Captain Moonlight: The Major Effect ... Mr Lamont goes into exile

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AND NOW, a Major Captain Moonlight Probe, if you follow, one of a continuing series in which the Captain, with the help of his lean, mean team of researcher/investigators, turns a wavering beam on matters of the moment. This week, with a nod to my new chums on the other page, I have been inquiring into the Major Effect. You will know that Mr Major is an assiduous attender at cricket Test matches; he's usually there, you know, and they are expecting him at the Oval this week for the final one with the West Indies. But do you know what effect his presence at a Test match has on England's fortunes? I thought not, and, to remedy this deficiency, my team has been examining his record since he became Prime Minister at the end of 1990. Now I am well aware that there will be wiseacres out there who will expect a sorry tale of loss and humiliation. I know, too, that there will be loyalists who will expect this modest, unassuming man to be something of a victory mascot, viz Lord's this summer, where he received a resounding round of applause when his face appeared on the new giant television screen and the threat from both the West Indies and John Redwood faded as to nothing. But, enough: you are panting for statistics. Which reveal that Mr Major has absolutely no effect at all. According to my figures, England, at matches attended by the Prime Minister, have won six, lost six and the rest have been drawn. Funny, that. Next!

n BIRTHDAY. Pension. Old Ted, 65. Brother poets, sister poets write poems for Old Ted. Old Oak Ted. Vet Ted. Senior Ted. Winter Hughes. Poems from Seamus H, Thom G, Wendy C. Forty poems for Craggy Old Ted. In special birthday book from Faber. And one from Craig Raine. About his own birthday. Stan Trochee, the Moonlight laureate, writes: I. Don't. Think. That. Was. The. Idea. Craig.

CLUCK, CLUCK! Yes, it's chicken run time with Captain Moonlight! And who is this slight, fair and winsome figure showing great interest in the affairs of the new, boundary-commission-created seat of Hitchin and Harpenden? Yes, it's that cuddly, doctrinally rigorous social security supremo, the man with the little list, Peter Lilley! Pete has a majority in St Albans of 14,000, but with the change that's more likely to be 9,000. And now his truncated constituency is dispensing with the services of its agent. No wonder Pete has been putting out press releases all about affairs in Hitchin and Harpenden. With one hop and a cluck he could be safe. I also have news of the biggest flapper of them all, a turkey really, the merchant banker who finds money a puzzle, whether its ours or his (last reported trying to buy petrol without it), Norman "Lucky" Lamont, seat-searcher. And I can reveal that Lucky has chosen a suitably enigmatic holiday destination: Elba.

n AND NOW, in Captain Moonlight's Interactive Corner, it's competition time! This week the Captain presents the second in his acclaimed series of fascinating postcards sent in by you, the reader. Regard this view of Gravesend's Civic Centre. Splendid! Thank you, Mr Larkbey of north London: a bottle of bubbly for you. And if the lady in the photograph would care to make herself known, there's one for you, too, chuck!

PRAISE BE! Good news at last! Mark Laity's cat is not dead after all! I am sorry to have to tell you, though, that Mr Laity, the noted BBC defence expert, does not seem very pleased with Marmaduke, my man at the Corporation who passed on the unfortunately premature information last week. To be honest, and having observed the mother-in-law's cat for many years, I would have thought it the sort of mistake anybody could make, but Mr Laity is unforgiving. He tells me, inter multa alia, that 1) the extant cat is his wife's; 2) he took it to a specialist clinic; 3) he has never dressed up and brandished a pike in one of those battle re-enactment thingies; 4) but, yes, he does have two model aircraft on his desk. Well. Marmaduke, you have fallen considerably below the standard demanded of a Moonlight correspondent. Marmaduke, I now view with extreme doubt your story that Mr Laity once claimed he was far too important to be risked in Bosnia. Marmaduke, you're fired! Does anybody else have any Mark Laity stories?

n NOW THEN, this Nick Howard, son of Mick "The Tagger" Howard, Home Secretary. Nick, you will have heard, is the young whipper snapper who has caused all manner of trouble by faxing an article critical of Tony Blair to the London Evening Standard which, "by a terrible misfortune", was mistaken for one by Bryan Gould. Nick is an Old Etonian waiting to go up to Oxford. And my Eton correspondent, or "snout", W Windsor, tells me that Nick used to entertain his schoolmates by claiming to be able to divine from his father's expression on television which bits he believed more than others. This boy will go far. But where?

