A W-turn for Walker
David Cameron had warm words on Wednesday for Peter Walker, the former Cabinet minister whose funeral was held this week and who, in Cameron's words "gave great service in Wales".
What the Prime Minister did not say was why Walker, an Englishmen representing Worcester, was running Wales. It was not just the usual problem of a shortage of Welsh Tories. In the latter part of the 1980s, Walker was the leading 'wet' in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet. In her memoirs, she acknowledged that she would have liked to sack him, even more than she would have liked to sack Ken Clarke, but feared that he would cause more trouble out of the Cabinet than in. So in 1987, she packed him off to Wales, where he maintained a level of state intervention and public spending higher than England's. Wales was thus spared the worst of Thatcherism. This is a very rare example of a political story that can be told entirely with words beginning with 'w', like this:
Wet Walker wasn't Welsh. Worcester Walker was white-haired, wealthy, worldly, worried. Westminster was where wily Walker worked – where Wicked Wonderwoman was. "Worthless Walker won't worship we," Wicked Wonderwoman wailed. "Without Walker, Westminster would work wonderfully! Wretched Walker waxes wetter weekly. Winsome, whining, whinging Walker! Wriggling, wrangling, wrecking Walker! We will weaken Walker, wallop Walker. We will wipe walls with wets. Why! Walesward with Walker," Wicked Wonderwoman whooped.
White-faced Walker westward went, wistfully wondering why. "Where's Wales?" Walker whispered.
"Who's Walker?" wondered Wales.
Love game for Huhne
A series of questions and answers put to past and present Cabinet ministers in another newspaper catches the eye, because one participant was Chris Huhne, who at the time was thought to be happily married to Vicky Pryce, a high-flying civil servant. Asked what love feels like, Huhne replied: "Compulsive. It is the only socially recognised form of madness." Asked about the best kiss of his life, he said: "Kissing Vicky on a warm evening on a beach in Greece." As for "how often enough do you have sex?" he answered: "Often enough, thanks."
Too often, it transpires: he has dumped Vicky for another woman.
Lords and oiks
Coalition government means that the House of Lords has two leaders, both young by House of Lords standards, and both called Tom. There is Strathclyde, aged 50, for the Conservatives, and McNally, 67, for the Liberal Democrats. But are they any good? Lord Gilbert, the 83-year-old former Labour defence minister, who in his day was reckoned to be good at his job but perhaps a little arrogant, thinks not. "The TomToms have great charm, good looks, energy, youth," he told fellow peers, "and, unfortunately, a very similar level of intelligence. That was not supposed to be funny. It is a great tragedy."
Lord Gilbert's beef is that the TomToms plan to make members of the upper house subject to election. To some peers, this means the destruction of Parliament as we know it. "Who will be elected to come here?" Lord Gilbert exclaimed. "Oiks!" He cried."Oiks that could not get into the Commons, Europe, the Scottish parliament, or the Welsh Assembly and probably not into a half-decent county council!"