Ever since John Major refused to confirm a further hike in VAT on fuel at Prime Minister's Question Time last Tuesday, the Westminster rumour-mill has been working overtime. I enjoyed Michael Cockerell's sympathetic portrait of you on the telly on Sunday so much that I am writing to you to beg a favour on this matter.

Please do not increase VAT on fuel by another 9.5 per cent in your November Budget.

Like many of your colleagues in the party, I am swamped with letters from D-Day veterans, elderly widows of clergy and Dame Barbara Cartland beseeching me to try to persuade you to do the decent thing. Many are written in green ink and are unintelligible.

I have long been an admirer of yours. Anyone in the Tory party who can wear his younger brothers suits, sport crepe soles and play the trumpet deserves to be a candidate for its leadership. Portillo can barely speak English, Heseltine is tone deaf, and Hurd far too grand to lead a party the centre of gravity of which lies mid-way between Sir Marcus Fox and David Evans.

Nottingham, which used to be famous for its bikes and its pretty girls, can only claim three sons of note: Robin Hood (on whom you ought to model yourself

as Chancellor); DH Lawrence (of whom there is as yet no statue in the city); and yourself. Anyone who can claim, as you did on the telly, that you divide your time equally between Nottingham Forest and Notts County, cannot lack the common touch. Are, then, the poor to be obliged to put more than a shilling in the meter?

What we Tories need, if our morale is to be restored and John Major to go unchallenged by John Carlisle, is the start of a process of gradual reduction in taxation. We must, if we are to win in two years time, achieve the targets we set before Norman Lamont was made Chancellor; a further rise in VAT on fuel, or any other tax, direct or indirect, would play havoc with the feelings

of our backbenchers. We have no wish for you to add to our many burdens.

My postbag which used to contain modest letters of congratulation, invitations to bring-and-buys and the occasional request for a son to be named after me is now swollen with complaint: needy fathers with more than one family to support, animal lovers who would do terrible things to Gillian Shephard, and life-long Conservatives who will never support Our Great Party again. Some would even bring Baroness Thatcher back from Dickins & Jones.

Ken, you are not the sort of man who would ever say hush to a puppy, you are one of the lads. Yours is a healthy disregard for the fads of political correctness. Remember the shivering poor this Christmas, and we, when push comes to shove, will remember you.

Yours ever,

(Photograph omitted)