DRY, isn't it? I have to say I'm getting a bit worried about water supplies myself. And I quite fail to understand why poor Mr Gummer, the environment secretary, has been so pilloried for his extremely useful advice about using a bowl for washing up. And I am sure his remark, "We are not likely to need any restrictions if people will just use water wisely", has been taken out of context. But, most of all, I have been worried about his pond. You must remember: the one in his Suffolk back garden which was dredged and generally tarted up for free by a chicken (chickens again!) firm anxious that Mr Gummer's garden should look its best for a meeting of EU agriculture ministers. Mr Gummer got very cross when people criticised this, but it's all water under the bridge now. I was just anxious to know how it was faring. "The water level is lower but it is not being replenished," I am told by the Department of the Environment. Pray for rain, everyone!

n MANY of you have been in touch to say how intrigued you were by last week's story about the appearance of Peter Preston, editor-in-chief of the Guardian and the Observer, in That's Life magazine, featuring in a column entitled "Aren't Men Daft, But We Love 'Em: The Funny Things Our Fellas Get Up To", operating his trick guillotine, oiled with margarine, on his daughter-in-law. Some have gone so far as to suggest, heaven forfend, that the Captain had gone in for a bit of inspired invention, and that he had made it all up, including the adjoining Soft Lad of the Week who had assembled his flatpack wardrobe in the hall and couldn't get it up the stairs. Cheek! It is for this reason, and for no other, that I reproduce the picture of Mr Hey Preston.

Convinced now?

A LAST little bit on the Major Effect. Soccer-wise, he's a big Chelsea fan. Sadly, all other Chelsea fans consider him a jinx. So much so that it seems he was persuaded not to attend the 1994 cup final against Manchester U, a decision followed by wild rejoicing. And, lo, United won 4-0. But ... there are those who, to this day, swear he was there. Spooky, n'est- ce pas? Bye!

DON'T DO IT, son, it's just not worth it! An Associated Newspapers security officer is pictured on top of the Evening Standard offices in Kensington, London, running towards features executive Max "I'll just tweak it a bit" Groucho, distraught after the sad mixed-up Bryan Gould fax affair. Groucho, as you can see from the back of his shirt, has actually been inside the offending fax machine to deliver it a stern reprimand. He has now made the article into a giant dart and is going to attempt to fly to Kensington Gardens. Note the electronic tag on the left leg which all Associated employees are required to wear. The fax machine has now been dismissed. Actually, it's a New Yorker eager to tangle with Hurricane Felix.


The Captain's catch-up Service

Here it is, the weekly news review which wanders the very fringe of human experience... Ashley Donaldson, of Ashley Donaldson and the Rogue Valley Wranglers, sang 10 country songs to his surgeons while under local anaesthetic in Oregon to relieve his prostate problems... A Brazilian from Recife is being sued for refusing to pay for a mechanical penis implant because it operates every time neighbours use their TV handsets... Police in Genoa have charged nine members of a prison theatre group with armed robbery after they allegedly used the troupe's store of wigs and false noses to mount a series of bank hold-ups... Police dogs combed south London searching for Cracker, a police tracker dog who got lost in Peckham...Jason Orange of Take That had a boil on his bottom lanced... A husband who returned home early in Frankfurt and caught his wife in bed with the postman has paid the postman pounds 3,000 damages because he broke a leg jumping out of the bedroom window... And, finally, Kurt Jarlsonn, a Swedish seaman who had nightmares that he would die on his 50th birthday, threw a party to celebrate his survival and died of a heart attack from over-drinking.