Subject: Christmas Panto
Trust you to get away to sunny climes just as winter hits the old homeland and Jack Frost’s icy fingers can be felt all around the fundamentals. Do remind me exactly why you are in the Caribbean. I suppose handing out more gold sovereigns in a worthy cause?
Anyway, you have missed a roller coaster of a week. Young Osborne had trailed his coat days before the Autumn Statement and handed out lots of goodies in marginal seats before our Coalition partners gazumped us. He’s a marvellous showman, pulling out of his hat the wheeze on Stamp Duty – Miliband and Balls looked as if they had lost a pound and found a euro.
Mind you, the Stamp Duty announcement didn’t go down well in all quarters. Soames bent my ear the next day. “I have to tell you in confidence, Reggie, that the boys in Pratts are not impressed. Most of them are at the upper end of the housing market and will get well and truly walloped. Classic case of asset rich, cash poor. “Fluffy” Birdwood was fit to be committed, saying Osborne was a latter day Lloyd George soaking the landed gentry.
You will have noted that our little ray of sunshine at the department of BIS, “Uncle” Vince, was soon leaking letters attacking the budget. This always happens when he isn’t the centre of attention. I think the Coalition is like two dysfunctional families living together with two bad tempered uncles in the attic – Vince Cable and Norman Tebbit – who at inconvenient moments rush out and defecate on the parade.
We had the first leadership candidate’s dinner of the Pale, Male and Stale Club at “Shirtlifters” on Thursday. First up before the selectors was Johnson B. You will not be surprised to learn that he was an hour late, by which time the congregation was well oiled and he was pelted with rolls and cutlery when making his entrance. Next up before our learned friends is Mrs May – no chance of her being late, and any bread throwing will result in the instigator ending up with an asbo!
I have to say, Dessie, this leadership candidate’s field is rather crowded. The other evening Soames, Randall, Angela Watkinson and I met for a tincture in the snug of “The Tarred and Feathered “ off Victoria. We drew up a likely list of candidates and got to 20y with no difficulty – after the obvious, we had the likes of Adam Afriyie, John Hayes, Nadine Dorries and Andrea Leadsom. At that point I lost the will to live. D Cameron should take comfort from all of this.
It’s been that time of the year when cock ups and failure to stop texting has been the order of the day. One of our backbenchers was filmed playing some game on his tablet called “Candy Crush” whilst in a committee. Of course the reptiles made a meal of it, and there was much sanctimonious bleating from the Guardian.
Nothing new: when I was first elected, the old buffers played “Patience” or read “Sporting Life”. I remember back in the early eighties on a field exercise in Germany, when the brigade commander, “Bernie the Bolt”, caught our signallers playing “Space Invaders”. Being a Guardsman he threatened to have them all locked up, but I persuaded him they were useful training aids. Perhaps the whips should take a similar line?
Farrago and the Kippers have been making toe-curling comments about everything from breast feeding in public to traffic jams being caused by immigration. On the former, some wag put the rumour around the tea room that the EU was about to issue a directive making it compulsory for all places of entertainment and hospitality to allow breast feeding in public.
Well, you can imagine what happened at the 1922 Committee. The late David Walder MP used to say – and it became known as “Walder’s Law” – that the first three members who spoke at the ‘22 were always barking mad, and this meeting was no exception. An EU directive and breast feeding set some of our colleagues off in a stampede like Colonel Hathi’s elephants in “Jungle Book” – much trumpeting and stamping of feet! Poor old Chairman Brady was overwhelmed with their incandescent rage until the excellent Jackie Doyle Price told them to pull themselves together and stop behaving like men.
Of course its very difficult around Parliament Square to get a taxi to stop since D Mellor’s outburst, and understandably cabbies are into the Churchillian gestures when hailed. That reminds me of the latest bright idea to save money to come out of the Policy Unit at Number 10. Ministerial cars to be abolished and replaced by government rickshaws provided by a company based in Southall. These will be strategically placed throughout Whitehall, and will be paid for through advertising – Tescos, Primark, RBS etc. Those of us who have got our knees brown East of Suez might find it on attractive proposition, though I wouldn’t want to be the chap pulling Soames to White’s!
You will have seen the cringe-making Christmas cards sent out by our leaders – I found Clegg’s particularly awful, since it appears to have been taken in one of those booths provided for passport photos. As you know, Lady Mary insists we send a card showing our local Norman Church with our dozy vicar grinning inanely. This year I have sent out my own Christmas card to old friends and colleagues, including selected hacks. It has a photo of my two Jack Russells –“Gertie” and “Hilda” – named after my suffragette great aunts – standing in the snow, each with a dead rat in its mouth, and with the sentiment “Christmas Greetings and a “Rattin” Near Year, Reggie”. I think it says a lot about me and the old Tory Party.
At your suggestion, I have had a word with the Chief Whip about this film crew who have been filming all over the House. I happened to have popped into the gents loo in the Library Corridor and was standing reading the fire instructions when I was aware over my shoulder of a camera whirring and the dulcet tones of M.Cockerell, the film director, saying “Hello Reggie, everything under control?” and without thinking I replied, “Yes, I think I am holding my own”. I suppose that will now feature in this wretched documentary which goes out just before the starter’s gun for the election campaign. I shudder to think what Lady Mary will say.
On Sunday, I was dragged along by Lady Mary to the parliamentary Pantomime held in that louche theatre in Covent Garden. We took the grandchildren – against my better judgement – to watch our colleagues do their bit for a charity called “Distressed Parliamentarians” – which these days, Dessie, could mean you and me. I had the foresight to take a hip flask full of the amber fluid. Molly, my grand daughter, quizzed me about the contents, so I told her it was my medicine – and not a word to granny. That cost me a ten pound note: children are so mercenary these days.
The panto was “Aladdin” and the director was M Fabricant who began the evening with a hissy fit at the orchestra. Well, you know the story and can guess what it was like from the cast list – Aladdin, Gloria de Piero; Widow Twanky, Chris Bryant; Abananzer, an evil magician, Peter Mandelson; the Emperor of China, Eric Pickles; Genie of the Lamp, Michael Gove; Brigand Chief, the “Old Knuckleduster” (aka Rt Hon David Davis); Fang, the Emperor’s Prime Minster, David Miliband and Princess Lotus Blossom, Gavin Williamson, DC’s PPS. I rest my case.
See you at the 1922 Christmas drinks party – remember it’s not fancy dress – and we might slip away early for a noggin at “The Rampant Lothario”.
Yours till lights out,