POLITICAL sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts, who lives in How Caple, will be signing copies of his first book, 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain, in local bookshops over the next two weeks.

For a man renowned for his forthright views about people in the public eye, it comes as a surprise to learn that identifying 50 people responsible for the degradation of life in Britain and 22 who are bubblin’ under as perpetrators of further damage was close to the limit – “I could have done about 55, but no more than that” – though he admits that a couple got away.

“I failed to find the culprit responsible for the introduction of no win, no fee litigation which has led to the ‘ambulance chasing’ culture.” He had no success either in pinpointing a single person to whom the rise of political correctness could be attributed.

“Pierre Trudeau is the closest to a culprit,” says Quentin. “The Canadian government was responsible for lots of political correctness in government dealings.” He would also have liked to unmask the person who introduced in-carriage announcements on trains, but the guilty party also proved elusive.

Those that are included will doubtless raise some eyebrows and more than a few hackles, with the late Diana, Princess of Wales and the housewives’ favourite, Alan Titchmarsh, on his list.

Diana was ‘a liability, a souffle of false ideas. She was the glamorous tool of cleverer men ... a delusion worshipped only by the impressionable.”

Titchmarsh, meanwhile, is singled out for being “middle-road mediocrity made flesh. He is comfy, bland and he has left television gardening uninformative and babyish.”

The hit list is all-embracing, with politicians rubbing shoulders with press magnates and TV personalities joined by Topsy and Tim, and, if you don’t agree with Letts’s choices, the publishers have kindly provided a couple of pages at the back of the book for you to make a note of your own villains.

Having cited Stephen Marks, of French Connection clothing, for “having cheapened public discourse” with the notorious advertising campaign which led children to presume “that it must be all right to be suggestive and brassy and foul-mouthed”, Quentin is aware that the title of his book leaves him open to similar criticism. “We wanted to use asterisks, but booksellers’ systems couldn’t handle them” he says in his defence.

It does come as something of a relief, though, to learn that Quentin doesn’t believe the country is irretrievably buggered.

“We’re at about five minutes to midnight,” he calculates, before singling out at least two people he believes are putting the brakes on the decline: Trevor Phillips, head of the commission for equalities and human rights – “it’s taken someone like him to be brave and say we’ve gone too far” – and Richard Ingrams, former editor of Private Eye.

“Private Eye is one of the great restorative instruments, a brilliant device to hold up a finger and say ‘that’s not on’. When you think how few writs they receive, it’s absolutely horrifying.”

Quentin Letts will be signing copies of 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain in Ledbury Books and Maps on Saturday, October 25, at 11am and at Ross Books on Saturday, November 1, also at 11am