The names of every great Liberal are to be found in the Visitors Book here at the Hall. As a boy I was dandled upon the knee of Mr Gladstone (a first-rate dandler, as I recall) and had my hair ruffled by Sir Charles Dilke. I also spent an entire weekend hiding from Loulou Harcourt in the shrubbery, but this evening I shall pass over that without further comment. Later, when I came into man’s estate, I was able to entertain Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith and Lloyd George myself.
Since then I have played host to every Liberal or Liberal Democrat leader at some time or another. Little Steel spent the weekend trying to persuade me to close the old place down and merge with the Duke of Rutland’s Belvoir Castle (the very idea!) whilst Kennedy was very taken with the Bonkers' Arms.
This evening the latest in this long line arrives in the shape of Nick Clegg. Over dinner I am able to give him the benefit of the wisdom acquired during a lifetime in public service, but I fear our pure Rutland air is too heady for him as he falls asleep over the cheese.
Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West, 1906-10.
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