The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
"We're on our way!" That was the message I was urging the redoubtable William Hague to deliver to the Great British Public as he set off from Central Office for the first step of his round-Britain "Meet the People" walkabout at Victoria Station.

As his car drew up to Smith Square, I took the opportunity to adjust William's baseball cap to a more casual, free-and-easy slant. I then scuffed up his walking shoes and threw a little soil over his trousers, to lend him what one might call a more "Iived-in" feel. Meanwhile, our Party Chairman, Cecil Parkinson (what a breath of fresh air, incidentally!) ran William through the steps of hobnobbing with our old friend "the man in the street" (dread being!).

"Shake them by the hand, look them in the eye, then move on with all possible speed" advised Cecil, "The last thing you want to do is to be collared by a time-waster."

We had decided to emphasise William's youth and unstuffiness by dressing him in a sloganised T-shirt, though there had been some discussion as to exactly what that slogan should consist of. I had argued for something unashamedly populist yet tasteful, something in tune with the national mood of grief. So I had had a T-shirt in William's size printed with the slogan "THIS CANDLE'S GOT WIND!" But Cecil continued to argue for something a little more bullish, a little more jocular, and was struggling to get William's head through the hole in a T-shirt bearing the legend "THE PEOPLE'S PRINCESS" with the word "PRINCESS" crossed out and "PRIME MINISTER" put in its place.

At that moment, word came through on the mobile phone that Victoria Station was deserted. On hearing that the Leader of the Opposition was due in a few minutes to meet them, it seems that half the people had scurried into the nearest newsagent's to bury their heads in magazines until the danger had passed, while the others had jumped onto the first possible train, which was now heading for the South Coast. "Couldn't we head them off at Brighton and force them to meet me?" asked William. But Cecil knew better. "We need a 10-point plan for the re-launch of our Leader" he announced, "Let's go back inside and bang a few heads together, shall we?"

So back up to Cecil's office we went for an impromptu round-table discussion on how to boost William's image. "Its high time we outflanked Blair on the Princess of Wales. He's been making all the running. We've got to do something popular," chipped in Dr Mawhinney, who has his finger on the pulse. "What about calling for backdated VAT on all those dreadful flowers cluttering up the Palaces? The Treasury could raise a small fortune, and the public would be delighted!"

"Or perhaps we could rename Ffion, "Ffion, Princess of Wales"? I suggested. "Its a title that's proved awfully popular in the past."

"Let's look ahead!" interjected Cecil. "We'll have a strategy for the death of The Queen Mother up and running when she goes. That'll catch Blair napping!" We knew straightaway that Cecil had struck gold.

Within half an hour, we had worked out a four-point plan to swing into immediate operation the moment the untimely death of the Queen Mother is announced: 1) Hague to appear before the assembled cameras in black mourning baseball cap bearing the legend "GRIEVING FOR THE NATION'S GRAN". 2) Hague to welcome Royal Family to Cratthie Church on Balmoral Estate on the tragic morning and to put a comforting arm around HM the Queen throughout the untimely service. 3) Hague to lead mourners down a solemn theme-park roller-coaster drop wearing a black T-shirt and black casual trousers. 4) At State Funeral, Hague in black toupee to sing duet with Ffion of the 1980 Christmas chart-topper "There's No One Quite Like Grandma" followed by immediate rush-release.

Success! Yet we were also forced to acknowledge that, even with the best medical expertise on our side, the Queen Mother was not going to go tomorrow, or even, unless we were very lucky, the next day. There was thus an urgent need for Hague to formulate a short-term route into the affections of the general public. Might I take this opportunity to leak my own top-secret policy document on this issue? a) No votes in Ffion post Welsh devolution: quietly dump her and marry the more bubbly and patriotic Geri Spice. b) Bring the spirit of Churchill to bear by puffing on big cigar and declaring war on Germany. c) Don satin jumpsuit and join Boyzone on Top of the Pops for youthful photo-opportunity. If (a)-(c) fail, then switch to new plan: i) Change first name to something more user friendly: Tony, for instance. ii) And surname to something that goes well with it. How about ... Blair?

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