At last the journalists are leaving me in peace after my deportation from China over my part in a demonstration in favour of Tibetan independence. I have to confess that the account of events which has gained currency is not strictly correct. I yield to no one in my admiration of the Dalai Lama – among his many other good qualities, he is as jolly a fellow as ever danced on a table in the Bonkers’ Arms – but the placard which I was carrying when the local rozzers apprehended me did not say “Free Tibet” but “Free to Bet”: I was hoping to encourage the worthy Chinamen to wager on the outcome of such events as the rhythmic gymnastics and the Greco-Roman wrestling. Unfortunately, the authorities took a dim view of this and I was on a seaplane home before my feet had touched the ground. Despite this, I retain my admiration of Chinese culture – and of Chinese food in particular. When I mentioned this to the arresting officer, he asked what my favourite dish was. “Number twenty-six,” I replied.
I awaken to the alarming news that a peer has caught fire at Weston-super-Mare. I have to make several telephone calls, including one to the Somerset Fire Brigade, until my mind is set at rest and I am satisfied that the story does not concern my old friend Brian Cotter. (He is now a member of the Lords, having sat for the aforementioned resort between 1997 and 2005. He lost the seat despite my last-minute poster campaign under the slogan “Don’t be a Rotter, Vote for Cotter”). Coincidentally, I am told that there has been a small conflagration involving another Weston peer: Jeffrey Archer (it seems that only his underpants were involved). To celebrate Brian Cotter’s deliverance, I take a party of especially Well-Behaved Orphans to the pier on Rutland Water for candyfloss. Its superstructure has never been quite the same since it was dynamited in 1939 to prevent German troops landing, but it still has much to offer the agile holidaymaker.
To Holyrood to congratulate Tavish Scott upon his election as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. There is something of an Apostolic succession to his assumption of this eminent position: Scott used to work for Jim Wallace, who, in turn, began his political career carrying Laura Grimond’s shopping; and Laura, you will recall, was the wife of Jo Grimond, whom some historians believe to have been present when Joseph of Arimathea landed at Budleigh Salterton, bringing with him the tenets of Liberalism on tablets of stone. When one adds to this weighty heritage the Scots’ predilection for politicians with either two surnames or two Christian names – one thinks of Menzies Campbell, Russell Johnston and Nicol Stephen – then, despite the obvious appeal of someone called Ross Finnie, his victory was assured. Incidentally, when I arrive at the Scottish Parliament, I am asked if I know Mike Rumbles. “Yes,” I reply, “I am afraid he does.”
Dinner with Paris Stilton, the Leicestershire cheese heiress.
My unfortunate experiences in Peking notwithstanding, I have to admit that the Olympics were great fun. The important thing now is to continue to interest our young people in all these new events we have discovered. With this in mind, I have agreed to act as a consultant to the British Yngling Board. You must know yngling: it’s the sport that is sweeping the nation. I would go so far as to say that, at a party, if you wish to mingle, a good opening gambit is “Do you yngle?” I intend to build upon this with a poster campaign; I envisage a picture of a worried man with the caption “Still single? Yngle!” and another showing a sporty young lady captioned “I tingle when I yngle”. Add to this a new snack named Pryngles, an event at Dungeness under the title “Yngle by the Shingle” and an episode of Emmerdale in which the Dingles yngle, and I think you will agree that I am more than earning my corn.
In these days of Bakelite and the electric cinematograph, it is important for political leaders to appeal to the younger voter. As Cowley Street was rather undermanned over the holiday season, I naturally offered to lend a hand with the drafting of Nick Clegg’s press releases. So when it transpired that a company called PA Consulting had lost an electronic-type computing memory stick (I am told that is the correct term), which contained personal details of all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales (it must have been a very long stick), I naturally sprang into action and drafted the following in our Leader’s name: “Charlie Chaplin could do a better job running the Home Office than this Labour Government.” As you can imagine, I was feeling tolerably pleased with myself, so it was no little shock when I was informed that Clegg thought this “old-fashioned”. Ever a team player, I swallowed my pride and produced something more à la mode for him the following day: “Frankly the Keystone Cops would do a better job running the Home Office and keeping our data safe than this government.” I also suggested he say that “Jacqui Smith as Home Secretary is as lost as Mollie Sugden in ‘Come Back Mrs Noah’,” but that was not thought suitable. Really, how much more up to date can one get?
I have decided to dabble in popular music once again (my part in the phenomenon that was Rutbeat in the 1960s has yet to be fully chronicled) and am on the lookout for new talent to add to my stable of artistes. When I say “stable,” I mean it literally, as that is where the recording studio is located. This morning I audition a charming pair of twins who go under the name of “The Impertinent Girls”: they are not very good singers, but I gather that is no longer regarded as an impediment to a career “in the business” – much as one need no longer believe in God to be a Church of England minister. Their rendering of a song encouraging the listener to touch a certain part of their anatomy is regarded as a certain “hit” by all who hear it. My only worry now is keeping them away from poor Lembit.
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his diary to Jonathan Calder.
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