Fishing lines: The Tories know what a whopper is...

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The Independent Online

"Angling politics" being something of an oxymoron, I hesitate to repeat a scurrilous story I heard about fishing and Conservative Central Office. But I will.

According to a totally ill-founded rumour, it seems a very senior Tory on a vote-catching trawl rang one of the major angling bodies to reveal that the Conservatives were planning to scrap the fishing rod licence. (This costs £22 a year, while for migratory fish such as salmon and sea trout, it's a hefty £61.)

He was talking to an organisation concerned with the welfare of salmon and trout fishers, so he said: "We've got to persuade those coarse fishing bods that sit under green umbrellas on canals, but we'll be able to count on your chaps to support us in this, won't we?".

The reply wasn't what he was expecting. "Er, no," he was told. "We think that the rod licence is a jolly good thing."

I'm sure this alleged dialogue is entirely untrue. I mean, the Conservative Party can't be so desperate for votes that it needs to suck up to 3.8 million fishermen, can it? Ridiculous idea. I have no doubt it's sheer coincidence I heard this silly tale in the same week that the Right Honourable MP for Chingford and Woodford revealed he wants to abolish rod licences.

Iain Duncan Smith, it appears, is quite serious about the measure. He tells Angling Times: "I feel that in this day and age, the rod licence has become an outdated tax on a great leisure activity." And he reinforces his own credentials by saying: "I have had a passion for fishing since my father took me as a young boy."

Think fisherman, and IDS is not the first figure that comes to mind. Ian Botham Jack Charlton, Chris Tarrant, Billy Connolly, even Prince Charles and Brad Pitt - but not IDS.

Duncan Smith was born in Edinburgh, so I assume his reference to childhood fishing would be on a Scottish loch or the Tweed. You can't quite see his father, Group Captain WGG Duncan Smith, drowning a maggot on the Firth of Forth.

He was educated at HMS Conway in Anglesey. Now my friend Ian, a keen fisherman, has lived in that area of north Wales most of his life, and assures me the fishing is so poor, he ended up fishing for crabs. But I can't see IDS crab-fishing off Bangor Pier either.

Nor does he look like a carp angler. His constituency is packed with heavily-stocked carp lakes, but it's hard to see IDS making his own boilies, living on cans of beans and spending nights in a bivvy.

It couldn't be, could it, that like a Conservative leader before him who drank 20 pints a night, IDS feels he may gain riverbank cred if he coolly mentions his angling pedigree? What an unworthy thought! Forget I even mentioned it.

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