A few words of explanation or new readers: I have contributed this column to each issue of Liberator since (gulp) 1990. Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South West between 1906 and 1910, and remains a vigorous presence in Liberal Democrat politics.
He describes himself in Who's Who in the Liberal Democrats as:
Statesman, Soldier, Diplomat, Philosopher, Traveller, Industrialist, Author, Philanthropist and All Round Good Egg.Don't worry if you don't understand all the references in the column: I don't get them all myself.
Anyway, here is Lord Bonkers' Diary from the June Liberator.
MondayA particularly full day. I enjoy a little rough shooting before breakfast: since hunting with hounds was banned, the Estate has been overrun with hippogriffs (as I predicted it would be in the House) and one has to keep the numbers down somehow. Then it is off to the cricket, for this afternoon sees the traditional season-opener between Lord Bonkers’ XI and the Elves of Rockingham Forest. It is as keenly contested as ever, and this year there is an unfortunate dispute over our opponents’ use of reverse swing (they attribute it to “high elven magic” and I to the surreptitious use of a bottle top). However, Malcolm Bruce and Lynsey De Paul see us home, and in any case it is prudent not to fall out with these fellows. After dinner the village bobby PC Heath (splendid fellow: no delinquent ear goes unclipped and one need only think of crossing the village high street to have the traffic stopped for one) drops by to tell me that he intends to stand for the deputy leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
TuesdayMatthew Taylor calls to see me and confesses that he is at something of a loose end these days. He holds no shadow portfolio and was defeated for the chairmanship of the parliamentary party by a schoolmaster from Chesterfield. I gently inform him that things often run this way with former child stars: Freddie Bartholomew’s career was never the same after he started shaving and Charlotte Church was booed when she came on against Ireland at Lansdowne Road. Just as I am remarking that Roddy McDowall enjoyed some renewed success when he took to going round in a gorilla costume, Taylor confesses his own plan to me: he is to stand for the deputy leadership of the Liberal Democrats.
I discuss our sudden embarras de richesses when it comes to candidates for the deputy leadership with Ming Campbell, who is still staying at the Hall and indeed shows no signs of leaving, and he reveals that he has a favoured candidate of his own. It is none other than my old friend Vince “Low Voltage” Cable. I ask the reason for his choice, and Ming explains that Low Voltage looks so like him that he will be able to take his place at many functions – up to and including Prime Minister’s Questions. “But what about the accent?” I ask. “This is the clever bit,” replies Ming, “Low Voltage spent years in Glasgow and he can do it almost as well as me.” I suppose Ming’s idea is that this will leave him free to stay at the Hall drinking my Auld Johnston and polishing his Jag (which is currently residing in my stables) whilst Elspeth imagines him hard at work in Westminster.
To Richmond Park to meet a delegation of Bushmen and discuss their plans for returning the area to the wild. I know this scheme has caused some controversy in the newspapers, with the men of Richmond defending their traditional way of life – senior management positions at the BBC, owning West End galleries, merchant banking – but what about the women of Richmond? I should imagine they find prospect of hunting wildebeest from Ham to Mortlake, clad only in loincloths made from recycled Focus leaflets, infinitely more exciting – certainly, a spot of fresh air is just what their pallid, muesli-fed children need. We call upon Jenny Tonge in Kew to solicit her support for our campaign but she is out – event though I could swear I hear the wireless playing. Instead, after treating the Bushmen to tea and crumpets at the Maids of Honour, I visit Kew Gardens and take a few cuttings for Meadowcroft.
Over breakfast Ming mentions that he has put Harvey in charge of our defence policy. “I expect that he is on manoeuvres right now,” the eminent man of Fife adds. I hardly have time to remonstrate with him before leaping into the Bentley and heading for the gunnery ranges on Salisbury Plain at top speed. I arrive not a moment too soon. Some fellow with a promising moustache is showing Harvey over the army’s new pride and joy. “You just set the computer coordinates here,” he says, “load the gun and – Bam! – you can blow up anywhere you like.” “What, say, just for instance, Battersea Dogs’ Home?” Harvey asks with that dangerous gleam in his eye. “Of course,” replies the promising moustache. “Let me see. Battersea. TFG755634/98. There you are. We are pointing at the place now.” Just as Harvey is pressing the red firing button I throw myself upon the console and give the computer dial a wrench. There is a loud explosion and the shell heads for the English Channel. I later learn that I winged some wretched little foreign fishing boat, but in all modesty I can claim to have saved the day.
It is time again for me to do my Focus round here in the Bonkers Hall Ward. I stand on the village green and have soon assembled a crowd of children – rather like that chap in Hamelin who did such sterling work with the rats. One by one the little mites collect their bundles of leaflets, giving me a sweet in return for the honour of being allowed to deliver them. When they have gone, I examine my trawl: an acid drop, three mint imperials, two jelly babies, four squares of chocolate (milk), a gobstopper, several boiled sweets of assorted flavours and – joy of joys! – a treacle toffee. Later I have yet another delightful dinner with Ming Campbell but decide that, even so, it is time I made a telephone call to a certain number in Morningside.
SundayTo St Asquith’s for Divine Service, where the Reverend Hughes is operating off his long run: “What sort of man should a leader be? Should he be an elderly Scotsman whose sole claim to fame is that, forty years ago, he used to run around the track in singlet and shorts while being chased by Jeffrey Archer? Or should he be some complete newcomer with a German name, a flash car and 27 houses? Or should he perhaps just possibly be a respected clergyman who has rendered faithful service both to this parish and to St Tatchell’s, Bermondsey for more years than most of you can remember?” Later, back at the Hall, I see the delightful Elspeth Campbell arriving at the front by taxi and Ming disappearing from the back through the kitchen garden.