My Dear Dessie,
It was very good to see you on the first Friday of the month here at the Palace of Varieties, even if you had been well and truly buggered around. Of course the Whips got into a panic about that Lib Dem’s Private Members’ Bill and cancelled all leave with absentees hauled back from here to Barbados. I knew you would never make it flying steerage from Addis Abba via Timbuktu. But at least we had a snifter in my office before you left on Whizz Air to Azerbaijan – God it’s a life of excitement for you ministers at the old department of Overseas Development.
You missed the monthly Parliamentary Meeting which resembles more and more an Afghan Jirga without the revenge killings. The PM in shirt sleeves doing his “we are all blood brothers together”, young Grant Shapps who fronts the Chancellor as Party Chairman and of course “the Jolly Swagman” (aka Lynton Crosby).
The latter kicked off events with a complex presentation based on opinion polls and with the immortal words “Given the evidence I’ve seen, cobbers, you’re all screwed”. There was a moment of silence before all hell was let lose with the junior members weeping and wailing whilst veterans like Redwood and Chope curled their lips. At that point the Jolly Swagman laughed and said “Got you there, possums”. I suppose that counts for antipodean humour! Anyway he produced complicated slides with the theme “KBO” – or “Keep Buggering On” which I think was Winston’s slogan during the War?
Young Shapps then told us that we would soon be receiving a pack of briefs from the Party Bunker with questionnaires on how many leaflets we’d delivered this week, tweets or is it twats per hour, and a new loyalty agreement we had to sign. You can well imagine how that went down with all the other ranks.
M.Gove who is now well into his role as Chief Whip quoted Kipling’s “If” and said his counsellors – I realise that’s the new name for the Whips – would be interviewing all of us about our satisfaction ratings. Ye Gods, I hear you say and rightly so. It seems that Duncan Smith who runs the nation’s labour exchanges has come up with this wheeze to ask the unemployed which has been adapted for us – we can potentially fall into one of four categories – determined, bewildered, despondent or ecstatic. As I said to Soames, looking around the room, many colleagues were capable of displaying all four symptoms at the same time.
Of course we all received our marching orders for the two immediate political challenges – Scotland and Clacton. Mustn’t upset the Jocks so nobody with an English accent to be deployed – which lets off young Rees-Mogg who is easily mistaken by the vulgar as being a friend of Bertie Wooster and a member of the Drones Club. Clacton is a different kettle of fish and I have been there on a coach trip organised by the Whips. All very jolly with crates of ale and a sing-song led by Theresa May. I like Clacton with its cheery folk who are the salt of the earth. We bumped into a UKIP canvassing team – rum-looking lot who reminded me of Mormons on the Alleluia trail!
As you can imagine the erratic polls from Scotland have caused some angst here not least amongst Scottish Labour MPs who are nearly all called Jimmy. The usual doom and gloom wallahs on our side are infecting the local water holes with their fears and feeding those few reptiles who haven’t decamped north of the border. I reminded them of the late Rear Admiral Morgan Giles (MP Winchester) whose advise to the 1922 during one of the frequent bouts of panic in the 1980s was “Pro bono publico, no bloody panico!”
God knows Dessie, I have done my best to steady the ship and I bear in mind my dear wife’s family ancestry on both sides of the border. As you will recall Lady Mary’s relations were border reivers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who gave it wellie to all and sundry, Scot or English, Catholic or Protestant, without fear or favour. You know how formidable she is on the bench, and I did suggest to Cameron that she would have made a marvellous candidate as our EU Commissioner (not least because this would have given your humble servant a breather from her “strength through fear” regime on the domestic front).
I will be in touch when you pass through next week and perhaps we could have a glass of Chateau Thames Valley and break bread at “The Mincing Queen” down the road?
Yours in recess.