Subject: Social Networking
Received your latest missive although rather garbled – were the Chinese listening in? Glad you accepted my advice about economy flights and went with “Crabair”. As I said, all the crew are ex-RAF and the Dakotas have all been upgraded since Operation Market Garden – were you flown by our old colleague, Wing Commander Sir Gerald Howarth?
This last week has been one round of social engagements. Thank God I didn’t receive an invitation to the Guido Fawkes Awards – though Lady Mary did, and received a prize for being the person most likely to grip the Prime Minister. She made a very robust acceptance speech, and saw off the fellow Paul Sloane – or is it Soane? – who is Guido Fawkes, and who made the mistake of trying to interrupt her. I thought he was anti-establishment…but he now acts as it he is the establishment – but then all those ghastly media awards are like that: everyone up everyone else’s orifices.
As you can imagine, the Speaker threw all his toys out of his cot when Captain Birdseye (AKA Robert Rogers the Clerk) was made a peer. Cameron was like a naughty schoolboy when he led the congrats at PMQ’s.
Now between you and I, Dessie, and on Whips terms, I was invited to attend the Conservative Ministerial Women’s Breakfast Club. It meets in secret once a week in Portcullis House. The invite came via Lady Mary, who is the honorary President. She said: “God alone knows why, Reggie, but they want you to attend as a distinguished backbencher, and give your views on the current political landscape. I told them that under your bovine exterior there was quite a shrewd mind”. (Nothing like the Lady Wife to give a chap a bit of moral support.) “Now remember, Reggie: no jokes, and especially not the one Soames told Tom” (our grandson) “about King Farouk and the snake charmer”.
I was instructed to be in Portcullis House at 0800 hours, where I was met by Dr Coffey who is, as you might recall, a whipette. I was taken to one of those corner committee rooms and shown in. My God, Dessie, there were a gaggle of our woman ministers all talking, texting and applying the rouge like a virtual version of Mumsnet! Chairing the meeting was Mrs May, the Home Secretary. She was sitting with her pen hovered over correspondence, but the concentration and look on her face made me think of Lucrezia Borgia signing death warrants.
I then found out that “breakfast” was a green tea and some kiwi fruit served by Liz Truss who, sounding like Marlene Dietrich, asked me if I was “behaving myself”. There then followed 20 minutes of your humble servant being questioned about the inadequacies of most male backbenchers and the general spinelessness of male ministers.
I tell you this, Dessie: if they ever become a majority in the Parliamentary Party, we will be in government for decades. Before being allowed to leave, I had to sign a confidentiality paper.
At midday, Soames and I trundled over to Number 10 to break bread with the PM. Poor devil: once a week he hosts a selection of backbenchers – that day was for the old farts, as Tony Baldry calls us. Inside the door, we were greeted by this strange cove Hayes, who looks like Carson in “Downton Abbey” and who claims to be the confidential adviser to the PM.
All over me like a rash saying how much the PM valued my opinion and then, rather foolishly, he asked Soames if he would like to be introduced to the PM. Soames told him to “buzz off” – or words to that effect. We were then taken to a room called “The Outback”, where the Jolly Swagman (aka Lynton Crosby) plots our campaign – wall to wall TV’s, all of which appeared to showing cricket, and a dart board with a photo of Lord Ashcroft pinned to it.
Our meeting with the PM was in the Cabinet Room, and there fast asleep on the table was Larry the cat. Soames and I sat quietly at the end. I turned down the Albanian Chardonnay, whilst Soames asked for a large Bloody Mary.
Dessie, I won’t bore you with the details of the discussion. Suffice it to say that Messrs Cash, Jenkin, Leigh, Nuttall, Davies et al spent the whole time having a decent rant about the EU budget, and why was Vichy water being served in the Members’ Dining Room? At this point, Harry got up, stretch, yawned loudly, passed wind and ambled out – followed shortly by Soames and yours truly.
The next day, I went to deliver leaflets in Rochester accompanied by Simon Burns (MP for Chelmsford and Hyannisport, USA). Rather liked historic Rochester, but we kept being delayed by Burns insisting on showing passing punters his Hillary Clinton watch and stopping for a quick fag at every bus shelter.
Of course, the whips are worried about more defections and have decided to employ a psychiatrist to look for behavioural signs in colleagues – fat lot of good that did with Carswell and Reckless. They’d be better off asking the older secretaries, who have a far better idea who is likely to jump ship and all their little peccadillos…
God knows, Dessie, I do my best to steady the ship, and have agreed to attend this Awayday or Bonding Session later in the week. Usual nonsense about location remaining a secret until the final moment – but remember last year when all the satnavs delivered two coach load of colleagues into Portsmouth Harbour?
I’m getting a lift with Ken Clarke, Karen Bradley and Anna Soubry, with Alec Shelbrooke doing the close protection – all convivial chaps – and we intend to make a leisurely start and stopping for lunch at “The Wanton Hussy” at you know where!
Yours till the All Clear,