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Lord Bonkers’ Diary 316
25 February 2007 (22:45:32)


Good God! Merciful Heavens! I count myself a pretty broad-minded fellow – I went to Uppingham – but really! What has been going on? Kennedy! Rising Star!! The Reverend Hughes??? I shall not pretend I did not notice a certain froideur when I invited the larger part of the parliamentary party to Christmas luncheon at the Hall, but I never dreamed it would come to this. As I leaf through the cuttings in the press office at Cowley Street, a host of images swim before me: Kennedy sprawled on the pavement beneath his office window; Oaten announcing his candidature with Lembit Öpik at his side (Öpik, incidentally, is wearing that hat of his – the one with the radio antennae which link him to a number of satellites so that he can be made aware at once of approaching asteroids); the Reverend Hughes declaiming “My name is Simon Hughes and I am running for Bishop” from the pulpit of St Tatchell’s, Bermondsey. Thank goodness I was in Rutland for all of it!


Over breakfast Ming mentions that he has put Harvey in charge of our defence policy. “I expect that he is on manoeuvres right now,” the eminent man of Fife adds. I hardly have time to remonstrate with him before leaping into the Bentley and heading for the gunnery ranges on Salisbury Plain at top speed. I arrive not a moment too soon. Some fellow with a promising moustache is showing Harvey over the army’s new pride and joy. “You just set the computer coordinates here,” he says, “load the gun and – Bam! – you can blow up anywhere you like.” “What, say, just for instance, Battersea Dogs’ Home?” Harvey asks with that dangerous gleam in his eye. “Of course,” replies the promising moustache. “Let me see. Battersea. TFG755634/98. There you are. We are pointing at the place now.” Just as Harvey is pressing the red firing button I throw myself upon the console and give the computer dial a wrench. There is a loud explosion and the shell heads for the English Channel. I later learn that I winged some wretched little foreign fishing boat, but in all modesty I can claim to have saved the day.


In recent days there has been a great deal of ill-informed comment about our Deputy Prime Minster’s penchant for the game of croquet; he has suffered obloquy and had contumely poured over him – and dried contumely is a devil to brush off one’s jacket. The charge seems to be that by indulging in this pastime Prescott is betraying his proletarian roots. What rot! Have these people never been to Kingston upon Hull? If they did so they would see games of croquet taking place on every street corner, allotment and piece of waste ground. After a hard day’s trawling, there is nothing the doughty citizen of that historic city enjoys more than tying his whippet to a hoop and wielding the mallet in his shirtsleeves. Granted the game is a little rougher than that one encounters in the Home Counties – and features a more prominent role for dried fish – but to dismiss it as the preserve of the aristocracy betrays the most dreadful ignorance.


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. Its name? Pilates of the Caribbean.


Perhaps because of my efforts to combat global warming, the day dawns cold and blustery; I therefore resolve to spend it in my Library amongst my papers. I soon turn up an old issue of the Radio Times carrying an article on the programme “I am Rather Well Known. May I Leave Now Please?” Though long forgotten, this was quite the thing in its day and frequently challenged “What’s My Line” and “Muffin the Mule” for pride of place in the ratings. IARWKMILNP (as it was popularly known) featured a number of celebrities of the day staying in a country house and suffering various indignities – an unsuitable choice of wine with the fish course, being obliged to go for a country walk when they would have been quite happy with the newspaper – to the amusement of the viewing millions. It was quite a coup when I was able to arrange for Clement Davies, then Liberal leader, to take part in the programme. That year the other contestants included such luminaries as Sherpa Tensing, Pat Smythe the show jumper, Gilbert Harding, Dame Anna Neagle and Wally Hammond. Unfortunately, poor Clement was voted out in the first round when the viewers’ postcards were counted; I have always suspected low dealing from Muffin the Mule’s agent, as he had hoped that his client would take part. Nevertheless, our victory in the Torrington by-election came shortly after IARWKMILNP was shown, and I flatter myself that the show played no small part in it.

Lord Bonkers is unwell, but sends readers a selection of bon mots from his 2006 columns.

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