Friday 28 April 1995
But it reserves its fiercest attacks for its ideological enemies, regarding High Toryism, One Nation Toryism, Civic Conservatism (pet theory of Duncan's colleague, the Tory MP David Willetts), Liberal Democracy "of the Paddy Ashdown kind as much as the Vladimir Zhirinovsky brand" and Christian Socialism as sharing the same disreputable origin as fascism and communism. Phew. Furthermore, the two authors regard the Inland Revenue as "the moral equivalent of the Stasi, the Gestapo and the KGB". A party is planned to launch the book in a fortnight's time, and Wilkes has been wondering which senior Tory would dare to preside over such extremist attacks. Now he knows the answer. It is Margaret Thatcher.
Tony has a new friend. The comedian Rory Bremner has long been cited by political aficionados as that rarity - a man who does his research properly and hits his political targets with particular accuracy. Yesterday he sauntered through the members' lobby escorted by Peter Mandelson, who is Tony Blair's ... well, Tony Blair's Peter Mandelson. Bremner was taken to the public gallery, where he closely observed Prime Minister's questions. As soon as Blair had made his points, Bremner slipped out. To the Labour leader's office for a bit of serious briefing? So much for the luvvie-ban.
Stirring scenes on the high seas off the Hebrides, involving trawlers, Spaniards, the Royal Navy and helicopters, have persuaded MPs that the fishing issue isn't going to go away. Now Wilkes is not normally a policy wonk, or bonk, or whatever the phrase is. But he can - ahem - announce the answer to the fishing wars. The problem is clear, isn't it? There is too much technology. Too many glittering, turbo-charged, sonar-laden, super-sophisticated fishing vessels which are so good at scooping up fish that they have to stay in port for most of the year.
If things go on like this, the world's oceans will be left with one solitary pilchard, surrounded by fishery protection vessels, monitored by submarines, helicopters and satellites, searching desperately for another pilchard to mate with. The answer is that all fishing should be allowed - no bans, no special monitoring ... except for one small thing. Fishing must be limited in future to boats powered only by sail. A propellor means you can't carry nets. It would be easy to police. It would give the fish a chance to have fishy sex and bring little fishy babies up. It would ensure that the only people who caught fish were the real seafaring types from traditional fishing communities. Wilkes will be putting the idea to the Ministry in a top-secret memo, so don't pass it on.
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith is having to deal with a stream of inquiries, ground out through gritted teeth, about whether or not this or that item should be declared in the register of members' interests. Sir Geoffrey is the chairman of the Commons select committee on members' interests and is therefore regarded as an expert on the subject. MPs are now so worried about falling foul of the rules that they are constantly seeking his advice.
The problem is, the rules require them to declare any benefit in kind worth more than £160. Now, you don't get much change from £160 for a night at the opera and a glass of bubbly at the half-way stage these days. Much less change from a day at the races. But it all seems so petty. Is it really worth declaring? And what if they don't? Will some ghastly spotty Labour researcher find out and tip off the press?
These are worrying times for MPs. I fear the queue forming before his door is likely to get longer, now the social season is upon us. Chaps have already started asking him whether they have to declare a day at Wimbledon as the guest of the Widgit Tin and Pickle Processing Federation or some such organisation. It is all very difficult for Sir Geoffrey. He enjoys going shooting with his various business interests (declared, I hasten to add) but has been telling colleagues that quite frankly, the shooting is so bally poor these days, it's not worth declaring.
I always knew our judges were an odd bunch but the sight of judge-to- be Mrs Tony Blair in a wig and tight pants, to be appointed QC, was frankly too much. The annual taking of silk in the House of Lords requires the victim to turn up in a stretch limo and fancy dress. This parade of grey- wigged weirdos, like something out of a Californian gay pride carnival, nearly brought the traffic to a standstill. My very good friend Edward Garnier, my tip to be next Attorney-General, was among the new QCs. He found the business of being thrust into a pair of tights in the company of Ms Booth and her colleagues most amusing. He had just one problem. His feet are size nine and a half, and the shoes he borrowed were size 10, which may explain why he was walking so oddly.
An Unidentified Hand has interfered with the words of the new Clause IV of Labour's constitution on which the party will vote tomorrow. The Unidentified Hand has added a colon and a semi-colon in a misguided attempt to make sense of the words which will appear on the back of membership cards. Wilkes has already pointed out that the comma is in the wrong place. The UH has left the comma where it is, and hit punctuation overkill. "The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more than we achieve alone; so as to create: for each of us the means to realise our true potential ..." No reasonable person could object to the colon, which preceded a long list: motherhood, tea and cakes, apple pie, and so on. But the semi-colon is just a jumped-up interloper where a comma should be. What really matters is that the comma after "endeavour" is wrong, redundant and not needed. Wilkes urges delegates to pay close attention to every "dot and comma" of the clause before them. Perhaps the UH will strike again.
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