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
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
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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