Good Evans, is there no end to thalotopsit?

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The Independent Online
For many years Tory MPs had surnames like Douglas-Home and, Boyd- Carpenter, and their Christian names tended to be Quintin or Alec. These demotic days - thanks to the declasse Thatcher era - most of them are called Evans. And between them the Tory Evans family dominated much of the day's proceedings in the House.

The first Evans was Roger (Monmouth), junior social security minister, answering questions from the second Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley). Roger and Nigel are not obviously related. Nigel is thin and rangy; so much arm, hand and neck protrudes from his clothing that he gives the unsettling impression of being at once naked and fully clothed. Neighbouring MPs have to repress the urge to ask him to be put away. Roger, on the other hand, is squat, buck-toothed and slightly long-haired. Like a greying rabbit he bounces to the despatch box and gives actorly emphasis to every other word (my HONOURABLE friend is ABSOLUTELY right).

Nigel has a bee in his bonnet about child benefit for 16- to 18-year- olds at school. At least twice a week he finds an opportunity to criticise Gordon Brown's plans to stop paying this benefit as "a new tax". Yesterday he described it as "leaking [sic] off the backs of 16-year-olds ... taxing them for staying on at school".

Now this is odd logic for a Conservative. Our third Evans - David (Welwyn) would presumably have no truck with it. As we know he resents "the taxpiyer" forking out in benefits for anybody - especially, he told us yesterday - for "illegal immy-grants, those who work in the black economy" (probably the same people in Mr Evan's mind) and "bogus asylum-seekers".

This left me confused. Which Evans truly spoke for modern Conservatism? The benefit doling Nigel? The benefit slashing David? Or the AC/DC Roger, who seemed to lean both ways?

Not, incidentally, that things were any clearer on the other side of the House. There was the handsome MP for Nottingham South, Alan Simpson (who every week, writes a column in Tribune about how awful a Blair government will be and how it will betray the poor and needy) effectively rubbishing the anti-fraud campaign, earning approving smiles from the designer-rumpled Jeremy Corbyn (Islington N). Two rows below him was Frank Field (Lab, Birkenhead) who believes strongly in the need to remoralise the benefit system. With his soft voice, pointy ears and his dapper, slightly fey appearance Mr Field needs only a pair of gossamer wings to be the Tough- But-Tender Fairy.

But let us not digress, for this is not the end of the Evans. David was on the list for Prime Minister's Questions and he made his presence felt. Would the Prime Minister remind those under 35, was it the Conservative Party that had let inflation rise to 29 per cent? "NO" roared the Tories. That raised the top rate of tax to 98 per cent? "NO". That had 176 MPs sponsored by the "Oonians"? "NO". "ORRRRRR" shrieked Evans, "wazzit thalotopsit?!" Of course it was thalotopsit. Thalotopsit sat and enjoyed every moment of Mr Evans rant. "More," they cried.

So it is interesting to speculate how different political life would be if the Evanses were to get the promotion their efforts deserve. Suppose that instead of Mr Major answering the question about the England football team with the immortal Majorism "I hope they play well and have a satisfactory result", it had been David at the despatch box. As rendered into Evans this might have become the rousing, "Ooo won the 1966 World Cup? Us or thalotopsit?" In which thalotopsit is, of course, the Germans.