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Lord Bonkers’ Diary 345
08 April 2011 (20:50:42)

Every morning, the postman brings a heavy mailbag (perchance one sown by a former Labour MP?) through the lodge gates, along the drive and up to the Hall – I have to say that he has pedalled more slowly since my safari park closed, but I suppose that is social reform for you. A typical day’s haul will see an appeal for advice from a council candidate faced with a tricky by-election, an invitation to speak at a conference on Land Reform, a request to write the foreword for the benefit brochure of a first-class wicketkeeper, a letter inquiring about places at the Bonkers Home for Well-Behaved Orphans from one of today’s modern two-career couples and much else besides.

It occurred to me that I might do worse than share some of these letters and my replies with the amusing young people who read Liberator magazine. Who knows? If it goes down well, I may even repeat the exercise. Though space here is limited, let me emphasise that every letter sent to Bonkers Hall is read and replied to on the same day (particularly if it contains a cheque or a postal order).

I am currently caught on the horns of a particularly thorny dilemma. ALDC tells me leaflets have to look just so. However, our local riso wrangler tells me there is “too much black”. Which of these party institutions is correct? – Anxious of Notts.

The Association of Liberal Councillors, as I still like to think of it, is in many ways a victim of its own success. Once a bastion of sturdy provincials with a healthy disrespect for the party’s nobs and bigwigs (its very name was enough to make little Steel gibber), it has lately become rather a part of the establishment itself; and it has to be admitted that it has not always managed this transition gracefully. Fair-minded critics will agree that the burning in Hebden Bridge marketplace of those activists who insisted on pasting up their Focuses with a Pritt Stick rather than Cow Gum was right and necessary, but I have been less happy with some of the ALC’s decisions since then. In retrospect, the rot set in when it issued those stick-on beards for every deliverer and canvasser to wear. Therefore, Anxious, I should counsel you to Do Your Own Thing and listen to your local risosmith. If anyone from Hebden Bridge complains, refer him to me. I shall Have It Out next time I am in the vicinity to bathe in the Spring of Eternal Life that bubbles from the hillside above the Birchcliffe Centre.

How did the prisoners of war in The Great Escape dispose of the earth from their tunnels? – Well-Behaved Orphan, Rutland

What they did was Terribly Clever. Each chap carried two bags under his tunic. They were tied off with string which was looped over the neck in a sort of yoke arrangement. Pulling a drawstring released a pin so that the soil trickled down to the ground and was trodden in as the fellow strolled around the camp. Why do you ask?

Now my beloved party is the whipping fag for the Bloody Tories and we have lost all credibility after breaking our gentlemen’s (and, indeed, ladies’) honour, nay pledges, is there any point in wasting my pennies, and even shillings, on attending our annual bun fight and Conference? – Auld Leftie of Desborough

Desborough is a splendid town, renowned for its corsetry. The First Lady Bonkers used to obtain her requisites there and was once presented with an Illuminated Address after keeping a whole factory in work through a particularly harsh winter. As to your question, Auld Leftie, I believe that money spent attending Conference is never wasted. If you don’t approve of the party’s strategy, what better chance will you have of changing it? Put down an amendment or have a quiet word with a junior minister in the bar. I recall throwing a bread roll at Lloyd George at a dinner after he went in with the Conservatives, and I flatter myself that it had some effect.

Forgive my ignorance. Me Father, un, Granfather, and ’is Father stood alongsides yer Lordships campaigning fer tha vote, an we gottit an bin voting Bonkers ever since. Even me ol’ Gran, who does the laundry fer yer Lordships followed ’er Ladyship as one of those Insufferajets and she voted Bonkers an’ all. Now that Master Clegg o’yours is askin’ us for an alternative vote, but roun’ ere we’re always votin’ fer a Bonkers. Wass all this about ‘Alternatives’? – Johnboat Goudhearte, Rutland

Yes, her Ladyship was a brave campaigner for Votes for Women (though I did feel sorry for that poor horse). Rest assured, Goudhearte, the Alternative Vote will make no difference to the way we conduct our politics here in the Bonkers Hall ward.

Last May, rather unexpectedly, I lost my job of 13 years. It came as a bit of a shock but I soon got over it and within 24 hours found myself back in the limelight on a popular current affairs panel show. Following the unexpected success of this performance, I have endeavoured to forge a career in stand-up comedy with mixed results. However, a job is coming up in my previous line of work and I am keen to get the post. However, for some reason my former colleagues are reluctant to support my application. How should I proceed? – Asteroid Boy

The comedy business is hard one – you might say it is no laughing matter. Look at how poor Mike Hancock has ended up, despite that fact that it is only a few years since his ‘Half-Hour’ was the most popular programme on the moving television. So I cannot in all conscience encourage you to follow that path. You would do better to try to re-enter your old line of work, but it is probably best not to be too ambitious at first. Let us suppose, purely by way of example, that you were a politician: then it would not be a good idea to try to be Mayor of London at once. You would do better to try a lesser post first and work your way up. It happens that I know of a village in Patagonia that is looking for a new mayor; your passage on the next cattle boat is booked and I shall be at Tilbury to wave you off – as, no doubt, will many of your Liberal Democrats.

As to your other question (for which we were unable to find space here), Asteroid Boy... I usually recommend a cold bath in such cases.

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

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