Baron Wyatt of Weeford, otherwise known as Woodrow Wyatt, formerly a Labour Party MP, formerly a television journalist, founder of Panorama, and now chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board, emerged last week as Norman Lamont's patron. Perhaps patron is too strong a word; confidant might be more appropriate for the man who accompanied him in his motor car to Westminster where Mr Lamont opened fire on John Major with his 'in office but not in power' speech.
Lord Wyatt, the self-styled 'Voice of Reason' has been singing the praises of Norman Lamont in his News of the World column since John Major appointed him Chancellor. Norman Lamont was brave, his budgets were brilliant, tough and good for Britain. If he happened to be unpopular, well, that usually meant he was doing the right thing, a sentiment similar to Lord Wyatt's motto: Vi Attamen Honore, which my Latin tutor translated with difficulty as 'with force but honour'.
And, at the end of May, after Mr Lamont was sacked, the Voice of Reason wrote about 'the stink of injustice in the air' and likened the Prime Minister to Macavity, the cat in T S Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, who mysteriously never seemed to be around when there was trouble.
'I have known Norman Lamont for something like 20 years,' Lord Wyatt told me when I telephoned him at his home in St John's Wood, London. He couldn't remember where they met - 'somewhere ages ago'. But he said he spotted him instantly as a 'coming man' and they had been friends since, holidaying at Lord Wyatt's rented villa in Tuscany last year, out of touch from the Treasury during those uncertain weeks before Black Wednesday and sterling's exit from the ERM.
Lord Wyatt takes his title from the hamlet of Weeford near Lichfield in Staffordshire, where he says his family came from and where he plans to be buried. His Army experience made him a socialist, he told me. He was 21 when the Second World War began and was shocked by the family histories of his men. After the Normandy landings in 1944 he was reprimanded for losing plans for the invasion of Europe and was sent to India for the rest of the war.
He entered Parliament for a Birmingham seat in the 1945 Labour landslide, went back to India with Stafford Cripps to organise India's independence, lost his seat in 1955, but returned in 1959 until 1970. He admired Hugh Gaitskell, despised Harold Wilson and opposed the nationalisation of steel. He left the Labour Party in 1977 and fell instantly in love, politically, with Margaret Thatcher who gave him his peerage in 1987. Now he describes himself as an independent who considers the Tory Party pretty awful but the Labour Party even worse.
Until last week he had stood out in my memory for his run-in with A N Wilson, who, after dining with the Queen Mother at Lord Wyatt's, reported the dinner-party chat in the Spectator. Wilson claimed the Queen Mum had described T S Eliot as 'a lugubrious man in a suit' whose reading at the palace of The Waste Land (or 'The Desert', as she called it) gave the whole royal family an attack of the giggles.
'My fault in life is that I'm too trusting by nature,' he said, referring to that incident. 'Norman Lamont,' Lord Wyatt went on, 'is much the same. He's a curiously innocent chap.'
THE LAST time Bushmen from the Kalahari desert came to London was in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Now Dada, believed to be 60, and Komtsa, 'about 70', wearing the hat, are here under the auspices of Survival International, to promote a sale of tribal paintings. More than half the estimated 80,000 Kalahari desert Bushmen live in Botswana, largely serfs to local farmers. Much of their traditional land has been turned into game parks. Animals in that part of southern Africa appear to rate higher than human beings.
Their paintings and art are at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in London, but according to Komtsa, the Nahru, his tribe, want land. This was the key to their survival, not painting, not weaving, not singing.
The couple found London in its heatwave terribly cold. They rather enjoyed the variety of berries at Kew Gardens, but were amazed there were no thorns on our pavements and found English food too sweet; they missed mealie porridge. They were surprised to find so many different races in London and felt more at ease here than in Gaberone, the Botswana capital. As Komatsa said: 'Here among white people no one looks down on you.' I suspect he would change his mind on that after a few more weeks.
