was rather embarrassed by what we now call celebrity. Although he was still a journalist, Bond was his real mouthpiece: a Victorian clubland hero projected into the modern world.

“This article echoes everything we know about Fleming. On the one hand he’s very traditional; on the other he is incredibly modern in his views, particularly in his attitude to sex.”

So although Fleming proposes to “greatly reinforce the Orders of Chivalry”, and challenges lords, barons and earls to set a proper example to the “work-shy Have Nots” enfeebled by the welfare state, his cures are unconventional.

As well as creating a “minister of leisure” who would oversee “a complete reform of our sex and gambling laws” he suggests a regime of low taxation, “enthusiastic encouragement of emigration” and “benevolent Stakhannovism” – bonus schemes in factories to encourage a greater national work ethic.

Then he sets about tackling the “noise, carbon monoxide gas and exasperation caused by the traffic problem in our big towns”. The petrol-driven internal combustion engine is a “ridiculous steam-age contraption” that produces fumes that “we breathe day and night” before forming a harmful envelope around the world, he writes.

In his hypothetical first term Fleming promises to convert the whole of Central London to electric transport. “Very cheap, state owned garages would be built at the point of entry into London of our main roads and drivers would there transfer into electric buses or the Underground and later into cheap, state-run electric taxis.”

Bond had come to Fleming late in life, finally providing the hard-drinking, chain-smoking journalist with the sense of purpose that eluded him either side of the Second World War. Casino Royale, the secret agent’s first adventure, was published in 1953, with immediate critical and commercial success.

By the time he laid out his manifesto for the country in If I Were Prime Minister he had written a further six books. Fleming in 1959 was therefore a well-known figure although the global fame that would come with President Kennedy’s endorsement of From Russia with Love and the film of Dr No was still three years away. A Tribute to Ian Fleming: London Palladium, Oct 5, tickets from £25.


— To treat voters as grown-ups and “try to stop people being ashamed of themselves”

— To stamp out expense accounts and “other forms of fiscal chicanery”

— To turn the Isle of Wight “into one vast pleasure ground . . . where the frustrated citizen of every class could give full rein to those basic instincts for sex and gambling which have been crushed through the ages”

— To replace the motor car with electric cars and institute park-and-ride schemes in cities: “There would be quiet, no smell and no parking problems”

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