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Lord Bonkers’ Diary 307
21 December 2005 (03:31:03)


To Hampton Court. Although I had not been asked to take part in the summit in so many words, I felt sure that the leaders of the European Union would be grateful if I were on hand to offer them the fruits of my considerable experience of international affairs. And what a good thing I came! I arrived this morning to find the place in uproar. It transpired that, against all advice, our own prime minister had entered the palace’s maze without Peter Mandelson at his side and was as a result quite lost. One heard cries of “Keep turning left, sir,” “Look, I am sure this is the same hedge I saw half an hour ago” and “Couldn’t we ask the RAF to bomb it slightly?” It happens that I know a thing or two about mazes, having a fine example of my own at the Hall. Planted with the fast-growing Rutland leylandii – if one ponders too long which path to take, both may disappear – it has proved a firm favourite with visitors, particularly since I hit upon the idea of charging them to leave the thing rather than enter it. Given this experience of mazes, it was the work only of a few minutes to lead a pathetically grateful Blair back to the outside world. Later I receive a intemperate telephone call from a Scotsman at 11 Downing Street (he reverses the charges) complaining that I did not leave him in there.


At Leicester London Road railway station I purchase a copy of Socialist Worker from an unkempt young lady – I am house-training a setter puppy and it uses a wonderfully absorbent newsprint. My glance happens to fall upon a reference to “Respect” on the front page. I enquire what this may be, and am told that the SWP has thrown in its lot with that fellow Galloway, who was so fond of the old Soviet Union, and the more thoroughgoing sorts of Muslim. “Take my word for it, my dear,” I reply, “no good will come of this. It never does to weaken your party by joining people with whom you have nothing in common philosophically. You are too young to remember it, but the Liberal Party once got itself involved in something called ‘The Alliance Party’ – and look what happened to us.” I pass on my way, shaking my head dolefully.


I hear that one of Pakistan’s leading leg-spinners is in the jug for roughing up the pitch in the second test. One should not rush to judgment: perhaps he was practising his foxtrot in the hope of emulating Mr Darren Gough on the electric television? Besides, people can be so suspicious. Here on the Bonkers Hall estate I have long practised the rotation of crops: clover one year, wheat the next, then turnips, then a cricket pitch and then back to clover. So it was that during the tea interval of my XI’s last match of the season I gave orders for the pitch to be ploughed up. There were one or two raised eyebrows when we went on to bowl the other side out cheaply, but I am sure all my readers will understand that my actions were motivated purely by a concern for the principles of sound agricultural management.


I spend the early evening writing letters of congratulation to the Greenpeace activists who scaled Mrs Presscott’s hairdo in order to protest against… well, something or other – you know what these fellows are like. I then hurry to the Bonkers’ Arms to enjoy the arrival of 24-hour drinking in the village. My favourite hostelry has long enjoyed the services of a fearsome landlady, with the result that there is rarely trouble of any sort, even though she does insist upon keeping the dreadful gassy Dahrendorf lager in addition to the celebrated Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter. Come eleven o’clock, the landlady draws the curtains, locks the door and continues to serve us. A few days ago she would have drawn the curtains, locked the door and continued to serve us. How times change!


As the scientists amongst us will know, these days “peer review” is all the rage; it works along these lines. If a chap believes he has come up with something juicy in the scientific line, he writes it down and posts it off to a member of the House of Lords. I have a skim through it and write something such as “Splendid,” “Terribly Clever” or “Sounds a bit far-fetched to me” on the bottom, before sending it on to the editor of one of our leading journals. Occasionally, if it has lots of those Greek letters and equations in it, I will recommend inviting the Department of Hard Sums at the University of Rutland at Belvoir to have a look at it too. Some may ask why the landed aristocracy should play so central a part in British science, but I would argue that there is virtue in the solidity and consistency we provide.


High excitement at the Bonkers’ Home for Well-Behaved Orphans as Charles Kennedy comes to read the little mites a bedtime story. “It’s one Vincent Cable wrote for me,” he confides as they gather round, smelling strongly of toothpaste. It turns out to involve a little girl called Goldilocks who breaks into a house belonging to three bears and helps herself to their porridge. (I wonder whether this is the sort of thing one should be relaying to young ears, but decide to hold my peace.) The first bowl was too hot, the second too cold and the third just right. You might expect the aforementioned Goldilocks to tuck into this, but then two medium-sized bears come along and start discussing the optimum level of personal taxation in a market economy. I would tell you how it all turns out, but unfortunately I fell asleep at this point.


To St Asquith’s for Divine Service. The Revd Hughes preaches on the parable of The Man Who Refused to Carry an Identity Card – a new one on me, I must admit. It is all about a brave chap who refused to have one of those beastly cards and went to prison as a result. Everyone said what a splendid fellow he was, and when he came out they agreed that he had much more go than that dreadful Scotsman and was not a wet blanket like the member for Winchester. As a result he became leader of his party and everyone loved him. I wish I had paid more attention in Divinity.

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

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