Subject: Bedding down in Parliament
I’m sorry that I missed you swearing in last week. There was the usual nonsense about colleagues affirming rather than a good old Christian oath, and those recusants crossing their fingers behind their backs. As for the election of the Speaker, I understand they had Ken Clarke on standby in the Pugin Room in case the Father of the House, old Gerald Kaufman, had a senior moment.
Your Private Secretary tells me that you have been inspecting the Dfid outstation in Glasgow – surely that’s not part of the Barnett formula? She told me that you have over 500 clerks based there signing cheques all day to needy supplicants overseas. Nice money if you can get it.
Talking of North Britain, the antics of the SNP MPs continue: it appears they have occupied that dreadful saloon in the basement, the Sports and Social Club, which for decades has been the watering hole of old Labour lags. Now full of Scottish flags, kilts and deep fried mars bars. Quite upset the off duty police and support staff who use it as their hostelry.
The Whips are enjoying the chaos in the “People’s Party” – i.e UKIP, with Farage resigning or not, and then sacking and demoting all his rivals. Shades of North Korea, where that unfortunate Defence inister was blown away for kipping during the Leader’s four hour monologue. Shades of Mrs T’s Cabinet meetings!
It’s a real pleasure to have a ringside seat at Labour’s leadership hustings. My money is on Andy Burnham, who appears to be the favourite of both Unite and our backbenchers – surely the kiss of death amongst the PLP electorate?
Even I had a bat squeak of sympathy for the group of the Liberal Democrats squashed at the back of the back of the opposition benches, and maybe to lose one of their tiny band of survivors? Poor old Alistair Carmichael having to apologise for that leaked memo about Lady Macbeth (a.k.a Nicola Sturgeon) telling the French Charge d’affaire that she wanted a Tory government. Funny old world if he has to resign over what appears to be the truth.
So we now have the final details of the reshuffle with Brother Gove Lord High Executioner and Poobah in one – I’m told he had to rent his clothes from Millets as part of the HMG’s austerity measures.
I’m pleased that at last the Whips Office includes some normal people like Kris Hopkins (is he the “caring Whip”?) and the magnificent Jackie Doyle-Price (Ms Thurrock, May 2015).
I was surprised to see that Rory of Arabia (aka Roy Stewart) had been bought off with a junior job in charge of pigs swill at the Min of Ag. Presumably that was to shut him up as chairman of the Defence Select Committee? At the very least he should have bargained for a Minister of State sinecure at the FCO.
You have to feel a little sympathy for Sarah Newton, our new accommodation whip. Because IPSA has refused to advance any readies, the House authorities have converted several committee rooms into dormitories. Not a pretty sight or odure: Lady Mary went one evening with other do-gooders to hand out washbags and deodorant to the luckless recipients. Told me it was worse than her boarding school dorm.
Talking of Lady M, she arranged a welcoming party for all our new female members as part of “Wimmin to Win”. It took place in one of our donor’s mansions off Eaton Square. I was mobilised to help host the occasion, glad-handing and serving drinks. Lady M’s instructions were: “Reggie, keep sober and don’t ask any of your more bovine colleagues along”. Suffice to say I’d already asked Owen Paterson, Bill Wiggin and Ian Liddell-Grainger to help jolly things along. It wasn’t exactly a meeting of minds, and I was given 28 days without appeal by Lady M. Some of these new women are very ambitious!
Lady M and I were invited by her brother-in-law – heavily into investing in new companies and too smooth to move – to attend the launch party of that guru Steve Hilton’s new book More Human. (More human than what, I hear you ask?) I felt rather out of place wearing a tie and not very appreciative of the Magyar jazz group or the disgusting alcohol-free tinctures. Mind you, the evening was made by G Osborne having to kiss “The Jolly Swagman” (aka Lynton Crosby) over some bet about a majority government. At least he hadn’t promised to run bollock naked down Whitehall like some of the more juvenile reptiles.
Soames has been particularly liverish of late. He was incandescent with rage about the suggestion that WSC was gay advanced in some book entitled Closet Queens. I told him to relax, and be grateful that none of us appeared in the index. Then there was the question of his experience in Moscow at their Victory Day celebrations. Nobody from HMG went, but Nicholas S was volunteered as WSC’s grandson. No room at the embassy – so he was given the bridal suite at some Russian five star “Hotel Ochrana”. Naturally our spooks briefed him about honeytraps, and not to let any blonde bombshell into his room overnight.
The boys at White’s put him on a long vodka drinking course to immunise him against Putin’s Potcheen – I have to say I remember very little of the evening. Anyway, Soames went and was treated like a VIP by Putin who kept asking him about whether WSC admired J Stalin. Soames retired to the Hotel Ochrana three sheets to the wind, and was woken at the crack of dawn by hammering at his door. Now you and I know that NS is not at his best first thing, so you can imagine the scene when he opened the door to indeed find a blonde bombshell outside. He exploded and told her to get lost – and no, he didn’t need his duvet turning down or the pillows re-arranged. At this point, she introduced herself as the Third Secretary at our embassy, and this was his early morning call for caviar and vodka at the Kremlin!
Between you and I, and not to be repeated at all costs, at least not to colleagues who aren’t “sound”, I was one of a few senior colleagues who were invited by the PM to Chequers on Tuesday night to break bread with Herr Junckers, the Chief Clerk at the EU. Can’t say the body language was that good and not helped by J Redwood asking him if the old family firm were still making bombers. I think I managed to smooth over a difficult moment by saying “Wrong branch of the family old boy, the Luftwaffe branch didn’t have a “c” in the name.” The PM gave a ghastly smile. So don’t hold your breath for any help in that quarter.
Hope to see you after the Queens Speech and perhaps we could escape to “The Laughing Policeman” behind the Methodist Hall for a glass or three of Holy Water and some meat and two veg?
Yours still the next kit inspection,