Subject: Canvassing and reshuffles
Well, you gave me a funny turn on Monday when your tweet (which went viral) said you had been locked out of your DfID office, personal possessions boxed up and none of the civil servants looking you in the eye. Shades of our old friend “Bodger” Farquharson getting the heave-ho from his job in the City. Of course it was made worse when we heard that Chairman Shapps had been sent to your old department – reminiscent of Mr Dubcek after the failure of the Prague Spring in 1968 being rusticated to a regional widget factory. Anyway, young Williamson, the PM’s, PPS assures me you are still in post. Congratulations – although given our small majority not much chance of you getting abroad to hand out HMG’s largesse.
Apart from when we met up briefly giving mutual aid to Nicola Blackwood in Abingdon – what an excellent watering hole we found at “The Militant Don” pub – we hardly communicated during the election campaign. Totally knackering, and probably largely irrelevant to the average punter. Several colleagues, including you and your humble servant, hardly spent any time in our own constituencies, having been deployed fire fighting in the marginals – and we all got increased majorities!
Like you, I had to endure several of these hustings, including ones organised by “Faith Groups”, which seem to have gathered together every anti-Conservative whinger you could find and hardly representative of the voting public. My UKIP candidate – he wore a gunner tie to which I’m not sure he was entitled – kept banging on about HS2 which is about a hundred miles away and irrelevant to my patch.
I raised a glass to that Sturgeon woman who, every time poor old Miliband kept trying to close down any suggestion of a coalition with the SNP, very helpfully raised it again and well and truly frightened the horses.
We really ought to give an honour to whichever prat advised Miliband to put those promises on a tombstone – a gift for us and every reptile, and which provoked mirth amongst the voting public. All those pledges came under the heading of “Mum and Apple Pie”.
But the real loses on election night were the pollsters and the political commentators. You may have heard the cheer in your patch from my HQ in “The Whistling Leper” pub when the exit poll was announced. Dessie, I have always said these pollsters are about as reliable as medieval alchemists. I’m told by the Trussette that when she arrived at the BBC Tardis at 01.00 hours to contribute her groat to proceedings there were a gaggle of constitutional experts being paid off as “no longer required on voyage”. What a hoot!
All credit to “The Jolly Swag Man” (a.k.a Lynton Crosby) whose strategy paid off. I happened to bump into him at the Cenotaph on ANZAC Day – my grandfather Reggie was at Gallipoli as a subaltern in the Duke of Brunswick’s Own Yeomanry and Crosby’s grandfather was there with the Australian Light Horse. Mutual admiration all round, and I invited him to break bread and have a beaker of fire water at the Cavalry/Guards Club. He denied that his deal with DC was “no win no fee”, but he must now be laughing all the way to his Aussie Bank. He took my analogy in good part when I said he was like Montgomery during the 1944 Normandy Campaign – straightforward campaign plan to wear down the enemy and not get diverted into secondary fronts.
So we are back at the Palace of Varieties with far more MPs than expected and relatively few casualties. Funny old world which could have turned out differently. Sam Cameron told Lady Mary that she had packed up all the children’s things, and that Larry the cat was labelled and prepared to return to Battersea Dogs and Cats Parlour. In the event not necessary, and we had that lovely moment last Friday when Miliband, Clegg and Farage all resigned as leaders – except that Farrago has been “persuaded” to come back. Reminds me of that Mess Secretary in Mönchengladbach who resigned and then unresigned over losing the mess funds on a horse at the Corps point to point – you will recall there was a steward’s inquiry which gave his nag the benefit of the doubt.
I didn’t see you on Monday when we all returned – just like school, with old lags like yours truly acting as prefects and all the new boys and girls full of vim and wanting to know where to hang their satchels and which loos to use. Rather sad to see defeated MPs being escorted to their old offices by the turnkeys. Not much sympathy for Ed Balls – and that was just from his Labour colleagues!
I managed to squeeze into the 1922 where there was standing room only as DC addressed the troops – much banging of desks and unseemly cheering and photos being taken. The new intake is full of feisty women and sharp-suited lawyers. One of these ladettes gave up her seat to Simon Burns on the ground that he is a pensioner.
One of the more toe-curling aspects of DC’s victory is an outbreak of loyalty from the awkward squad who had been preparing a leadership challenge. Several spoke of their loyalty at the ’22 and I had to leave before the bile in my throat turned liquid. Soames collared me, all emotional – and said that the boys in the bar at White’s had burst into tears at seeing the exit polls and immediately phoned their brokers with the cry “buy, buy, buy!”.
You will have seen how the new SNP members flew down from North Britain on two planes. I’m told this practice was in line with the Royal Family, who never fly together in case of accidents. They have seized all the former offices occupied by the LibDems and intend to occupy all the benches in the chamber below the gangway, including the front bench occupied by Denis Sinner and his Old Labour cronies. That should make for an interesting confrontation.
Well, the reshuffle is now over and appears largely to be about FOGs – Friends of George – who has promoted all his loyalists and marginalised any supporters of other potential leadership candidates. You have to admire his single-minded determination and ruthlessness, but it does create resentment. You will recall “Slippery Sam” Prendergast when he commanded his division in Germany and only promoted officers from his old regiment – all ended in tears when he passed over the nephew of the Military Secretary who arranged for his next posting to be the dead-end job of “Director of Concepts” in some ghastly HQ outside Liverpool.
Let’s meet to celebrate our victory and your continuation in office – how about next Monday after re-electing (?) the Speaker and swearing in? I will book a table at that new restaurant “Fat Boys Relish” off Charing Cross.
Yours till 2020,