Here's to you, sir] Fan letters aren't normally my sort of thing, but when I see a man like you, an officer and a gentleman, standing up to the lily-livers and milquetoasts, I raise a glass his way.

On Friday you're meeting with your constituency association to consider your future. Damn that] Screw your courage to the whatsit, Sir Richard, and resign your seat. Little Mr Major insulted you, grossly, behind your back and in the hearing of the inky types: 'Every time I hear the name Body, I hear the sound of white coats flapping.'

That's not the sort of thing a commanding officer says to someone not in the regiment. About you, Sir Richard, a man of honour. Hardly a politician at all. I know how your jib's cut; I've had a dekko at your record. You've opposed this Euro-nonsense since the very beginning, you've stuck up for the little man, the traditional farmer, against all these prairie farmers who want to turn the countryside into one big subsidy brothel. You stood by our rugby fellows who wanted to play in South Africa. You're a Quaker and you don't like nuclear weapons, which seems a bit odd, but your father was in a good regiment. You're a friend of Enoch's. You used to breed prize pigs and bloodhounds. If that's the sign of a barmy chap, you can start fitting me for a strait-jacket.

That's not the sort of thing a commanding officer drops to someone not in the regiment. It's a damnable insult, and I know that you, sir, in an earlier and better age, would not have waited a moment to call the pipsqueak out and demand satisfaction at dawn in Hyde Park, choice of weapons up to the injured party. You'll remember Lord North's minister William Adam putting a ball in the thigh of that Whig upstart Charles James Fox to good effect.

But Adam was a Tory. I'm a little lost, here, forgive me. Insults are the stuff you political fellows trade in, I realise, but isn't it more normal to fire 'em off at the other chaps? Now here's your boss, Major, calling his colleagues bastards, barmy and worse. Just because they don't fancy being sold off to the Frogs and Germans. (Every time I hear the name Major, I hear the sound of the white flag flapping.)

Anyway, don't these characters mind their boss referring to them in terms that'd make the sergeants' mess blush? Don't they object? Are they all poltroons? You're not, Sir Richard, and here's a plan of attack for you. Tell the constituency-wallahs you're going to resign the seat and force a by-election - a matter not only of your personal honour but of the country's, is the party led by a man or a mouse, make a big splash of it. They'll understand in Holland with Boston.

Then run up your colours as a True Conservative, humiliate whatever snotty-nosed little jobsworth Conservative Central Office puts in to challenge you, and return in triumph. And then Major'll find out who's a few votes short of a working majority.

Yours sincerely,

Col. Alexander Renton-Smythe

(Photograph omitted)

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