SEEKING an article to explain the daft behaviour of judges, this newspaper turned to the former Judge Pickles. But Mr Pickles is not so daft. What was the fee? We mentioned our usual rates. Mr Pickles spoke forthrightly. 'I get pounds 1 a word from the Sun. Even the Sport gives me 50p a word.' You have been spared the Pickles wisdom.
Mr Justice Starforth Hill, aged 71, and other elderly controversialists in wigs should take heart. Public ignominy can be turned to financial advantage in retirement. The words in this small item, for example, would have earned Mr Pickles pounds 136 from the Sun. Even a judge could probably write two such items a day, yielding an annual income of about pounds 70,000. So the quicker 'controversial' judges hang up their robes the better for us and them.
MR JUSTICE Drake should have a fascinating September. He is set to hear the libel action brought by Michael Jackson against the Daily Mirror, followed by Mr John Major and Ms Clare Latimer v the New Statesman. Mr Major has so far won about pounds 26,000 in damages from the magazine's printers and distributors, and Ms Latimer about pounds 30,000. Hard times look certain to befall the NS whatever the outcome. The case has cost pounds 180,000 to date, and their appeal (which continues) has raised only pounds 90,000.
Short shrift for knees
I AM reminded by last week's heatwave and the sight of so many males in short trousers on the streets of London of another in 1976 when wearing shorts was not so common. Captain Moonlight at that time was attached to Reuters news agency and arrived fresh from East Africa for duty one very warm afternoon wearing a pair of Bombay bloomers and a clean shirt.
For younger readers, Bombay bloomers are knee-length khaki trousers, baggy at the leg and tight around the waist; they were once worn by British, colonial and Dominion forces. You see up-to-date versions of the bloomer in today's chain stores.
In 1976 I was told to come properly dressed the next day, or I would be sent home. It did not matter that London's tar-sealed roads and pavements were melting and that my attire was traditional tropical rig; it was considered so bizarre that one messenger summoned colleagues to take a look.
Now, 17 years on, all has changed. The streets of London are beginning to look like the Antipodes or California. I am not certain whether it is fashion or global warming. At this office last week I saw the sports editor and several of his staff in shorts, the West Europe editor, a business reporter, a general reporter - a good dozen bare knees.
Uncertain how far the fashion had spread I telephoned Buckingham Palace for guidance. I didn't get much. A spokeswoman said there was a dress code for staff in royal employment but I could only become privy to it if I became an employee. Asked if any of her male colleagues were in shorts, she said: 'I don't have an answer.'
The Civil Service seems rather more relaxed and the Cabinet Office said dress was a matter for 'line management'. Down on the embankment at the Ministry of Defence I discovered that civil servants there began wearing shorts last year after 'line management' had given the OK. They bared their knees at the same time postmen were given permission to walk the streets in 'bermuda' shorts.
Bombay bloomers (white and khaki), I was told, are still worn as tropical rig by the airforce and the navy. The army gave them up in the 1970s when we pulled out of our defence arrangements in South-east Asia and the Pacific. At the ministry, where everyone is in mufti, they can come to work in shorts and open shirts as long as they have a pair of long trousers and a tie and jacket on hand for 'emergencies', a spokesman said; 'funerals, parties, that sort of thing,' he explained.
There are some places where comfort can never win. Harrods gave me the thumbs down. 'Yes, there is a dress code for our employees and it is business suits for men.' Short trousers, perhaps? I asked. 'I think you are making a joke,' the Harrods person said.
In the City I was told shorts would 'not go down at all well. Most buildings are air-conditioned anyway so you don't need to dress down to keep cool.' At Morgan Grenfell, the merchant bank, a spokeswoman said it was important to maintain a smart appearance during working hours. And shorts? 'If we thought you were inappropriately dressed we would tell you so,' she said.
Say what you
like about . . .
. . . Lady Chatterley's Lover but:
he wasn't the Marquess of Blandford
Oliver Reed doesn't play the gamekeeper
the black horse is excellent
the woods were very nicely filmed
your servants won't want to watch it
now you don't have to read the book
(Photographs omitted)Reuse content