The morning finds me in a clearing in Rockingham Forest. I am surrounded by Liberal Democrat knights and their horses. Here is Sir Bob Russell, though if I am honest I think his brother Earl should have received a knighthood for his services to jazz. Here is Sir Robert Smith, about whom little is known, except that he is a knight. Here are Sir Alan Beith, Sir Malcolm Bruce and Sir Menzies Campbell – Sound men all. And here are Sir Nicholas Harvey and Sir Andrew Stunnell, who are among our newer knights. Indeed, they are so new that I have to ask to see their credentials.
“Gentlemen,” I begin, “it is many years since I last saw the Spirit of Liberalism. I believe I last caught site of it in Ashplant’s day, though I have to admit his elderflower champagne was pretty powerful stuff. Who knows where it has got to today? That is why I am sending you on this quest.”
Sir Alan Beith, who is sitting the wrong way round on his horse and polishing his glasses on its tail, speaks up.
“A quest is a wonderful idea, but some of us aren’t very used to horseback.”
“I have thought of that,” I assure him, “and have laid on mechanised transport for those who prefer it. Think of it as a knight bus.”
Before they set off, however, I lead them to the village green at a smart trot. The judges of the Rutland Best Kept Village competition are due any day and those lances look just the job for picking up litter.
Lord Bonkers was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10.