Subject: Dad’s Army
I must say that I was impressed by your sangfroid last Tuesday. To get the recall on Monday to return to vote on Tuesday just as you had landed at Dakar in West Africa, with the ensuing white knuckle flight in Crab Air’s oldest Dakota, showed real guts. I did think you and Wing Commander Sir Gerald Howarth MP RAFVR looked totally banjaxed, and he was understandably incandescent with rage to find there was no vote!
Meanwhile, your humble servant had taken the Kent Flyer to Rochester to stir up a little apathy in the dying days of the by-election. On the train we had a cheery group consisting of Michael Fabricant – dressed more appropriately for a mardi gras; Sir George Young doing the Times crossword; Anna Soubry in fine voice; and the sporty Karen Bradly.
Well b*gger me, when we were halfway there Karen had a text from the Whips to say that reptiles from the Times had staked out the station, and were monitoring how long every MP was on the streets. They had chased Oliver Letwin and Andrew Selous down the High Street, who had then taken shelter in the nearest shop – unfortunately for them the local Anne Summers!
What were we to do? I suddenly remembered Lady Mary’s Aunt Dot who had served with the SOE in France during the war. She told me that when on a train if there were reports that the Boche police were checking papers at a particular station you got out at the previous one. That’s what we did – and then took a taxi to Rochester. Lateral thinking, Dessie, which isn’t often a quality displayed by our leadership. By the by, Aunt Dot shot a Gestapo officer and later became the Head of an Oxbridge Ladies College. Never thought of becoming an MP – said politics was far too tame.
Of course our efforts at Rochester weren’t helped by the glitches in the new CCHQ computer “Darth Vader”. But young Shapps tells me that this will be sorted out before the May election – it seems we are using the same teams responsible for the NHS computer programmes. God save us!
There have been an unusual number of colleagues of all parties in the news whilst you were away. Rory Stewart delivered his baby on the kitchen floor in the absence of the district nurse. But, as I told him, as a veteran of Waziristan and Helmand province he was well used to the wild side of Penrith and the Border.
Poor old Miliband has continued to meet our lowest expectations – savaged on TV over the mansion tax by some TV celebrity called Mylene Klass who our bright young things in the Fuehrerbunker want to run as our mayoral candidate. Boris is going to cast an eye over her. Then there was the embarrassing tweet by that Labour luvvie Emily Thornbirds which is supposed to have traduced our heroic white van man. Lesson here is don’t tweet. But tell that to half the Cabinet.
Then that Lib Dem snake in the grass Danny Alexander sneaked on George Osborne, saying his boss kept the Treasury fridge locked to prevent people nicking his milk – shades of St Paul’s School. I happened to be having a curry with Ken Clarke at the new “Jewel in the Crown” Indian restaurant off the Horseferry Road, and he roared with laughter at the idea of milk being kept in his old fridge. When he was Chancellor it was packed to the gunnels with “shampoo” and Thames Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
You will have seen that there is leadership speculation in every political party. To calm things down on our side, I have arranged for the PMS (Pale, Male and Stale) Dining Club – you will recall it consists of some 60 colleagues who have been sacked or passed over – to hold discreet dinners at a Club near Charing Cross Station – “Shirtlifters” – to quiz potential candidates.
First under starter’s orders is Boris, but I haven’t been impressed by the fact that he wrote to me as “Dear Roger”, and the letter was “pp’d” by some researcher. Anyway, we will have to have a dinner a week to get through all the potential leaders before May. Given the extent of the field and their mutual loathing I think that Cameron can rest on his oars.
Did you see what turned out to be a spoof letter sent to all of us who had served as regulars, reservists or completed the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme? It looked absolutely pukka, and was allegedly sent by the Director General Army Reserve Veterans, one Major-General Lethbridge-Stewart. Colleagues over 55 were told their rank, whether they were liable for home or overseas service, and the name of their units.
Well, the old odour hit the fan with some colleagues threatening legal action, others pestering Dr Sarah Wollaston for a medical chit; M.Fabricant wanting a close attachment to the Royal Marines, and James Gray demanding that his notional rank be altered from gunner to Brigadier equivalent. Poor old Brazier, the minister responsible, was nobbled in the lobby, and at first was unable to confirm or deny – the MOD being such a rabbit warren. It took one of our younger colleagues to point out that the alleged General Lethbridge-Stewart was named after a military officer who appeared in the early episodes of “Dr. Who”!
Your overseas duties prevented you from joining Tracey Crouch and her selected guests, including your humble servant, in the Qatar box at Wembley on Sunday for the England v. Germany Ladies Football match. A very jolly event with Charlotte Leslie, Jackie Doyle-Price, Chloe Smith and Soames in attendance. A serious lunch and some liquid refreshment persuaded Soames to wear a baseball hat inscribed “Wimmin to Win”. Sadly, our brave girls went down 3:1 to the Teutonic Maidens, who operated like the Grossdeutschland in full attack mode.
Soames and I discussed Farrago in the margins. As Soames observed, “Reggie, and I know I speak for the boys at Whites, any punter like Farrago who wears a covert coat with a velvet collar isn’t quite sixteen annas to the rupee. We had a mess secretary like that at Bovington and no good came of him.” Of course Carswell and Reckless now adorn the Labour awkward squad’s bench where they are regularly given the bird and called the “Chuckle Brothers”.
God knows, Dessie, you and I do out bit for the Party and Queen and Country, hold our nose and vote on things we aren’t always fully supportive of, and yet some of our colleagues trail their so-called consciences around the bazaars but expect us to keep the opposition where they belong – permanently on the “not wanted on voyage” shelf.
Hope to see you when you eventually get back – I have booked preliminary Christmas drinks for your staff and mine at “The Trousered Ferrett” off Fleet Street.
Yours till the All Clear,