A sad old Day at the House

Thomas Creevey: His Diary
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The Independent Online
YOU should never really envy politicians. Their stunted emotional growth and their chronic inability to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong ensures that too many of them are only candidate members of the human race.

So it is particularly distressing when one of the few mature people at Westminster admits that his marriage has become a victim of the new parliamentary session. Stephen Day, MP for Cheadle, Cheshire, next door to Neil Hamilton, and a jolly fellow whose sanity belies his daft interest in Cyprus (er ... the Turkish-occupied north) is to announce a split from his second wife Frances.

The sad news followed hard on the heels of William Hague's appointment of "Night'n'Day to the Conservative whips' office last week, a decision that not only took the former denizen of Otley Secondary School by surprise but staggered the rest of the drinking classes. He has been a bit of a Johnny Reb in his time, voting against Conservative government measures on teeth and glasses.

TRIBUNE, the cash-strapped left-wing weekly, has moved into the world of corporate entertainment. Last Thursday, the brothers and sisters brought together what are laughingly-called opinion formers and captains of commerce at the immensely-expensive Shepheards restaurant in Westminster. The hard hats of Asda Stores (prominent proprietor, Archie Norman MP, vice chairman of the Conservative Party) and similar grinders of the faces of the poor broke bread with the promoters of a national minimum wage.

Shepheards is out of bounds to Creevey, for sound reasons of finance. It is greatly to be hoped that the Labour MPs - including John Healey, the arriviste member for Wentworth (Gizza Ministerial Job Tendency) who used to work for the TUC - choked on their victuals. The price of a decent lunch for two there will exceed any minimum weekly wage that Labour grants the toiling masses.

SPEAKING of lunch, it was entertaining to note two notable former communists enjoying the capitalist ambience in the Savoy Grill the other day. At one table, Dr John Reid, Minister for the Armed Forces (a man who has not touched the sherbet since his hero John Smith died). At the other, Charlie Whelan, Press Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quaffing champers with Brian Basham, the PR guru who managed to do rather well for British Airways. Reid and Whelan were members of the CP during the Seventies, a fact which probably escaped other exhibitionist lunchers around them, including Charles Moore, who is something to do with the Daily Telegraph, and Lord King, the brooding ancien grumpy who behaves like a man who has still not come to terms with life after power. Quite why anybody wants to show off in this overpriced brasserie is beyond Creevey. Give me the Gay Hussar any day.

NOT every Labour MP is seduced into the high-cholesterol lifestyle. The former hit-man at Walworth Road party headquarters, Frazer Kemp - all right, he was officially styled "General Election Co-ordinator" - has discovered that the only way to halt housing development on an allotment site in his Washington, Co Durham constituency, is to seek an official declaration that a number of wooden pigeon lofts are listed buildings, and cannot be demolished. He has written to Culture Secretary Chris Smith demanding that the "crees" be given official protection, and the men from the ministry are already planning their itinerary. "I don't see why these genuine artefacts of working-class culture are any less important than the Royal Opera House," he argues.

Good luck, Brother Kemp! Creevey's forebears hail from the neighbourhood where the Ryhope (Back Street) Allotments - genuine name, genuine people - are battling to keep the soil for giant leeks. These could be the last leeks Creevey gets from Labour.

DON'T believe a word of the fanciful tale that we have seen the last of the ambitious Tories who lost their seats in May - or even in 1992. Chris Patten, the dog-loving former Governor of Hong Kong, is privately telling friends that just as soon as he has finished writing his ex-cathedra version of the End of Empire, he will go into television. Possibly with a view to returning to Parliament.

Meanwhile, Michael Portillo (did you stay up to watch him go out on election night?), the man who was supposed to secure the political succession for the Tory Right, is telling anybody who will listen - and many who would prefer not to - that he is also keen to offer himself on the small screen. Nothing to do with rejoining the gang of hard-faced men who did badly out of the last election, of course. This is a new, caring, sharing Portillo. Perhaps he will get a slot in an Open University television programme analysing people with vanity problems.

Paul Routledge

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