Diary

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The Independent Online
So that's it then. It was all a dream. Purged by a bit of fun, the Conservatives can now unite and go back to attacking the real enemy: the British people. In reshuffling the Cabinet, will the Prime Minister now take the chance to make some brave appointments in the interests of party unity? A few new faces would be interesting. Why not make John Redwood Chief Secretary to the Treasury, thus getting rid of the hapless Jonathan Aitken and challenging the Vulcan to deliver on his pounds 5m budget cutbacks - to put up or shut up, indeed. And for Foreign Secretary, why not Teresa Gorman, champion of the Right, who thinks there's nothing wrong with Europe that couldn't be solved by a little rebuilding, involving, say, a conservatory, a through lounge and a couple of RSJs.

This has been the week when you couldn't move for articles, banner headlines and exclusive shots of that couple. Not to mention all the speculation about their relationship. Can they ever make it up after all that has happened? How can they look at each other over the table now the trust has gone? And, most puzzling of all: what possessed a young man with everything going for him to risk all in a moment of madness? Perhaps he was lured into the company of sleazy low-life characters by the sense of danger, the appeal of indulging in a naughty fantasy: a bit of rough. One thing's for sure: life will never be quite the same for John Redwood.

With the outcome of the ballot announced, speculation is none the less likely to continue. Remember the result last time round? Margaret Thatcher 204 votes. Michael Heseltine 152 votes. The winner? John Major. That's democracy for you. Government of the people, for the people, by the 1922 Committee. We should never underestimate the ability of the Conservative Party to surprise people, especially itself, by electing a leader about whom they know very little. Alec Douglas-Home, Margaret Thatcher, John Major. Better the devil you don't know than the devil you're not sure about.

Even as I write, various names are being touted as possible successors:

Ian Lang. Unknown outside Scotland.

David Hunt. Unknown outside Hunt household. Wet.

Tony Newton. Unknown even within Newton household. Wet .

Ian McCaskill. Wet, but clearing up towards morning; sunny spells in west.

Gillian Shephard: safe pair of hands.

John Gummer: clean pair of hands.

Michael Howard: I'm sure those hands were there last time I looked.

Jonathan Aitken: never mind hands, let's talk about arms.

Mickael Portillo: Position on Europe - thinks we could be in Poland by lunchtime.

Stephen Norris: Position on Europe - missionary.

Harold Macmillan. Dead. Chairs 1922 Committee. Commands widespread support of grassroots.

Desert Orchid. Stalking horse. Not worth considering.

Shergar. Dead horse. Position on Europe - on French plate, next to legumes du jour.

Chris Boardman. See under Bicycle.

The most provocative move of the week was Mr Redwood calling for a one- on-one TV showdown with the Prime Minister, a sort of televised version of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Sadly, the baying public were denied the sight of a good slanging match ending with Norma slapping Sir Marcus Foxcub around the chops, as Mr Major declined. After all, it takes two to Tarango. Indeed, the Prime Minister was already wary of tennis analogies after he had confidently announced that there was as much chance of him losing as there was of an English player getting to the 4th round at Wimbledon. Well played, Mr Rusedski.

The leadership contest once again presents 329 Conservative MPs as the most sophisticated electorate in the world (sic). And it's true. The amount of lying, dissimulation and ambiguity going on in the corridors of Westminster makes our feeble attempts to wind up the opinion pollsters for a laugh look rather amateur. There are lies, damned lies and expressions of support for the Prime Minister. But, being British, we all buy into it. Far from being appalled at the outrageous spectacle of a government tearing itself apart in our time and at our expense, we treat it as a huge game, sit down with a couple of lagers and wait for the penalty shoot-out. We've totally accepted the fundamental policy of the Conservative Party, which is to win general elections. What happens between those elections is, quite frankly, none of our business.

The decision of Douglas Hurd to leave politics at the next election prompts tributes for a great Foreign Secretary. But I cannot understand why he is so disliked by the Euro-sceptics and associated xenophobes on the right of the Conservative Party. Look at the record of the Foreign Office under his command: we annoyed the Chinese over Hong Kong; we annoyed the people of Hong Kong over Hong Kong. We enraged the Muslims over Bosnia; we appeased the Croats and seriously miffed the Serbs over the former Yugoslavia. We hacked off the European Union over qualified majority voting and a single currency. We backed the wrong side in the American election and put an end to the Special Relationship.The people of Gibraltar are out for blood. Be fair; there's only so much one man can do.

The inclusion of Jason Gallian in England's squad to play the West Indies tomorrow is another slap in the face; not for those who question his nationality, but for those of us with limited looks. Honestly, what with Darren Gough, Peter Martin and Mark Ramprakash there, or thereabouts, in our cricket side, and Bracken, Guscott and Carling continuing in English rugby, these teams are just too damned good-looking. Where are the lovable old rhinos that used to grace our national sides? The Beaumonts, the Uttleys, the Gattings, the Bob Willises, who were the dog's bollocks on the pitch and looked the part off it.

Even the continued presence of Brian Moore can't make up for all of them. We can only conclude, to parody the argument in Wisden this week, that players born with average to ugly looks just aren't contributing 100 per cent.

In finishing, I've just got enough space for a word about how Labour has exploited this whole situation. It hasn't. There. That's it. Maybe after its own leadership contest between Prescott, Beckett and Blair - the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - it's worried that New Conservatives may steal New Labour's clothes. This would be a turn-up, as I wasn't aware it had any.

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