Virginia invents a new parlour game
Tuesday 19 November 1996
Ownership of a silly name seems to be one of the main qualifications.
But I couldn't help wondering, as Heritage questions unfolded beneath me, whether there weren't other MPs - just as deserving - who ought to be considered for inclusion. So, as they spoke, I imagined myself seated next to them for a long evening. Would one have fun?
First up to be judged on his partyability was one of Labour's residual socialists, the earnest bearded member for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Corbyn has four appearances: wild-haired in windcheater, neat in burgundy jacket, wild-haired in burgundy jacket and neat in windcheater. He was cross with the idea of a millennium Ferris wheel on London's South Bank, when thousands are still homeless. They, he said, would not get "excited about Ferris wheels". So he failed the test. You could envisage a couple of guilt-ridden hours listening to Jeremy complaining about the food and drink being consumed while millions starved - your glass undrained, your fork permanently poised above the foie gras.
Up bounced the ruddy, enthusiastic, bespectacled Labour member for Greenwich, Nick Raynsford. Where Corbyn was sour, Nick was sweet. The Millennium Exhibition (to be hosted in his constituency) would represent "all that's best in Britain today, and be a worthy successor to the Great Exhibition of 1851". It will also, presumably, be somewhere for the homeless to go during the day. This English Tourist Office guff would be all right for the first five minutes, while Raynsford waxed lyrical about the area he lived in, the frequency of refuse collection and the shops in his local High Street. But after ten, you'd want to kill him.
What about Dennis Skinner, much loved by right-wing journalists, who long for the days of lost Labour certainties? Dennis had worked out that loads more lottery money had gone to the Tory bits of Derbyshire than to Labour bits. So would he spend the whole of a dinner party eyeing the food suspiciously, muttering under his breath that the scallops never quite seemed to make it up to his end of the table?
Then there was the licensed rude guest, Tony Banks; the one who is always determined to be a naughty boy at the age of fifty, cracking risque jokes and threatening to take his trousers off.
He followed a sanctimonious question from Sir Michael Allison about the "Millennium Christian Village" (Probably to be built in Sir Cliff Richard's garden), with a reminder that the year 2000 would be 5757 for Jews, 1417 for Muslims, 2054 for Hindus and 1403 for someone else (Zoroastrians, I think) and that he couldn't bear the thought that - with so many millennia to be celebrated - Ginny Bottomley would be in charge of all of them.
She, of course, would be the hostess of the party. "I happen to be a Conservative", she reproved Mr Banks, "and this is a Christian country ...and this is a Christian millennium". With one answer Virginia had invented a new parlour game: Quasi Sequiturs.
You start off by saying "I am (something)", and everyone else has to guess what the second part is. How about: I am a tall man and this is short sketch?
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