Politics: Pass the plate, Paddy...don't worry about the policies

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The Independent Online
"Paddy! Hi! Come in! Good to see you. You know Gordon, Peter, Jack and - of course - Big John. And your team is ..? Alan I know, Ming I know, Lord Holme I know, Lembit ... er ... I'm sorry. Lembit Opik! Of course. Is Opik an Irish name, Lembit? Estonian, silly me. Impressive nation, the Estonians. I had the Estonian PM over here a month ago, talking about bauxite, I think. And there's an Estonian in Euan's class at the Oratory. What's that, Gordon? It's a Fino-Ugrian language, apparently, according to Gordon, and loosely related to Magyar. You always learn something with the Chancellor in the room.

"And how are Jane? And the children? And, of course, the little grandson? I found those photographs during the election of you and the baby in France genuinely moving. Y'know, Paddy, I often think about being a granddad, strolling over the hills, that little hand clamped in mine. Eventually, but not yet, eh! Anyway, sit down, sit down! Paddy, sit there on the opposite side of the table. When the photographers have taken their snaps you can move to this chair next to me, if you'd like.

"Now, who wants some tea? Or coffee? Jack, that's four teas, and four coffees. I'll just stick to the carrot juice, thanks. Some cake, Paddy? I'm told by my office that this is your favourite - lemon drizzle cake as made by Mrs Tarantino of Eastbourne. Take two, take two. Surely you've got room for more - an ex-Marine like you!

"Look, I really am grateful to you for giving up your time like this. I know how busy you are. But I'm hoping that this can be a regular consultation, with your views and contributions feeding directly into the Government's deliberations and - I'm not afraid to say it - sometimes even affecting the policy of the Government itself. Tradition demands that we attend different conferences, stand different candidates, and emphasise different policies, but the voters know that we have a great deal in common. They know that we can work together, whether it be John here, you, Paddy, or even old Kenneth Clarke, in equal partnership.

I have to say - you know - how immensely impressed I was with all your work up in Scotland. Donald says that if it weren't for you, the Yes vote could easily have slipped below the 70 per cent mark. Wales is a big of a cliffhanger, though, isn't it? Next item is the reform of the House of Lords. Paddy, your plate's empty, and I did get the cake especially for you. Look, the good news is that we're going to do it as soon as we possibly can, certainly in the next year or two.

"Now I know you're concerned with progress on Freedom of Information. [interrupted by aide]. Gosh, is that the time? I've got the Guatamalan President for lunch over at the Palace and I really shouldn't keep Her Majesty waiting. She's had a very hard time of it. Paddy, Alan, Richard, Ming, Limpet, good and useful to see you all. We must do it again. Soon."