WHAT a rumpus! President Clinton's hobby of undoing his fly-buttons, dipping into the murky depths of his trousers, sifting through his "Y- Fronts" (dread word!) and unleashing his "private parts" on the world is further proof, if proof be needed, that the Americans are a very different kettle of fish to us.

Speaking personally for one moment, were I ever to open my hotel door and find myself confronted by Miss (Msss!) Paula Jones, I would have no hesitation in ringing through to Room Service and demanding an extra pair of underpants for added protection. Though she has a strong look of Princess Anne, she has none of that estimable lady's redoubtable dignity. But that is why I am a leading Man of Letters and Mr Bill Clinton is just another ruined President. "Put it away," one wants to have written into the American Constitution, "we've all got one, and it isn't clever." Could not Congress sneak this simple adage into all future Inaugural Addresses? It would save that young, energetic nation a lot of misery.

Nor is Clinton the first President to have indulged in such an unwholesome recreation. Word has it that President Kennedy was never happier than when standing in the Oval Office waving his "little fellow" at whichever screen goddess was passing through Washington at the time. One is only thankful that our own Gracie Fields was never tempted away from Capri, and that dear Dame Vera Lynn remained firmly on this side of the Atlantic.

For all their faults, our British Prime Ministers have always had a much greater sense of propriety. Dear old Jim Callaghan entertained many stars of stage and screen to drinks at Number 10 - Yootha Joyce, Mollie Sugden and Angela Rippon among them - but there was never a single "incident" that I can recall, never a case of one of those lovely ladies hot-footing it out of the front door in tears, her new frock awry, her costume jewellery clattering across the hallway, blurting to the waiting press that Sunny Jim had downed trousers and, with a lusty leer spreading across his all- too-familiar features, "wanged out his donger" (dread phrase!) and asked them to oblige.

Going further back in time, my old friend and quaffing partner Harold Macmillan had no time for physical buffoonery. Small wonder, some might say, that his devoted wife Dorothy was obliged to look elsewhere for her amusement, rummaging in other men's trousers, putting on her tightest tweeds and a come-hither set of pearls and making the glad eye at, among others, Bob Boothby, Gerald Nabarro, Cecil Beaton, Douglas Fairbanks, Aristotle Onassis, Prince Aly Khan, George Bernard Shaw, Danny Kaye, Arthur Askey and the larger percentage of the Lord Rockingham Xl.

In our own time, poor old John Major was once said to be walking out with a caterer, but I daresay he was only after an extra helping of cheesy puffs. Lady Thatcher was much admired by many of the saucier members of her Cabinet; I hear tell she broke many a heart, playing fast and loose with poor old Norman Fowler, giving the glad eye to Cecil P, and then averting it in the general direction of the young John Moore. But she never actually went "the whole hog" with any of her admirers, preferring to ram through her policies in the cut-and-thrust of the Cabinet Office rather than via the hurly-burly of her chaise longue.

Where was I? But yes - President Clinton! I have met Miss Lewinsky only once - at a Washington reception for The Garrick Club Second Xl Cricket Team - and I regret to say that the impression I received was not good. I first suspected that she had set her cap at me when she darted across the crowded room, clasped me to her bosom and informed methat she had once "had the hots" for Lord St John of Fawsley. Indeed, she maintained that she had his unkempt ceremonial robes hanging in her wardrobe, bang next to Sir Roy Strong's crumpled fedora and Sir Edward Heath's bosun's cap with its specially embroidered steering wheel.

Frankly, I didn't know which way to turn. These were three of our most distinguished men of affairs: if ever the news leaked out it might do their reputations irreparable harm. I unlocked myself from Miss Lewinsky's womanly embrace and began to beg her for the safe return of these items. She seemed to be coming round to my point of view, when she excused herself, saying that she would be back in a few seconds. But she was gone. It was only then that I put my hand to my head and realised the young lady had made off with the distinctive tweed cap, pictured above. Heaven knows what she plans to do with it, but if she wears it to her next meeting with Mr Starr, I swear I shall never forgive her.

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