A choice of questions if my MP ever knocks on the door

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The Independent Online
I HAVE always wanted to hear a knock on my front door near general election time and find a prospective Member of Parliament standing there asking for my vote. It has never happened to me, which is a pity, because I have always had a question ready for him or her. It would be: 'Do you happen to know which constituency I am in?'

This was because I knew who my nearest MP was, and I knew that he was not my local MP. Local MP and nearest MP are not always synonymous, you know. The nearest MP to us for many years was Chris Patten, who lived in a small village about a mile away from our house. So he was our nearest MP, because he was just across the valley and up through the trees.

However, he wasn't our local MP, because we didn't live in his constituency. We live just out of the Bath and Avon area, in an outcrop of Wiltshire, and our constituency is Westbury, a place we rarely go to but which can be seen in the distance from the top room of the house. (At least, one can see the White Horse of Westbury outlined on the ridge of hills that turns into Salisbury Plain.) Interestingly, Mr Patten also lived in this outcrop of Wiltshire, so I don't think he resided in his own constituency, even if he had a good view of it. All this is a bit academic, as Mr Patten has moved on to another job, in Hong Kong, and is thus now, instead of being our nearest MP, our farthest-away ex-MP.

Our local MP was quite different. He was called Sir Dennis somebody-or-other, and one got the impression, from the infrequent references to him in the local paper, that he had been MP for the area for so long that he had become an elder statesman without ever doing anything particularly statesmanlike.

A Conservative, of course; you don't get to be a left-wing MP in the depths of rural England with a handle like Sir Dennis. But I got the strong impression that he was due for retirement, and so it proved to be at the 1992 election, when he was replaced as candidate by someone young, and equally unknown to me, called David Faber.

'David Faber?' A friend of mine said. 'Good heavens, I was at school with him. He was Harold Macmillan's grandson.'

My friend went to a very top school. He keeps this desperately quiet and thinks I don't know, but I do.

'What was he like at school?'

'Faber? Well, I would say he just about possessed the intellectual calibre necessary to be your local MP.'

Was this a slur on me or Faber? I never found out. I very much hoped he would come knocking on my door during the 1992 campaign, asking for my vote, so I could ask him the crucial question that I have never known to be asked before: 'How can the grandson of a famous publisher called Macmillan end up being called after another famous publisher, Faber?' But no knock came, and although out of pique I voted against the Tories, Mr Faber was duly elected to serve as the sitting member for etc.

By that time there was another question I wanted to ask him. I had been reading a racy paperback life of Jeffrey Archer, and was struck by the revelation that on the day when he handed over all those generous banknotes to the lady at Victoria Station, he had been accompanied by his political assistant, or researcher. This companion was named as David Faber, and was described by the biographer, as I remember, as the grandson of Harold Macmillan. So if my MP ever comes knocking on my door asking for my vote, I have another question ready for him: 'So what's this Jeffrey Archer really like, then?'

Or so I thought until 6 January, when I read the following slightly garbled entire item in the Bath Evening Chronicle.


'The estranged wife of Westbury MP David Faber has asked the producer of present (sic) Jim'll Fix It if she can replace him. Sally Faber currently works as a freelance TV presenter and is a former weathergirl. She and Mr Faber have one child, a boy called Henry Mark, who is just 21 months old. Conservative Mr Faber, 32, the grandson of former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, announced last month that his marriage has irretrievably broken down.'

So at the time of going to press I have the choice of two vital questions to ask the MP at my door.

a) Is it true, as the Evening Chronicle seems to be suggesting, that your estranged wife asked Jimmy Savile to find her a replacement husband? b) Do you get sick and tired of going through life being described as Harold Macmillan's grandson?

I'm not sure the Tory party can handle any questions more complicated than this at the present time.