Subject: Auction of Promises.
That was quite an expedition this weekend when so many of us turned out to support Nicola Blackwood in her Oxford constituency. Nice to see so many young people, although the coach load you brought from the New Forest looked on their last legs after one hour of canvassing. I’d accompanied mine, and my agent spent the whole journey getting them to repeat the mantra “Long term economic plan for hard working families”. Trouble is that some of them became zombie-like and were waking up in the middle of the night repeating it to their loved ones. But that’s modern politics for you.
I know you missed the Cockerell fly-on-the wall documentary Inside the Commons, but you should be able to get it on something called “My-Player” or is it “Your-Player”? Anyway, it wasn’t as bad as one feared, and thank God we kept them out of the Tea Room and the old Smoking Room. It would then have come out either as “MPs Behaving Badly” or “Casualty”. Lady Mary was particularly pleased with our MP, Charlotte Leslie, who – in her ladyship’s words – “Combined physical prowess and intellectual superiority”. Or as Soames put it: “A female kick boxer who studied classics at Balliol”. She’d have been a dead cert for the Special Operations Executive in the last big show.
Of course, Dessie, she typifies the change in the background of new generation of MPs – replicated, I might say, with subtle variations in the Labour Party. Did you read that analysis of our Parliamentary candidates likely to be elected done by that chap Father Goodman who used to be a Jesuit cleric, did a short service commission as an MP and now edits that blog ConHome? More women, more ethnic minorities, more lawyers and more business chaps. A quite lethal combination, and certainly humbugs both Labour and the Lib Dems. Although why we need more lawyers here is open to question. Most of them can’t get by on the Parliamentary salary, which is about what they pay a junior clerk.
I’m glad you were able to make last Thursday’s “Pale, Male and Stale” Dinner, although I thought the “Dowager Empress” Chinese restaurant a little too exotic for some of us. (Who were all those young people going up the back stairs? I’m sure I recognised one of our Peers.)
Anyway, it was quite something to get Mrs May to come along and lay out her leadership credentials. You will recall that she cancelled her appearance in the autumn when she was having one of her regular spats with Number 10. Trouble about having the Home Secretary along was the accompanying baggage train of ten armed special branch heavies and a pack of alsatian dogs. Mind you, I had to laugh when poor old John Redwood got bitten after spilling his chop suey over one – I mean alsation! She made a very “no holds barred, I’m taking no prisoners speech” and didn’t suffer fools gladly during questions: no shortage of them at the PMS dinner. Remarkable thing is that from any male leadership candidate this would mean being scratched form the race card, but our colleagues rather like the firm smack of leadership – reminds them of Maggie at her worst.
I saw Soames later who said: “Reggie, I think I can say on behalf of all the boys at Pratts that faced with a choice for leader between T. May and Boris, the lady wins on points”. But I’m not sure she would like a public endorsement from the boys at Pratts.
You know, Dessie, it is a funny old world when both Labour and ourselves are paying sheds of lolly to a raft of American snake oil merchants, who advised Obama, to work their magic on Cameron and Miliband. Of course, I exclude the Jolly Swagman (aka Lynton Crosby) who is almost an Honorary Pom. Can’t we find any home grown talent who could do the job for a fraction of the money? Come to think of it, you, Soames and I have considerable experience in drafting prospectuses and making ourselves sellable to the Great British Public. No one can say we aren’t authentic, although of what I’m not sure.
I drew the short straw on Monday evening, and had to accompany Lady Mary to the fund raising shindig otherwise known as the Black and White Minstrel Show. Lots of wealthy punters come along and pay for the privilege of dining with the Cabinet, sundry junior ministers and opinion formers. You know that Lady M is one of the Treasurers, and so hosted a table.
Dress – relaxed suits! Well, you can imagine what that meant, with all kinds of crocodile skin and velvet numbers (and that was just the men). Soames was on our table, and he and I were well and truly oiled after several rounds of serious firewater at the Cavalry/Guards Club. The whole evening was ghastly, apart from an up market raffle whereby young Hugo Swire, minister of the Far East, former owner of Hong Kong and part time auctioneer raised oodles of dosh from the congregation through an auction of promises.
It was truly amazing what these punters bid for such items as a day shadowing G. Osborne; gargantuan Indian Curry evening with Eric Pickles and a chance to “Listen with Mother” with Nicky Morgan. I was horrified to see that Lady M had offered a weekend “Bottlefield” Tour of the Normandy landings led by Soames and your humble servant. At this point, whilst Lady Mary was distracted bending the ear of Gavin Williamson, the PM’s PPS, about why I hadn’t yet been made a Peer, Soames and I slid under the table and did a version of the leopard crawl – familiar to all old soldiers – into the kitchens. I must say the maître d’ was very sporting and let us out through the fire escape, where we found Ken Clarke hailing a cab having escaped before us.
School hols next week, so can we meet next Thursday for a snifter or six at “The Bent Copper” behind the Left Footer’s Cathedral?
Yours till evensong,