Thursday, December 26, 2019

A year of decision: Lord Bonkers in 2019

It is customary, or so he assures me, for Lord Bonkers to spend those lazy days between Christmas and the new year looking back on his adventures over the past year.

So here goes...

A reader alerted me to this Double Diamond television commercial from the 1960s, which was shot in the library of the National Liberal Club.

He suggested, surely correctly, that Lord Bonkers had arranged the filming to alleviate one of the club's regular financial crises.


His lordship paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:
The obituaries will tell you how Sir Paddy Ashplant fused the community politics promoted by the Association of Liberal Councillors with his expertise in jungle warfare to win a string of by-elections and raise the Liberal Democrats from the ruins of Steel’s grand strategy. 
What they will not tell you is how my domestic staff loved his visits (Cook would frequently announced that he made her “come over all unnecessary”); how he stood his round in the Bonkers’ Arms and entertained the locals with his favourite joke; how he allowed the Well-Behaved Orphans to question him for hours about his time in the Special Boat Service (they were always particularly interested in the escape techniques he had been taught lest he be captured by the enemy).
He also met Nick Clegg:
He turns out to be full of his new job, telling me how Satan’s chief operating officer Mephistopheles called him while he was walking in the Alps last summer and invited him to fly to Hell to meet Satan himself. "I said to them, if you're prepared to let me into the inner circle, in the black box, and give me real authority, then I'm interested." 
Clegg describes Satan to me as "a shy guy" and "thoughtful", before adding: "The thing that persuaded me to do it is Satan and  Mephistopheles asking the right questions for the right reasons."


The old boy, who is far more trenchant than I would ever be, was not taken with our new recruit Chuka Umunna:
I curled up with a pamphlet he has just published. It soon transpired that he is one of these hearty public school types who want to send the nation’s youth off to camp. Sleeping under canvass; washing up in a bucket of cold water; doing PT with your shirt off… You know the type. 
By the time I had finished reading, it I was clear that the man is worse than that. He wants to haul in the country every teenager off to the Jack Straw Memorial Reform School, Dungeness. Why in Gladstone’s name are our people delivering for him?


What is the reason for Lord Bonkers' longevity?

He always talks about his annual bathe the spring of eternal life that bursts from the hillside above the former HQ of the Association of Liberal Councillors and the cordial sold (at a steep price) by the Elves of Rockingham Forest.

But a reader suggested another explanation.


Milkshaking was the talk of the summer. As so often, Lord Bonkers was there first:
A journalist rings to ask what I think of this modern tactic of pouring milkshakes over far-right politicians. I reply that the milkshake is an American import we could well do without and that if one is going to dispose of it then tipping it over a passing Fascist seems as good a way as any. 
Warming to my theme, I recall that I was once obliged to sit next to Oswald Mosley at dinner. Things were distinctly frosty between us from the get-go and when he made a disobliging remark about Herbert Samuel I tipped my knickerbocker glory over his head.


Lord Bonkers played a prominent part in our victory in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election:
What a splendid night! It was touch and go at the start of the count, but when the boxes from Ystradgynlais were opened it became clear we had triumphed. We toasted our victory in the finest Welsh champagne and sang our Liberal anthems: ‘The Land’, ‘Woad’ and ‘Cwm Off It’. 
One pleasure of this contest has been rediscovering the delightful countryside of Mid Wales. More than once by memory has been jogged by places I saw in the last campaign I fought here – I went through Three Cocks in the 1985 by-election.
He also contributed his customary foreword to the Liberator Songbook:
Welcome to all our new members! I hope you enjoy your first Glee Club and, a word of reassurance, please don’t worry: It’s Meant To Be Like This. 
I have already met many of you when you attended one of my basic training camps on the shores of Rutland Water. The party has signed up so many new recruits recently that I had to send out for extra tents. 
After a week of training in committee room theory and practice, Focus delivery and guerrilla warfare – all conducted under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Carmichael – new members need fear nothing they will encounter as a Liberal Democrat activist.


Defections to the Liberal Democrats were all the rage, so the old monster did his best to encourage them:
When Jo ‘Gloria’ Swanson tipped me the wink that we would be parading newly converted Conservative MPs to the Liberal Democrat Conference, I naturally decided to join the fun. I hired a van from Oakham’s leading Chinese laundry and bade a brace of gamekeepers join me; we motored up to Town and lay in wait outside the Carlton Club. 
In the middle of the afternoon a red-faced character sporting an Eton tie stumbled down the steps. I thumbed through Jane’s Conservative MPs and identified him as fair quarry. The gamekeepers moved in, and when he proved resistant to their orders a tap on the napper with an orchard doughty rendered him more pliable. He was bundled into the van and buckled inside the large wicker hamper with which it had come equipped.

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