Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lord Bonkers' latest diary

The new Liberator arrived in the post today. So it is time to post Lord Bonkers' latest offering. (You can find an archive of the old boy's diaries on his own website.)

To Wimbledon to watch an afternoon’s lawn tennis. When I arrive I get the most terrible shock: the linesmen and umpires are all dressed like little Steel; every man jack of them sports a blue shirt with a white collar. I down a stiff Pimms to steady my nerve, but even so am obliged to make my excuses and leave before the final set.

Besides I have always had mixed feelings about these championships: year after year I bid for the ball boy contract, only to find that Barnardo’s had undercut me again. The Well-Behaved Orphans were only asked to officiate once, and funnily enough that year both the gentlemen’s and the ladies’ singles were won by unseeded players and I rather cleaned up at Ladbroke’s.

Walking along an obscure corridor at Westminster I spy the Conservative member for Suffolk South coming towards me. Ever one for a jape, I wait until we have almost drawn level before greeting him with the words “Yo, Yeo!” Would you believe he does not laugh? Some people have no sense of humour.

The afternoon finds me in Notting Hill, reconnoitring the route of the carnival procession on behalf of the Rutland Morris Men. Passing a rather grand house I spy a familiar figure with a shining pink face climbing a ladder; he is followed by two speechwriters, a man carrying a clean shirt and another with an inflatable Boris Johnson. Yes, it is the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, David Cameron, and he is busily erecting windmills on his roof.

To his credit, Cameron has been an enthusiast for wind power since his days at Eton, where he employed two fags to fan him. However, being something of an expert on these matters through my discussions with Malachy Dromgoogle, I cannot help but notice that he is rather overdoing it. I point this out, but the fellow is not to be told and continues to put up more sales. The inevitable happens: the wind gets up, there is a horrible sheering noise and the whole roof takes off with Cameron and his entourage still aboard. I gather they were last seen passing over High Wycombe.

These days one cannot have one’s footman open the Manchester Guardian for one without coming across an article by Lord Hattersley. It happens that I knew the young Roy Hattersley; he was 14 when I first met him and, as a scion of one of the area’s leading Labour families, already an Alderman of Sheffield. He would insist upon being borne into the council chamber shoulder high by cloth-capped workmen, while the various ward parties would vie for the honour of presenting him with meat-and-potato pies.

With gravy running down his chin, he would spray pastry crumbs over the assembled company while demanding that the council pull down all the terraced houses and replace them with tower blocks. “And I want a multi-storey car park and pedestrian underpasses and a gyratory system and I want them now!” he would demand in a barely broken voice, while stamping his foot. In short, he represented all that was best in the municipal socialism of the 1960s.

I was sorry to see that fellow Michael Brown sent to gaol. If anyone had it in mind to send him a cake with a file in it, I think that would be a nice gesture.

There can be fewer sadder tales than that of Mark Oaten – or Rising Star as I still think of him. This innocent Red Indian brave, through a strange concatenation of circumstances, found himself elected Member for the historic city of Winchester. It must have been a shock to someone more used to hunting buffalo or putting arrows through the hats of passing stagecoach drivers, but at first he made a good fist of things and was re-elected a couple of times with a juicy majority.

However, as is so often the case, fame turned his head and he began to get ideas above his station (which is Waterloo for Winchester, incidentally). In rapid succession he had himself made Kennedy’s Parliamentary Private Secretary (“Rising Star carry heap big firewater,” as he once remarked to me), Chairman of the Parliamentary Party and Shadow Home Secretary, jettisoning his moccasins and acquiring a suit along the way. In this last post he hit upon the idea of making prisoners study. (Locked up and made to learn Latin verbs? It sounds just like public school and I am sure the European Court would step in.)

Then hubris took hold of him and he stood for the leadership of our party. I need not recount here the distasteful details of his fall here (they may be purchased separately from the Bonkers Head Press under a plain brown wrapper), but that was the end of poor Rising Star. Now he is attempting to make a living in show business. I cannot see it working for him, but when he calls today I use my good offices to find him a part in a keep-fit video being made in Jamaica by a friend. It’s name? Pilates of the Caribbean.

It gives me no pleasure to see Lord Levy in trouble with the Old Bill. In the 1970s he was the manager of my old friend Alvin Stardust – in those days a regular denizen of the “hit parade” and frequently to be heard inviting listeners to be his coo ca choo – and I learned nothing but good of him. In particular, he would use his influence in the music world to secure work for aspiring Labour politicians who were temporarily embarrassed for funds.

In those days there was a popular group called The Wombles whose members dressed in the most amusing furry costumes. The advantage of that garb was that simply anyone could appear on stage as a Womble and the audience would be none the wiser. Over the years Jack Straw, Margaret Beckett and Dr John Read were all pleased to dress up and earn a few bob in this way. I also recall that a struggling young lawyer named Anthony Blair would occasionally appear if briefs were slow coming in.

Just as a Roman Emperor would keep a slave on hand to whisper “remember thou art moral” in his ear from time to time, so our current Prime Minister would be well advised to have an aide say “remember you’re a womble” now and then. “Re-member-member-member what a womble womble womble you are,” he might add.

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