WILKES'S diary

Ian Lang may have the sex appeal of a Scottish pallbearer to voters south of the border, but Wilkes hears that he is now The Chosen One. John Major's friends are saying in the privacy of their drawing rooms that the new President of the Board of Trade is the Prime Minister's preferred choice to succeed him when he goes. Mr Major has no wish to repeat Baroness Thatcher's mistake of going on, and on, and on, if - against all the odds - he wins the next election. He will stand down and tend his bank balance and, according to some close to Mr Major, will certainly have gone by the end of 1998.

The succession is therefore a live issue. Mr Lang is regarded by Major as sound in all particulars, and not easily pushed around by the right wing, which will be on the rampage once Mr Major goes. This is the last chance for the left to secure its influence in the choice of leader, while the right is still hopelessly split between Messrs Redwood and Portillo. Hence Wilkes advises buying shares in Lang.

He may have an exterior as long-faced as an Edinburgh terrace, but he is very good company over venison and chips and has an impressive humour pedigree, being a contemporary of the famous Footlights set, who went on to create Monty Python. He is also a wonderful mimic: if ever he did become Prime Minister, Rory Bremner might as well join the dole queue.

Wilkes is, of course, hedging his bets by putting money on Gillian Shephard. But remember you heard Mr Lang's name here first. After all, it makes compelling sense in one respect: if Labour wins the election and introduces a Scottish parliament, who better to mastermind a quiet U-turn in Tory policy by agreeing to retain that body than Lang - the man who 20 years earlier argued that an assembly was the way to revive Tory fortunes north of the border?

We would certainly be in the throes of the leadership battle now, say chums of the Prime Minister, had Mr Major not carried out his threat to call an early leadership election in July. And the challenger would have been the same Vulcan pretender. The Major camp believes that John Redwood, far from being forced by the sudden turn of events to declare his hand, was geared up to run - but only in November. And what is more, they believe he could easily have won had he had the extra time. Major would have had a dreadful summer and a ghastly conference dominated by the leadership issue, and Redwood would have carried out the coup de grace by resigning to fight for the leadership immediately after the Budget, thus wiping out Ken Clarke's big day at a stroke.

Major's allies believe Redwood was caught on the hop, which might explain why his tax-cutting programme looked so thin: it had to be cobbled together over a single weekend. It is a compelling scenario, but we may never know for sure.

Bleating noises have reached Wilkes's ears from the Cabinet room about what colleagues regard as the further self-aggrandisement of Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, First Secretary and Supreme Being. Her Majesty's Chief Minister for Titles has moved into temporary premises at the Treasury, pending refurbishment of his vast suite of rooms in the Cabinet Office. He has found a suitably immense room to his liking for the regular meetings of his Cabinet committee.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Wilkes hears, was amazed to discover this Treasury room existed and raised an eyebrow at the thought of the Supreme One moving into his territory. The Lion King sits in an imposing leather chair. Unprepared victims sink unsuspectingly into extremely deep and large sofas opposite. Those shorter in the leg find it difficult to bend their knees, let alone reach the floor, and need a block and tackle to haul them out again.

To put the rest of the Cabinet at their ease, the Sun King regularly chairs the meeting in a V-necked sweater - some uncharitable souls pointedly remark how his woolly matches his ability to grasp detail.

Wilkes can advise Labour not to bother reserving a seat on its benches in the House of Lords for Baroness Thatcher. Despite Tony Blair's overtures about respecting the Iron Lady, she will not be coming across. Thatcher has become a Majorite. She informed Wilkes at her "do" at Claridges this week (where she and the Queen again clashed over their choice of dress) that all her past differences with Major have been buried, and she will campaign for him at the next election. The Prime Minister's decision to roll out the red carpet for her 70th birthday party at Downing Street did the trick. "It was a total love-in," said an admirer.

There was an added fillip for Clare Short, Labour's wimmin's spokesperson, as she battled her way back into the Shadow Cabinet in Wednesday's elections. Her assistant Virginia Heywood won the sweepstake on the results of the increasingly ludicrous event. Wilkes finds it difficult to imagine Tony Blair will put up with it much longer.

Just deserts generally come to those who wait, Wilkes is reassured to learn. Sir Philip (Phil) Harris, carpet magnate, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party's board of treasurers and the man who bankrolled the hi-tech Sir Philip Harris House at Guy's Hospital, could be destined for even higher things. He is being heavily tipped by Tory peers for a seat in the Lords in the next honours list, on account of his fine record in raising money, which has helped a beleaguered Conservative Central Office reduce its overdraft from pounds 11.4m in August to a mere pounds 9.9m. He will also play a crucial part in building up a pounds 22m "war chest" for the election.

Deep mystery persists, however, about the future of Sir Basil Feldman, chairman of the National Union, the party's voluntary wing. Will he be passed over yet again? At least Wilkes's good friend Jeffrey Archer is well on his way to complete reintegration. Not only did he resurrect his fabled shepherd's pie and Krug parties at the Tory party conference last week - at which, incidentally, Wilkes was unable to spot Kenneth Clarke amid an otherwise full Cabinet turn-out - but he has re-instituted those fabled nationwide speaking tours. After 18 months out in the political cold, he is pulling crowds of up to 400 at meetings.

Perhaps the most extraordinary rehabilitation of all was that of John Profumo. At Lady Thatcher's birthday dinner, he and his wife were seated next to the Queen.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments