Captain Moonlight: The finest cad of our times

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THE CENTRAL Lobby of the House of Commons, where the public comes to meet its members. Who, in the manner of film stars, seem smaller in real life. Tony Blair strode through, purposefully, a man in a hurry. James Molyneaux looked a little lost. Then Sir Nicholas Fairbairn appeared, all lopsided grin and tartan trousers. He led the way to the bar.

Ah, yes, Nicky Fairbairn: author, forester, painter, poet, television and radio broadcaster, journalist, dress-designer, landscape gardener, bon viveur, raconteur and wit, as he has long described himself in Who's Who; Tory MP for Perth and Kinross, former Solicitor General for Scotland (resigned 1982); famously outspoken on sex, race and other sensitive matters, not so much a loose cannon as a rogue galleon; and, this Friday, 60.

He, too, looks smaller than formerly, but has an excuse: a bad bout of viral hepatitis earlier in the year. Doctors had advised him to give up lots of things, but he couldn't bear all that crap, he had recovered his energy now and was drinking again, with water. He had celebrated his birthday with a London lunch at the Beefsteak, and was going to entertain more friends in the chapel at his castle, Fordell, near Dunfermline, bought in 1962 for pounds 100 from a local businessman whose funds had run out. The invitations read 'At Castle'. 'Why not?' he demanded. 'It is a castle.'

We had taken seats just vacated by Mrs Edwina Currie and party. Sir Nicholas and Mrs Currie managed with aplomb the difficult trick of completely ignoring each other. Fairbairn once called her a hag, just after he had compared women MPs to the 5th Kiev Stalinist machine-gun parade. Mrs Currie had mocked, in the House, Sir Nicholas's sex appeal, a received and self-promulgated truth, part of his equally advertised aversion to monogamy, despite two marriages, one continuing.

He withdrew nothing. Mrs Currie had insulted him. She was one of the many people he disliked, 'the vin ordinaire and the boring', 'the grey men in blue suits' who were sitting all around him in the bar. As for philandering, well, he didn't know anybody married, of either sex, who wasn't being unfaithful. He took his cue from a sentiment of Dr Johnson, new to me, that fornicating and drinking were the two greatest pleasures of his life. Divorce, he believed, was very often caused by lack of sex. This was not the case with him or his marriage: coming up 60, he said, he was still a performer of Halpernesqe proportion.

'I don't think anybody could accuse me of being ungracious to women,' he said. 'I absolutely adore women; to me, women are to be expatiated and magnified and adored.' Women, he contined, dress for two reasons: to put other women down, and 'to come-on men'.

The thought occurs that Sir Nicholas, who has an undeniable charm wrapped up in all this, is the finest cad of our times, surpassing even Mr Alan Clark, with whom he does not get on. He is fierce against this. He prefers to define himself as someone who is 'incapable, absolutely incapable, of not stating what I know to be the truth . . . I don't want to grease-pole. I don't want to be at the top lying and crapping . . . with all those bus-driver spooks in the Cabinet . . . I just prefer to express my views rather than promote myself as a brain- controlled rabbit.'

Sir Nicholas's resignation was a messy matter. First there was a widely publicised alleged suicide attempt by one of his lovers. Then there was a spectacular mishandling of a Scottish rape case. Scepticism towards rape allegations have continued to be a Fairbairn theme. When I asked him about race, he misheard me and began to be sceptical about date rape and legal anonymity once again. Correcting himself, he repeated his view that West Indians were lazier than Asians. This was a generalisation based on observation, he said, as true as the generalisation that Glaswegians were kinder than Edinburghers.

We moved on. His second volume of autobiography was upcoming, he said, real score- settling stuff. He had no regrets, he didn't live life backwards. Eternity was spook- dream stuff. Anyway, he had decided not to die. The division bell rang again. As we parted he said his wife had warned him not to say anything indiscreet.

(Photograph omitted)