Terence Blacker: IVF for lesbians and other topics to avoid at Balmoral

The announcement by Cherie that she was going to sing a traditional Native American menstrual chant would have been a worry at the best of times
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It's over. For the nation's two most distinguished families, an annual torment has just come to an end, never to be repeated. The Queen and Prince Philip have played host for the last time to Mr and Mrs Blair (whom they have nicknamed, for obscure reasons, "the Serviettes") over the last weekend of the summer holidays.

Now it can be revealed that Buckingham Palace and Downing Street have been in negotiations with a view to using the gaffes and embarrassments of the Blairs' annual visit to Balmoral as a guide for future prime ministers and for the royal couple themselves. It has been agreed that in forthcoming visits:

1. However strongly the Prime Minister's wife may feel about egalitarianism, it is unwise for her to greet the ruling monarch with the words, "Hey, Liz, we're gonna cut the formal crap when we're in the chill-time, right? I'm Cherie, you're Liz, let's go!"

2. The traditional early morning wake-up call by bagpipes playing "The Rose Among the Heather" beneath the window of the guest-room should be dropped. Both sides agreed that the Blairs' attempt at retaliation in 1999, sending Alastair Campbell to play "Donald, Whaur's Yer Troosers?" on his bagpipes in the Long Gallery did not improve relations between the two families.

3. After-dinner entertainment should be avoided unless cleared by both sets of officials in advance. The announcement last year by Mrs Blair that she was going to sing a traditional menstrual chant of Native American women would have been problematic at the best of times (the Duke of Edinburgh asked what kind of bird a "menstrual" was), even if it had not lasted 23 minutes.

4. It was agreed by both sides that there should be a serious attempt to brief political guests about the Queen's areas of interest. Considerable confusion and embarrassment was caused when, during a discussion about trainers, the Queen was talking about Sir Michael Stoute of Newmarket while Mrs Blair was referring to Carole Caplin. Only when Her Majesty said that having a good trainer was worth a good couple of lengths did the misunderstanding become clear.

5. Certain matters of etiquette should, it was agreed, be cleared in advance of the visit. It is bad form for the Prime Minister's wife to "test" the Queen on her knowledge of her own constitutional responsibilities - obviously a trained barrister will have an advantage over Her Majesty.

6. Visitors to Balmoral should be encouraged to observe basic manners. The famous Cherie Blair yawn, caught by the world's press while the Blairs sat with the Queen and Prince Philip watching some Highland games, almost had serious consequences when Prince Philip turned around to find himself gazing into an abyss. When he recovered from the shock, he said he hadn't seen anything like it since shooting hippo on Lake Naivasha.

7. While it was recognised that publicity plays an important part in politics, it was agreed by both sides that, in the unlikely event of a future prime minister impregnating his wife at Balmoral, as Tony Blair claimed to have, he should not boast embarrassingly in interviews that it would be a "a true British baby".

8. Certain subjects of conversation should be declared out of bounds. It was unwise of the Prime Minister's wife to discuss with Prince Philip the question of in vitro fertilisation for lesbian couples. Nor was it a good idea for His Royal Highness to suggest that the Blairs left Leo with a nanny until he could be packed off to boarding school. The proposal by Mrs Blair that the Royal Family should get rid of the corgis and offer homes to "some of those dogs that used to murder foxes" would have been better left unsaid.

9. When leaving, it was thought to have been a mistake for Mrs Blair to kiss the Queen on both cheeks, saying "Ciao, Liz, hang loose and stay in touch, yeah?"

Miles Kington is away