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Lord Bonkers’ Diary 341
07 September 2010 (20:02:22)

Like all cricket lovers, I was shocked to learn of the allegations about match fixing. They reminded me of that sad period during the 1950s when Eastern betting syndicates turned their attentions to British council by-elections. All over the country, candidates stood with the sole intention of losing – and some pretty fruity leaflets were issued as a result.

Things came to a head in a contest at Weston-Super-Mare, where the candidates of all three major parties were clearly doing their best to be defeated. In the event, they were trumped by an Independent Ratepayer, who was given 14 days without the option at the subsequent court case, but at least the authorities were finally compelled to act.

In those days, of course, local by-elections still fell under the aegis of the Marylebone Cricket Club, and at first-rate job they made of it. If they succeed in sorting out this Pakistani no-ball business, then I would be in favour of scrapping the Electoral Commission and putting them back in charge. After all, whom would you rather see entrusted with our democratic system: some faceless bureaucrat or Derek Underwood?

******

I am sorry to hear that Menzies Campbell has got himself caught up in this “blood diamonds” business in Central Africa – it seems so out of character.

I can only assume that Elspeth put him up to it.

******

It was against my better judgement when I agreed to review Tony Blair’s A Journey for the High Leicestershire Radical, and my doubts were by no means assuaged when I finally plucked up the courage to open the thing. It was not long before I passed it over to the Well-Behaved Orphans to be turned into paper darts. (This will not, of course, prevent my reviewing it).

One paragraph I did read caused me no little worry. In it, Blair reported that the animosity of his Chancellor was so great that it led him to have “a stiff whisky or G&T before dinner, and a couple of glasses of wine or even half a bottle with it”.

Really, if a man is off his drink to that extent, he is clearly in poor health and unfit to hold a great office of state. I think the Queen should have Said Something.

******

The discerning reader – and I like to think that all my readers fall into that category – will have noticed that, of late, I have eschewed my customary format as a diarist. These days, rather than label the entries Monday, Tuesday and so forth, I simply (as we used to say at Rutstock) “let it all hang out”.

My thinking is this: some days are simply not terribly interesting. Today is a good example: after fielding a phone call from Clegg in Afghanistan (“Say we are turning the corner,” I told him. “Of course we are not, but that is what our politicians always tell people when they go over there”). I attended to an emergency on the Bonkers Hall Estate Railway. This is not, of course, the standard gauge branch that runs from Market Harborough, but the narrow gauge system that carries crops, fertiliser and stray Orphans about the old demesne. In all honesty, it has rather a variable gauge and that, I suspect, is what was behind today's derailment.

By the time The First Lady Bonkers had been set to rights, it was time to have my bath drawn and then attend a performance of Bellini’s Norman Baker at the Royal Opera House, Oakham.

So you see, there was simply nothing to write about today.

******

You will by now, I am sure, have bought your new Liberator songbook. In my introduction, I mention Liverpool’s important role in popular music and my own visit to its famous Cavern Club.

I fear, however, that I was forced for reasons of space to omit a rather shameful detail. You see, I misheard the location of that club and wasted two days looking for it in Hartlepool before I realised my mistake. In my defence, I have to say that I thought it sounded unlikely even at the time.

The moral of this story is that it is a false economy not to have your ear trumpet serviced regularly.

******

I hate to say it, but I fear that being elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats has gone to the head of my old friend the Revd Hughes. Not a day goes past without his issuing a statement saying the party will not stand for this or will not stand for that. Now, I am the first to admit that he is the Soundest of Liberals, but since when did being Deputy Leader make one such a big cheese?

It happens that I was once myself elected as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and did not find out about it until a good two years afterwards. Even when I did learn of my rank, I did not go around telling Baldwin to watch his step or Ramsay MacDonald to pull his socks up.

Nobody, I had to remind the Revd Hughes after Divine Service the other day, likes a swank. The time may well have come, I judge, for our Deputy Leader to be elected by the party as a whole and not just our MPs – stout men and, indeed, women as they all are.

That said, I should undoubtedly have put my X next to the Revd Hughes rather than that of that Farron fellow from the Lakes who is, by all accounts, a great admirer of C.S. Lewis. Well, it happens that I knew Lewis, and I always found him Distinctly Odd.

Anyway, I know Farron’s sort: let him into St Asquith’s and in no time he would have sold the pews for firewood, painted over the mural of Nancy Seear Defending her Honour Against the Invading Socialists and got us singing “Shine, Jesus, Shine” while he plays the guitar.

Well, we don't like That Sort of Thing here in Rutland.

******

I met a member of Liberals Against Choice in Westminster the other day. He thrust a leaflet advertising the group’s fringe meeting into my hand, saying proudly: “We’ve got a civil servant coming.” “What is he talking about?” I replied cagily. “Some of these fellows can be awfully dull.” “Oh he’s not talking,” came the reply. “He’s just going to stand there so we can look at someone who works for the state. I am hoping I can have my photograph taken with him!”

At this point I hailed a taxi, ejected its fare and made my escape.

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

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