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Lord Bonkers’ Diary 334
13 July 2009 (09:15:55)


We Bonkers have never been flippers – though in the Roaring Twenties my daughters were certainly flappers. You will not find me claiming that some wretched basement flat in Pimlico is my principal residence so that I may charge the upkeep of Bonkers Hall to the hard-pressed taxpayer. I do not claim for cleaning out my moat: I clean it out myself. (Or, to be precise, the Well-Behaved Orphans clean it out – the Rutland alligator is not as dangerous as the books make out). Nor do I call upon public funds to house my ducks: they (or at least those who have escaped the attentions of the alligators) are buying their own homes through a thoroughly Liberal housing co-operative. At times like this, I remember the wise words of my old friend Lord Hazlerigg, Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, when someone proposed paying allowances to county councillors: “If a man hasn’t the brains to earn his own fare once or twice a month into his county town, I don’t think he’d be much help in administering the spending of a million of money.”


Here in Rutland we always had our own currency, but the idea has been slow to catch on elsewhere despite the spirited advocacy of our own David Boyle. A few months ago, finding him rather depressed at this slow progress, I suggested to Boyle that he should go on the electric television to spread the word; I recall handing him a cutting about a new show called Britain’s Got Talent. The rest, gentle reader, is history. Though the studio audience was at first hostile, Boyle won them over with his oratory. Then the cinematograph film of his appearance became an overnight sensation and was widely viewed (I am informed) upon the Moving Internet in America. He was invited on to all the television shows there and, though (much to the bookies’ delight) he was defeated in the final by a group of dancers in woolly hats, he is now a celebrity across the world. It can now be but a matter of time before every village prints its own money.


I shall not pretend that I was delighted back in the 1930s when a steel works was built beside the pretty little Northamptonshire village of Corby: I had Meadowcroft (or perhaps it was his grandfather?) plant a spinney lest it spoil the view from the South Terrace here at Bonkers Hall. My foresight was rewarded over the following decades as Corby grew into a large town of quite preternatural ugliness. Nevertheless, when the works closed in the 1980s I did what I could to help the town’s inhabitants by encouraging the establishment of new industries. I struck gold with the Corby trouser press. This ingenious device allows one to crease one’s trousers smartly if one is away from home and one’s valet, and can also be used to keep the eggs and b warm if one is having breakfast in bed. I have always urged my Liberal Democrat colleagues at Westminster to buy the things; thus I fear I must shoulder some of the blame for Huhne getting into hot water after claiming for one on his expenses.


Rutland’s ink industry has long been the foundation of its prosperity. I am fortunate enough to own several ink wells myself – some supplying blue ink and some black – as well as a plant where the two varieties are mixed to form blue-black ink. In recent weeks, we have been shipping countless barrels of Rutland Extra Black to Westminster and today I discover why. The Commons publishes its members’ expense returns and they are simply dripping with the stuff. “Redacting” they call it. If I had covered my work with that amount of ink, my schoolmasters would have called it something very different and impressed their opinion upon me in no uncertain manner. Ink extraction, incidentally, is not without its dangers and we live in fear of one of the men falling in. We keep to hand a supply of industrial strength blotting paper for such emergencies, as that is the only thing that could save him.


Clegg, I read in the Manchester Guardian, has declared that a Liberal Democrat government (and it can be only a matter of months before we have one) will not renew Trident. Good for him. I have long believed that Britain simply cannot afford an independent nuclear deterrent; it costs so much that we may as well drop flaming bales of £50 notes upon our enemies. Here in Rutland we have, of course, never had nuclear weapons (we did try splitting atoms but found them terribly fiddly), but have on occasion found it useful to give the impression that we do. At times of international crisis, the Rutland Water Monster is asked to wear a cardboard conning tower so that she resembles a submarine. The effect is strikingly realistic and quite enough to fool any passing Zeppelin.


Do you remember Phil Willis’s delightful daughter? She was the young lady in the advertisement who had the internet projected on to her white dress. I thought that was a splendid idea and am sorry that it subsequently lost ground to the flat plasma screen. Anyway, I learn today that Willis is in the soup for claiming for a flat where the young lady lived. I fear he is the author of his own misfortune as I put a perfectly serviceable solution to him some years ago. “Willis,” I said, “why don’t you get bunk beds? That way, your daughter can sleep in the lower bunk when she is there alone but move to the upper bunk when you are in Westminster on parliamentary business.” Willis replied rather sniffily that it would be wrong to offer his daughter a two-tier service.


In Leicester this afternoon I come upon a party of disconsolate young men sporting hats with corks dangling from the brim. They turn out to be the Australian cricket team, at a loose end after being ejected from that dreadful “Twenty20” cricket tournament. I point them to the library and art gallery and, when those suggestions fail to please, suggest they come back to the Hall for a cup of tea and some practice. I am unable to raise an XI at such short notice, but am happy to have Meadowcroft erect some nets for them. It happens that the Queen’s Own Rutland Highlanders are training with live ammunition in the field next door and that the Rutland alligators are in playful mood. The last I see of the Australian captain, he is running into the distance with two of them gripping the seat of his trousers in their jaws.

Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his diary to Jonathan Calder

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