REGGIE mugshot

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Subject :    Bluffer’s Greek and Dog Latin

Dear Dessie,

Where the hell are you?  I have tried phoning, texting and e-mailing you, and no response.  Your department appears to be in lock down and callers are not encouraged.  Some little local difficulties, I assume?  Be that as it may, I am emailing you on the off-chance that it will get through your office cyber defences.

Well, what a week!  Brother Corbyn goes from one toe-curling disaster to another, and yet the paid up brethren, according to the latest poll, are supporting him at an all-time high of 88 per cent.  Labour MPs are in despair, as the general public are giving him a minus vote that’s off the end of all records.  But then what can you expect from a man’s whose hobby is collecting manhole covers!

That old Bolshevik who is now Shadow Chancellor, one John Macdonald (does he have the supermac franchise in North London?) has come up with the wheeze of “socialism with an ipad” – more like “socialism with a dead battery”. So whilst our socialist friends are committing collective hari-kari and the SNP are examining their collective derrieres we are getting on with governing the country – except for the occasional cock-up and dropped ball.

The reptiles are making much of the news that the PM, senior ministers and the Royal Family are to get a dedicated aircraft, some reconditioned RAF Voyager that doubles up as a tanker and to be called “DC One” – cheaper than all those hired planes from various Third World Countries and more secure. Mind you, my source at Number 10 tells me that all the fittings are second-hand: the seats throwaways from Easy Jet and Ryan Air, and all food and drink past its sell by date from the supermarkets.

I thought the PM was magisterial in responding to the terrorist threats, and got a good press for the Defence and Security Review.  However, several of us old sweats were rather alarmed when he said that the main budget and procurement items were to be overseen by young Oliver Letwin.  First class brain, and ideal if you want the Times crossword completed in under five minutes, but I recall he was still standing when the Whitehall music stopped over the business of handing out bucket loads of tax payers money to that large lady who looks like a Brazilian Carnival Queen.  Well, we will see, but that idea of any MOD equipment project coming in on budget and on time is for the fairies.

Captain Blunt, that People’s Cavalryman who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, is rather pleased with himself at how the PM is replying to their report on Syria.  Emboldened by success, he is dividing his committee into the three groups and sending them on fact-finding missions to the Middle East.  Sounds like a series of by-election specials to me!

Of course the big news is G.Osborne’s Autumn Statement today, when our fiscal Houdini has to cut the deficit, reduce public expenditure, cut taxes and yet sub over half Whitehall’s departmental expenditure.  George very kindly invited Lady Mary and yours truly to Sunday lunch at Dorneywood, his R-and-R pile in the country “just a few experienced old hands Reggie, to chew the cud and make sure I have thought through all the poo traps”.

We went down there in my old Bentley, with Lady M at the wheel and Ken Clarke for company.  He and I were comfortable in the back and kept warm on coffee laced with five star brandy.  Despite being an old Europhile, I like Ken, who as a minster under Mrs T drove through all the necessary changes whilst revolving eyed so-called Thatcherites demurred at doing the business.

On arrival we were shown into the C of E’s study where one discovered his cat Freya asleep on a draft copy of the Autumn Atatement (you will recall she was rusticated from No 11 as a security risk).  I did wonder whether her two years missing, allegedly with the Chinese, means her listening devices were still active.  George didn’t seem to be bothered, and wasn’t thrown when some hideous screams came from an adjoining room.  The door opened and Greg Hands, the Whitehall Chief Accountant, came in saying “Don’t worry: it’s just my assistants Heinrich and Reinhard persuading the last recalcitrant  spending minsters to accept my proposed cuts”.  There was a moment of silence before he laughed saying, “Just my little joke, it’s the children playing”.  In fact, Ken very much approved of that method of negotiation.

G Osborne was on fine form, despite the criticism and sniping from reptiles and colleagues.  Boris Johnson, aspirant leader-in-waiting has been active in the corridors of the Palace of Varieties, stopping colleagues and with a mock serious voice saying “Dreadful news about George, can’t understand who is bad-mouthing him, sure he will recover, bound to find his mojo”, before lumbering off wheezing with laughter.

We discussed how George could shrink the state and raise money from the Whitehall estate.  Answer: bring all the fag-end departments – transport, energy, environment and food, and your department, Dessie – into the Treasury building which has spare capacity.  Ken and I realised two advantages for G Osborne: flog off the empty buildings, and bring half the Cabinet literally under the eye of the Chancellor.  I understand now why he went to see the internet tappers at GCHQ.  Every room in the Treasury building bugged!  Finally, the Home Office to be turned into a luxury hotel and Mrs May and her hoods off to join the Northern Power House in Manchester – out of sight and out of the running!

Talking of Boris, Lady Mary – who hates cyclists – was pleased to see that whilst the Mayor was riding along one of his ludicrously named Cycle “Superhighways”, he was given the finger by other Londoners on two wheels.  She was especially incensed by his comment that these roadworks have “caused an awful lot of aggro, particularly with senior colleagues in parliament who like to travel around in cars”.  Oops, about 30 to 40 of these colleagues use their cars to get into Parliament from the M25 (beyond Boris’ sky-line) – and they all have a vote in any future leadership contest.

Soames and I attended the Great Debate between Bojo and Professor Mary Beard in the Methodist Central Hall – Bojo was extolling the virtues, not to say vices of the Greeks, whilst the Prof reciprocated for the Romans.  We were the guests of young Tim Loughton who knows a lot about ancient history, and it allowed Soames to reminisce about Latin and Greek lessons at Eton and being beaten for trying to find the lewd passages in the Iliad.  I like Mary Beard, who despite looking and dressing like Maggie Smith’s role in The Lady in the Van, is full of fun and very erudite, even if she does support Brother Corbyn.  I enjoyed the debate which was a close-run thing, and Boris became tetchy when his final speech was interrupted by the elephantine snores of Soames.  M.Beard won and later, over a large G-and-T, showed me a congratulatory text from the Chancellor!

I don’t know whether you have been following the media coverage of this scandal that is consuming CCHQ – our Fuhrebunker?  High jinks and worse on something called the Roadtrip and allegations of misdemeanours involving MPs.  Awful business, allowing some of Fleet Street’s more loathsome reptiles to quiz senior backbenchers like Soames and myself about waking up in bed and not recognising the other person.  Well, I haven’t lost all my faculties yet.  Just goes to show that old Julian Critchley was right when he said the safest thing for any Tory MP was a bag of boiled sweets. You are too young to remember the joke at the time of the Profumo scandal, when a messenger appeared at the door of the Members’ Dining Room shouting, “Flee! All is discovered” – resulting in a stampede for the exit by all MPs present.

Soames is in a particularly liverish mood at present – old war wound playing up – and is barking and growling at everyone, especially the usual suspects who like voting against the Government.  He was heard shouting at the top of his voice along the library corridor: “You are nothing more than a copper-bottomed little shit!”  A colleague asked Gavin Barwell, the jovial whip in charge of Chamber business, who Soames was referring to , and Gavin B replied, “I don’t know, but the sentiment fits about 30 of our colleagues”.

Try and get a message out from your place of confinement and I will give you dinner at the at new watering hole “The Lady Vanishes” off Victoria.

Yours till last orders,


6 comments for: From Reggie to Dessie: Letwin – fine, if you want the Times crossword completed in five minutes. But…

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