REGGIE largeFrom :

To :  

Subject :    The Queen’s English

Dear Dessie,

I wish you had given me advance notice of your decision to participate in the World Naked Bike Ride!  Soames and I had met up for a liquid luncheon with Jeremy Clarkson and other like-minded oldie racers at “The Knackered Ferret” at Midhurst on Sunday.  It was quite a shock when we tottered out onto the high street to discover that we were at the finishing line of the afore-mentioned bike ride.  Hundreds of bollock-naked men and women wobbling past – and you in the middle, wearing a panama hat with your Yeomanry colours.  Far too much of the fundamentals on display.  Thought it was a hoot when several Peers got mobbed by onlookers taking photos – three covered up their embarrassments whilst the fourth covered her face on the grounds that it was more recognisable nationally.

You were lucky to have missed the final two days of the election campaign for the chairmanship of the Select Committees.  A frantic bombardment of us punters by the supplicants, who would go to any length to secure a vote.  The final straw for me was on the Wednesday morning when I had nipped into the Tea Room at 07.00 hours and retired to the next door gents with a copy of the Guardian – only place to read it.  Imagine my disgust when I discovered, in the little place of ease, dozens of these calling cards with photos of the would-be chairmen.  Is nothing sacred?!?

As you and I feared, the debate over the EU Referendum is turning nasty and very much a lurch down memory lane for those of us here in the 90s.  Don’t any of our younger MPs have any backbone these days?  This Steve Baker, who was an RAF Flight Sergeant and is now admin officer for some organisation called “Tories for the Empire”, has announced in the press that he wouldn’t be bullied by the PM and promptly burst into tears.  Claimed the Whips had cautioned potential rebels that there would be “no promotion this side of the ocean” for those who went off piste.  Well of course they’d say that, and in any case the current crop of whips are pussy cats compared with those in the 90s.  You and I recall the late Sir David Lightbown, who used to drag reluctant supporters of HMG out of the loos and into the “Aye” Lobby.   Those were the days.

You will have noted that the Chancellor is on a high – victory roll after taking PMQs.  Ed Balls retired hurt, celebratory BBQs at Dorneywood for favoured acolytes (why aren’t we invited?) and Boris J hardly seen on the premises.  Forget his recent confrontation with a black cabbie: it paled into insignificance compared to the gripping he received in public from East Anglia’s finest parliamentarians.

Some 20 of them mobbed him in Members’ Lobby to complain about the roadworks along Lower Thames Street from Westminster to Tower Hill – all to put in some bike track, presumably to allow further variations of the World Naked Bike Ride?  Anyway, his fellow parliamentarians observed that, with all the trenches and piles of broken pavements, it looked like the scene in Downfall when the old Nazi Home Guard and Hitler Youth were trying to stop the Bolsheviko capturing Berlin.  Boris got all huffy, and blamed the department of transport and one Patrick McLoughlin – not a wise move.

With all these three line whips and overruns in the evening, it is difficult to get a place in any of the bars and restaurants.  With several “top Tories” I was reduced last week to seeking a table for dinner in the Adjournment.  All tables occupied equally by a clutch of our new lady MPs and the SNP’s finest – Roedean meets Sauchiehall Street!  Our newly knighted friend Sir Simon Burns tried the old wheeze of mentioning his elevation to the maitre’d in the expectation of getting a table, and was upset when he was told- “That’s what all the members claim”.  I resorted to the well practised shimmer of slipping a £20 note into the cupped hand – and, lo and behold, we were quickly seated in no man’s land between the rival parties.

The Chief Whip was telling me yesterday that he is taking precautionary measures re the health of backbenchers.  Can’t afford any colleagues being gathered up into the great lobby in the sky.  So all of us over 60 must now undergo a health check every month with Matron (a.k.a Anne Milton) or “Dr Kildare” (a.k.a Dr Dan Poulter).  Soames and I have opted out, and will get our medical chit from that retired Household Cavalry Sawbones who props up the bar at White’s.

You may have read of the great brouhaha about how much it’s going to cost to refurbish the old Palace of Varieties – 30 billion readies over 30 years.  Now Dessie, you will recall that, several years ago, I was mocked by you among others for suggesting that the answer, even then, was to move into the old Queen Elizabeth liner alongside where everything would be under one roof: chamber, committee rooms, accommodation, car parking, auxiliary services.  And perhaps occasionally we could have a booze cruise off to summer climes?  The Whips were in favour as it meant all colleagues likely to wander off the parliamentary reservation were safely coralled.

“The Lord High Executioner” (a.k.a Michael Gove) has been at it again.  He has re-issued for his Justice Clerks the Plain English guide that so upset the schoolies when he was at Education.  Typical clever clogs advising on split infinitives and double negatives and how we ought to read the great writers such as Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

But Dessie, you, I and Soames are of the generation who know how to communicate by word of mouth and hand, having been brought up on reading G. A. Henty’s Heroes of the Empire, George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman novels and the more learned articles in certain gentlemen’s magazines, all topped up by Sandhurst’s Guide to Military Bullshit, which has served me well for 50 years, even if Lady Mary does complain of my “barrack room language”.

I am free this weekend, as Lady Mary is in Greece attempting to sell her Uncle Tom’s hacienda bought after the war on the proceeds of several bank jobs that he did whilst working with SOE and the partisans.  I told her to try and find his secret cache of drachmas and gold sovereigns, which might come in useful if the Greek economy goes tits up.

Should I drive over to the New Forest and we rendezvous at “The Brazen Hussy”?

Yours till the next cancelled vote,