Subject : Last Orders, Please
Well, you didn’t miss much last night at the Number 10 drinks for the Parliamentary Party. I feel sorry for the PM, who has to invite all his colleagues along to hoover up small eats – who the hell designed “larks wings in aspic”? – and sluice away at extra strong Pims and Nicaraguan Chardonnay. The Pims had the desired impact, and hours later a tired and emotional colleague was discovered comatose on Larry the Cat’s duvet – a much disgruntled moggie had gone and wailed outside the police rest room until an Old Bill came to the rescue, and our colleague was laid out on the pavement until woken by the street cleaners.
I am exhausted at all these meetings and celebratory drinks and much mutual back-slapping and lots of “how was it for you, darling”? The 2015 intake already have grossly inflated egos and are in danger of underestimating the enemy. Mind you, the intense anti-hunting lobby had caused many of them to run for cover. Like other old veterans, all my received emails on that subject went into the “laugh and tear up file”.
But Dessie, you have to give it to Number 10, or more likely Number 11: the momentum of announcements is quite overwhelming. I’m not too sure about Brother Gove’s decision to ease up on the books old lags in prison can now read. I suspect he is thinking of improving volumes like Samuel Smiles’ Self Help or J Bentham’s An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, whilst the old lags will actually devour Manufacturing Weed or A Bluffer’s Guide to Internet Crime.
Of course most of our colleagues are enthusiastic about John Whittingdale’s measures to reduce, flog off and otherwise curtail the BBC. Margaret always thought they were a bunch of pinkoes and fellow travellers. Poor old Whitto: got his photo snapped by some greedy reptile having a kip at Wimbledon during the Women’s Finals. Every sympathy – I remember falling asleep on the platform behind Lady Mary at a Conservative Women’s Conference. You and I are old enough to remember poor old Fred Mulley, Labour’s Defence Secretary, falling fast asleep beside Her Madge whilst the RAF were doing repeat fly pasts. At least Whitto won’t end up like the Korean defence minister who was shot for kipping during a meeting with their Great Leader.
Much sympathy amongst most Parliamentary ranks, surprisingly from some of our more sporting ladies, for the outburst by the Duke of E, affectionately known as “Phil the Greek” by the Grenadier Guards, at the photo shot for the Battle of Britain veterans. Of course, using the “F” word is not unusual in the Senior Service, and who can forget our Parliamentary Colleague Rear Admiral Morgan-Giles telling a minister to “F**k off” at a Party Conference when the microphone was still active. He got a standing ovation from the delegates. Morgan-Giles would have a fit if he saw some of our new MPs and what they get up to. Lady Mary was shocked to hear that one Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth, had appeared bollock-naked in a soap advert. I got the sense she was more perturbed about it being a trade advert than the lack of clothes. But then as Soames observed: “What can you expect from a former gunner officer?”
Then there is our minister for the armed forces, one Penny Mordaunt, she of the risqué speech during last year’s Queens Speech, and frequent appearances in a swim suit. Last week I was having a convivial dinner with Sir Roger Gale and Sir Paul Beresford in Shepherd’s Restaurant when the aforesaid mentioned Ms Mordaunt appeared in her Wren Officer’s uniform. She was hosting a private dinner for the 2010 intake and would we come to join them? Polite refusal as Sir Roger is not at his best after 20.00 hours. Dozens of colleagues lurched into the back room and later we heard them singing some song entitled “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”.
For our sins, Soames and I were “volunteered” to attend the Speaker’s folly, the new Education Centre at the side of the Lords. Cost millions and is like a Disney theme park – “Not quite sixteen annas to the rupee” as Soames growled. He was caught short and had to use the loo, which played the Speaker’s voice shouting “Odour, odour”.
Talking of the Lords, Soames and I went out for supper with Gillian Shephard, taking her to that new French bistro “La Derriere” off Sloane Square. She has been in Number 10 giving them a piece of her mind about a range of cockups and they having taken to calling her “Auntie Gillian”. As Soames observed, “Better than Granny Gillian”. Don’t let anyone think that “Auntie Gillian” is some form of dotty old Miss Marple, much more like Bertie Wooster’s formidable Aunt Agatha.
I don’t know what you think about the spread betting on Boris J for leader? He’s had a bad week with the Chancellor taking the proverbials out of him in the budget – money for his Uxbridge bunker and freedom of the skies – and then Mrs May ragging him over the purchase of his antiquated German water cannon circa 1939-45 and a “niet” to their deployment. Classical military pincer movement leading the Mayor at a disadvantage. I understand that several of Boris’s friends have attempted to point out that he needs to get to know his parliamentary colleagues. Shown photos of a selection of MPs he could only name one – Harold Macmillan, no longer serving – and thought several SNP and Labour women were actually Conservative. Quote “But they looked like Tory women” – whatever that means.
I understand that for most of August you are travelling to some of the more unsavoury parts of the world since the Whips have refused to slip you during term time. Good luck with Crab Air over the Himalayas – I take it you are provided with an escape and evasion kit?
As soon as we all pull stumps tonight – or in the wee small hours if the Jocks are feeling surly – I am joining Lady M in Northumberland. We rent a large house on the coast and the family come and go. I take plenty of books – suggested on a bespoke basis by Colonel Simpson – regimental histories and pig breeding – do a little fishing, play backgammon and avoid Lady M and her friends by seeking refuge in the local hostelry “The Rutting Stag” . Soames may drop in for a few days in between the Med and the W. Indies.
You and yours are always welcome for a few days if you manage to make “a home run”.
Yours till the next push,