5; days in the life of; DOUGLAS HURD

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MONDAY. In the car up from Oxfordshire dictate letters resulting from my last constituency surgery at Ramsden on Saturday morning. I shall miss sitting in a village hall or a headmaster's study as for three hours human nature flows through the door. I wondered what the last interview of all might bring forth. It was a lady who had bought a sofa in Chipping Norton. She did not like it once it was installed. She paid for an expert opinion which said that if she didn't approve of the cushions which were large and floppy, she shouldn't have bought the sofa. She asked for the advice of her Member of Parliament. I made a bold political decision. I asked her not to drift into the hands of lawyers. She should learn to love the sofa. She took it well.

Two meetings on Europe in Surrey. The annual conference of the European Union of Women in the county - about 150 of them - then lunch with a dozen senior businessmen, several of them from companies which had chosen Surrey as their European headquarters. Urge both lots to take a vigorous hand in the debate.

Dine at 10 Downing Street. Charity event in support of the Lord Mayor's Appeal for Cancer Research. The Prime Minister, having called the election today, could easily have opted out of the dinner. But he and Norma were there and in excellent form. Private chat behind a pillar.

TUESDAY. For the first time a service held at St Margaret's for retiring members and their wives. A better turnout than I expected. Canon Gray, the Speaker's chaplain, preached well, reminding us that in the old days the House of Commons was constantly subject to sermons. Time to look at the astonishing bright blue of the east window. Good to be in St Margaret's for something other than a memorial service.

The speaker gives a party for us veterans in her own apartments. She is like the headmistress of a fairly successful girls' school which she wishes to improve. She delivers stylishly her message of thanks for what we have contributed to the school and her good wishes as we go out into the wider world.

WEDNESDAY. Morning at the Bank. Can now prepare for life without Whipping. Finish plans for visit next week to Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

In the early evening vote for the last time at the House of Commons. Small scrappy votes, the Labour Party having sloped off already. Michael Howard was wise not to undo the Lords' Amendment to his Sentencing Bill.

Look in on reception at the Tate in honour of forthcoming exhibition of British paintings in Japan. They show two lively rooms of Hogarth. Across the river to a wine and cheese in support of two brisk young candidates in Labour seats. Struck by the enthusiasm of some very young Conservatives in audience of about 50. The Tory Party is immortal.

THURSDAY. Bank in the morning. Finalising my election plans, mostly Oxfordshire. The Edinburgh Office asks for an extra day and there is a request from Stafford.

Tidy up House of Commons office. Hansard in the wastepaper basket. Watch on the monitor huge row on sleaze at Prime Minister's Questions.

To CNN for phone-in - questions from all over the world. Meant to be about British election but instead answer on Uganda, Croatia etc.

FRIDAY. Given lunch by John Patten, my neighbour in Oxfordshire and one of my oldest political friends. We browse backwards into the past. Confess to John a reversal of my emotions on Wednesday evening. After the last vote I wandered into the Commons library... sat for 10 minutes in one of the immense soft club chairs. The place was almost empty. Suddenly through the ceiling came the unmistakable noise of Conservative backbenchers banging their desks in appreciation of the Prime Minister's rallying call to the 1922 Committee. This went on for a long time. Opposite me an elderly Labour MP was fast asleep with a magazine on his lap. He cannot have realised that the voting was over and his colleagues gone home. He had been a minister long ago but would not be a minister again. How many hours over these 18 years had he snoozed here in Opposition?

The library is dignified, old-fashioned, efficient. Apart from the Ceefax in the corner, it must look the same as when my grandfather first entered it in 1918 or my father in 1945. Writing my last letter at a solid oak desk I counted blessings.

The Right Hon Douglas Hurd is the retiring member for Witney

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