MPs at Westminster are used to dealing with other people's problems, but who can deal with their problems? When someone at Westminster desperately needs a helping hand, who can they turn to for advice?
To The Independent's Aunt Agatha, of course! To the only agony aunt alive who deals exclusively with parliamentarian problems! And here are her answers to some recent letters.
Relax, relax! Your relationship with Tony may seem to have hit a buffer, but what seems to you now like a ghastly nightmare will seem quite funny in a year or two. We must get these things in proportion. It was just a little hiccup. Yes, I know, I know - in the right circumstances, hiccups can kill! But you are not dead, are you? You are still in the job, are you not? At least, you were at the time of writing! So, just relax!
It is a pleasant change to get a letter from an MP who is worried because he has no problems. You seem to be getting the better of your main rival at work, Tony. You seem to have little respect for your future rival, Gordon. Your other rival at work, Charles, has faded from the scene. You think you are due for big promotion in a year or two, and nothing could go wrong, and you would like to know now what sort of dangers might emerge from the woodwork.
Have you thought of looking behind you? Just a thought. Very often the greatest dangers come from colleagues we least suspect, as I was always telling Margaret. Eyes in the back of your head, that's my tip. Kenneth. Norman. Malcolm. A few names to remember. Especially Norman.
Nice to hear from you again. I am sorry you are still upset. To cheer you up, just think how much worse it could be. In the past, people have had to be rushed into Parliament from their hospital bed, even from their death bed, to make sure a Bill got through. Can you imagine the fuss it would cause if someone died like that? While all you have done is cause the death of one or two minor clauses! So, relax.
Yes, I am sure it is tempting to sign a lucrative contract to do your autobiography. All leading politicians like to do it when they retire, and, when you have got personal problems as well, it is even more tempting to spill the beans. A word of warning, though. When you have published your memoirs, people think you are dead, or at least permanently retired. It will make it even harder to get back on the showbiz circuit of things like The News Quiz etc, in which you were so good before. There may be life after death, but there is not much life after memoir time. Think of John Major. Think of Bill Clinton.
Just keep your nerve. After Mark and Simon, I am sure people will be trying to dig up dirt on you as well. That is par for the course. I am sure they will not go back as far as the 1964 Tokyo Olympics . It will never occur to them to think that you were involved in anything. And do not worry about being thought too old. In the old days, you would have been thought young for a statesman. Churchill was your age when the war started. Roosevelt was over 60, too. It's never too late.
I am sorry to hear that you are still obsessed with the idea that you might always sound so dreary on the Today programme, droning on and on about Iran or Palestine. I am afraid to say that constant practice on the Today programme may not be the answer. Have you thought about not going on the Today programme at all? This might give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, and therefore do you a lot of good.
Hello again. All right, if you are still worried, here is another idea. Make it all seem Tony's fault. Blame him for walking out at the wrong moment. Get him to see that he has to take responsibility some time. Try tears, if you like. Let me know how you get on.
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