Finding myself passing the kitchens, I call upon Cook to thank her for a
delicious luncheon (and ask if there might be any of that magnificent spotted
dick left). I find her in her sitting room watching her new portable moving
television. As I study the screen, I see men eating a kangaroo’s penis while
being showered with maggots. Something about him is familiar... “By Gladstone!”
I cry. “It’s Lembit Opik.” I am about to observe that the restaurants in
Welshpool have clearly got no better, when Cook explains that Lembit has been
sent to the jungle with a number of ‘celebrities’ (though I must confess I have
not heard of any of them except dear Brit Ekland, Nigel Havers’s lad and the
sprinter fellow) and that TV viewers can vote by telephone to choose which of
them should undergo an awful ordeal. I spend the evening pounding the keys of my
new mobile telephone.
It is strange how new policies come to prominence. Until recently, we Liberal
Democrats devoted all our efforts to helping the poor, but today a new cause has
become popular amongst us – that of Not Terribly Bright middle-class children.
If you don’t support giving thousands of pounds to Not Terribly Bright
middle-class children so that they can go to university, then you are no Liberal
Democrat, or so some would tell you. These Not Terribly Bright middle-class
children throng the streets, occupy libraries (which may, in all fairness, do
them some good) and force the cancelation of political conferences. I am all in
favour of higher education, and regard the Department of Hard Sums of the
University of Rutland at Belvoir as one of the jewels in our national crown, but
do we need quite so many universities as we have these days? They choke our
cities, ruin our public houses and force the working class into exile. When I
have thousands of pounds to hand out in this way I prefer to dig wells in
Africa, house the homeless and – one must move with the times – buy shoes for
the Well-Behaved Orphans. No doubt I shall now be picketed by Not Terribly
Bright middle-class children myself.
I am not sure I trust this new mobile telephone. This morning I dialled Mike
Hancock’s office at Westminster, only to be put through to a number in Moscow!
Poor Clegg is a bit under the cosh at the moment, not least because of his
failure to adopt the cause of Not Terribly Bright middle-class children. Even
his appearance on Desert Island Discs caused controversy when he chose the odd
packet of Woodbines as his luxury. (When I appeared on this show, I chose Dame
Anna Neagle as mine. I had to send Roy Plomley a case of particularly fine
claret to get him to agree to the idea, but I am happy to report the investment
proved well worth it). I was not surprised by Clegg’s choice as I was one of the
few listeners who already knew that he smoked. That was because I organised a
boat trip on Rutland Water for the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party last
summer, during which we were marooned on an island by an unseasonal storm. After
we had built a camp (under my supervision), I found Clegg enjoying a cigarette.
“How did you manage to light it?” I asked. “That’s easy,” he said. “I stole
Danny Alexander’s glasses.”
I spend the day phoning up to vote for Lembit to be buried alive with deadly
scorpions, but they put some ghastly woman who keeps fainting on the screen
That unexpected sojourn on the island did at least solve the mystery of how Evan
Harris has been getting on. After his sad defeat at the last election, he asked
me if I knew of somewhere quiet where he could conduct his experiments. As the
triumphal arch I had erected on the Bonkers Hall Estate built to commemorate
Mark Bonham-Carter’s victory in the Great Torrington by-election is currently
undergoing renovation, I pointed him towards Rutland Water. While there with my
fellow Liberal Democrat parliamentarians, I came across the Good Doctor and he
proudly showed us the tower he had built in which to conduct his experiments in
search of the ‘Liberal gene’. I did not like the sound of this so, after we had
been rescued, I had a word with the villagers of the shore. I expect they rowed
out with pitchforks and flaming brands the very next day.
On returning from Divine Service at St Asquith’s, I glance at yesterday’s post.
It is just as I thought: the mobile telephone company does not know what it is
doing. The bill is far too high! These people would do well not to underestimate
me, for I was the first person in Rutland to have a telephone (it never rang,
because no one else had one, but you take my point).
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his
diaries to Jonathan Calder
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