Subject: Cruising in the Aegean.
You were in our thoughts as we gently cruised through the Aegean last week while you represented HMG and your department of overseas largesse at all points east of Suez. I know that the only reason the whips let you go was because it was the Parliamentary half term.
Lady Mary had insisted that we had a break before the General Election campaign begins in earnest. Reluctantly I agreed to her suggestion – führerbefehl! – that we went on a Mortimer Wheeler Aegean Cruise. Think Swan Hellenic but even more up market – with about two hundred passengers – mainly Ivy League Yanks and Oxbridge types – and a crew of 400. I had to chortle that the cruise was named after our great archaeologist M.Wheeler, who had two decent wars and had a reputation for laying hands on bluestocking assistants. Nuff said that I didn’t mention it to Lady M.
At the last moment we invited P.Oborne, late of the Telegraph, to join us. After his outburst about censorship and journalistic freedom he needed cheering up. I kept him company during the day, and we worked through the wine list whilst Lady Mary went on shore excursions and examined ancient ruins. She rather fell for a German politician who advises Mrs Merkel, one Professor Doktor Wachtmeister, who is a teutonic George Clooney look alike. I punctured his savoir faire by pointing out that whilst visiting Greek Islands it was advisable to conceal his nationality given the current frisson over the debt repayments.
One unexpected joy was to have the company of Professor Mary Beard, a donette from Cambridge, who may dress like a bag lady, but has lots of oomph, a marvellous sense of humour, an awesome capacity for g and t’s and gave Oborne as good as she got.
Oborne and I kept in touch with the outside world through our electronic devices, and managed to do some telephone canvassing for CCHQ, our Führerbunker. Trouble was Oborne had had several snifters when he thought it would be a hoot to phone up one of our backbenchers not known for his love of the leader. Peter O. went through the official list of questions and we ascertained that the aforesaid mentioned colleague – no name, no pack drill – was minded to vote UKIP. At that point Oborne lost his rag and a lot of barrack room language flowed through the air waves and a rather worried colleague terminated the conversation.
Now, Dessie, I have a bone to pick with you as Lady Mary and I watched that week’s episode of Inside the Commons and we were surprised to see you featured prominently in tails and with your wand of office. I see from social media that you have become a hit with the blue rinse brigade and something of a gay icon! Talking of that, I had to put up with Lady Mary’s vehement denunciation of some entrepreneurial lady now taking our whip in the Lords who runs sex shops and introduced something called “The Rampant Rabbit”. I hope that’s not going to be handed out as a freebie at the next away day or we are into by-election territory!
I received a call from Soames who was sounding very tired and emotional at the bar of the Army and Navy Club. He appeared to have been ambushed by a posse of senior officers all up in arms about the MOD’s plan to cut back on hospitality. Entertaining foreign guests would be limited to three units of alcohol equivalent to a large glass of wine. “Listen here, Reggie, and I think I speak for all the brasshats at the bar, in entertaining visitors like the French or Poles one large glass of wine is merely a throat clearer. What are boys supposed to do – bring a bottle?”
Also Soames was up in arms at the proposed closure of the Palace of Westminster Rifle Club to be replaced by a “meditation centre”. As he said: “Don’t they realise, Reggie, that it is part of our cultural heritage and has seen much service?” I had to smile at that remembering the time that two left-wing Labour MPs had been having an intimate conversation at the butt ends and nearly got winged by the Peers first team on the 2:2 range.
On the political front, Oborne and I reflected on some of the latest rumours circulating the Whitehall bazaars. It seems that Boris J – if elected to the Palace of Varieties and when we are again in government – wants a job renegotiating our membership of the EU. Can you imagine his charm offensive around the watering holes of Europe? I feel sorry for Lidders (a.k.a David Lidington, Minister for Europe) who has had the ballsaching job of spending hours on ancient prop aircraft before meeting all kinds of second eleven foreign ministers and then returning to face MPs in front of Bill Cash’s European Legislation Committee. Don’t think BoJo bargains for that. At the very least Liders deserves a knighthood for endurance.
I had a call from one of your ministerial colleagues complaining that the latest wheeze by No 10 is to tell all of you that you must campaign in marginal constituencies and there will be a merit and demerit score sheet. Those ministers who get five gold stars will have their license renewed, those who don’t will be condemned to serving on Statutory Instruments for the next Parliament as a penance. That’s the way to inspire the troops.
Oborne and I were much encouraged by an interview given by that feisty girl at Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, our very own Cilla Black. Asked if she wanted to be PM, there was no false modesty or beating about the bush, but in true Liz Truss form she quite brazenly said “Yes”. I think we will have to add her to our list of leadership hopefuls for the next Pale, Male and Stale dinner.
Now that you are back in Blighty and confined to barracks perhaps we could meet up for a noggin with Oborne at his favourite watering hole “The Lord Lucan”.
Yours till lights out,
P.S: I suppose I should feel grateful that I’m not important enough for those Channel 4 reptiles to “sting” me with some dodgy proposition to represent a non existent Chinese firewater company for a pourboire of Yuan.