The other day I was nosing around the countryside beyond Windsor looking for the possible site of Heathrow's terminal six and terminal seven, when my attention was caught by a large site surrounded by a stout perimeter fence containing what looked like an old Gothic house in some sinister woods.
The name on the gate was New Labour Landfill.
Intrigued, I stopped and got out to talk to the man on the gate, who let slip the information that this was a sort of disposal place for New Labour, where old stories and uncomfortable facts could be spirited away.
"Documents, tapes, memos, you name it," he said. "People, even, if they're surplus to requirements."
There was something vaguely familiar about the man's brown face.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" I said.
"Not a chance," said the man. "I'm not Keith Vaz, if that's what you think. I know I look like him, and I know I sound like him. But I'm not Keith Vaz. And that's not Peter Mandelson over there. And that's not Jo Moore over there. And that's not Frank Dobson..."
As we strolled past a parking space marked "Not Reserved for Stephen Byers", he began to reveal, under my skilful but unobtrusive questioning, the awful extent of what took place here.
"See, if the Government is embarrassed by anything they have done or said, they've got to get rid of it somewhere, haven't they? I mean they're not going to own up to it or say they're wrong or take responsibility for it. So it's got to be disposed of somewhere, hasn't it? Well, this is where they do it. Mark you, I never said that. And I'm not Keith Vaz."
We turned a bend in the road called "Hinduja Corner", where I fancy he shivered slightly, and then came to a vast hummock in the ground.
"What dread secret lies beneath this pregnant swelling?" I asked.
"That's all the Dome stuff," he said. "Promises about the Dome, boasts about the Dome, pledges to put the Dome in the manifesto, publicity for the Millennium river of fire, all that kind of stuff. That's all safely hidden away there. If anyone should ever need it, this is where we wouldn't tell him where it is."
"What about apologies for, and admissions of error about, the Dome?"
The man who wasn't Keith Vaz looked at me oddly.
"There weren't any," he said. "You must have dreamt it."
Just then we passed a man tending a bonfire of official-looking documents outside a small building marked Wembley Office.
"That's where all the sports stadium stuff goes," he said. "Morning, Chris!"
The man looked up and waved.
"That's not Chris Smith, " said the man who wasn't Keith Vaz.
"No," I said. "I failed to recognise him immediately."
Up to this point the ground had been largely flat, but we suddenly came upon a vast crater in the park, a place where diggers had been hard at work piling up earth ready, perhaps, to pile it back on top of something.
"What's going to go in here?" I said.
"The result of the public inquiry on foot-and-mouth disease," he said.
"But there hasn't been one," I said.
"I should bloody well think not," he replied, shocked at the idea. "But you can't be too careful, and just in case there is one, this is where it will be buried, to prevent anyone in government being contaminated by it, you know."
A chunky figure in a white antiseptic suit was clambering up from the crater. He waved from a distance.
"That's not Nick Brown, is it?" I said.
"Spot on!" cried my companion. "That's not Nick Brown."
As we passed other figures who weren't Mo Mowlam or Harriet Harman or Frank Field or Alun Michael or Ron Davies or any of the others who have been airbrushed out of New Labour's history, I felt a chill wind running down my spine at the sight of this army of the "desaparecidos". And when the gate opened to let in a lorry marked "Memos from Stephen Byers", followed closely by another lorry marked "Stephen Byers's Explanations of Those Memos", I thought it was time to make my getaway before the arrival of Stephen Byers himself.
"Thanks," I said. "I think I'll be off."
"Bye," he said. " And please remember – you never came to this place. Which does not exist."
"Right," I said. "I get the idea."Reuse content