Village People: Regency remnant passes
Saturday 21 May 2011
The death of the Earl of Onslow this week has robbed the upper house of one of the last of its shameless eccentrics.
Everything about the Earl was an argument for constitutional reform. He was reactionary, absurd and upper class and, yet, there was something oddly appealing about him, because he was so shamelessly himself.
Though he was not himself mad, he owed his seat in the Lords to madness. The Earldom was conferred on the family in 1801, during one of King George III's bouts of insanity, by the King's useless oldest son. Hence Onslow's self description as "a hereditary peer who sees the illogicality of having any power over his fellow citizens just because his forebear got tight with the Prince Regent".
In addition to two appearances on Have I Got News for You, he took part in a programme on social class with John Prescott, and claimed afterwards to have given him this advice: "You don't have a chip on your shoulder, you have the Alps. You became the Queen's Second Minister, so why are you worrying about failing the 11-Plus so long ago?'"
My favourite Onslow aphorism was his grossly reactionary but witty put down of the modern Church of England. The Church, he claimed, "entered the 20th century opposed to buggery and in favour of foxhunting. By the start of the 21st century it had reversed its position".
Pryce tries to avoid the traffic
Vicky Pryce, the estranged ex-wife of Chris Huhne, has been struggling to carry on normally through the maelstrom of publicity around that speeding fine. On Wednesday, her children tried to throw journalists off her scent by giving the impression that she had at least left London, if not the country, but hours later she was spotted at a conference at the Chatham House think-tank. That evening, she put in an appearance at a 13th birthday party for the pro-EU Centre for European Reform. She took care not to speak in the hearing of journalists.
Staying calm amid a perfect storm
Wednesday was reckoned to be one of the worst days the Coalition has endured so far, as Ken Clarke did a car crash of an interview on 5Live, Ed Miliband scored his most palpable victory yet over David Cameron in Prime Minister's Questions, the Chris Huhne story sped on, and Theresa May was heard in funereal silence as she addressed the Police Federation. And where was the Tory MP Michael Fabricant as all this was going on? At a "buskathon" in his Lichfield constituency, where he gave a solo rendition of Lou Reed's Perfect Day.
An inexpensive weekend away
The disgrace of Elliot Morley, which culminated with the prison sentence imposed yesterday, caused such shock in Westminster because it seemed so unlikely that such a man would commit fraud on a major scale. He was a workaholic who once issued one of the most quaintly boring press releases ever penned by an MP, in which he announced that he was going to spend a weekend bird watching in Scunthorpe.
A Wikipedia whitewash
"Political Twitter is a sewer in which the left crawl, fester and cook up their nastier campaigns," the priceless Tory MP Nadine Dorries claims. So I should say that it is from Twitter that I picked up an interesting tidbit. There is a sentence in Wikipedia, backed by a reference note, which says she has claimed child sex abuse could be reduced "if children were taught to say no". It disappeared briefly, when someone with an IP address assigned to the House of Commons altered her Wiki entry. Who on earth would waste time, in the Commons, doctoring what Wikipedia says about Nadine Dorries?
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