Wednesday, May 01, 2013

My sixth Whipped column for Ad Lib

Whipped: From the desk of the Junior Whip

I don’t remember Margaret Thatcher. My mother used to threaten me with her when I wouldn't go to sleep. Even at that age, I was reading local authority by-election results under the covers with a torch.

So the scenes at Westminster, with Conservative MPs weeping on one another’s shoulders and Labour MPs more cheerful than I have ever seen them, were a puzzle to me.

And then there are the Labour activists…

The ones saying bitter things about the closure of coal mines are exactly the same ones who lecture people about the need to reduce carbon emissions. They puzzle me even more. The Chief Whip is enjoying it all immensely.

He did not like parliament being recalled – he thinks MPs are less likely to get up to mischief when they are back in their constituencies – but there is nothing a Scotsman enjoys more than the prospect of a good funeral. He approved of Nick Clegg's contribution to the debate after Mrs Thatcher died: "absolutely adequate," he said. That may not sound much to you, but I assure you it’s high praise coming from him.

The important thing, he explained to me, is not to be the lead story on the evening news, and Nick achieved that. The Chief Whip is the only Lib Dem I know who watches the news hoping we won’t be mentioned.

I preferred Paddy Ashdown's tribute. It was particularly magnanimous as (if I have understood Wikipedia correctly) Mrs Thatcher was a trained killer who used to strangle him with her bare hands at prime minister’s questions twice weekly.

Just now the most remarkable thing happened. The Chief Whip went all pensive and then said: “Mrs Thatcher would have made a good whip.”

It is the kindest thing I have ever heard him say about anyone. I am not ashamed to say I wept.

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