Re-cycled: When Norman Lamont came to my rescue

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The Independent Online
Where Kensington Park Road joins Pembridge Gardens, the flow of traffic from Notting Hill Gate swoops round on to a mini-roundabout that crowds with commuters bustling to and from the Tube station. On a rainy morning it's a treacherous and surprising melee of London life. For good reason, then, today my bicycle was by my side and wheeled carefully across the busy junction. Ignorant of any weather forecast, I had been unprepared for the rain and was now dripping wet. Then who should come waddling across the road but Norman Lamont, in pristine pinstriped condition, holding an umbrella aloft.

My cheeky greeting, "Some would say you're not wet enough!" prompted a friendly smile and the umbrella shared. We walked towards the Tube - I assume that that is where he was going - and I had the impression of a shrewd and kindly man, intent on some business that must disappoint him, way below the heights where once he was a main player.

"Oh, who'd say that then?" was his robust response. I was encouraged to ask, what did he think of the new leader? What reply I expected, I do not know. I'm not sure I know what response I'd give if asked the same question - and in those doubts, perhaps, is the essence of the answer. Loyally, though: "Oh, he's wonderful isn't he?" I suggested that even in view of recent events, it would have been disastrous for the Tories if Ken Clarke had been chosen, and I would swear that Mr Lamont's face dropped slightly, which seemed in contradiction to his earlier view.

We parted company with a nod and a wave. It makes no sense and is at least discourteous to try to wheel a bicycle around such a busy corner, so I was confined to the road. I was left with a strong sense of a man grievously wronged, yet intensely loyal. Someone who took it on the chin on behalf of colleagues, and who remains rather bemused at the way that fate has treated him.

What cruel judgements have been made of this man! In that instant of unexpected confrontation, when one's guard is down, integrity is evident or not. I judge entirely from instinct, with no qualification except my own experience, and I want to be more generous than others. I think his intellectual and technical skills have never been in doubt. I don't see how his courage of fortitude can be questioned. Perhaps it is only in self-serving skills that he has failed, in which case it may well be the residents of Kingston and surroundings who are the real losers. In the way Mr Lamont offered me his umbrella I see a simple but appropriate metaphor. This is a generous yet prudent man. Perhaps we shall see more of him.

Paul Reynolds