Dealing in arms can make an MP more rounded

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
It was only when I received the form asking me to register my outside interests as a Member of Parliament that the penny dropped and I remembered that I was an MP. But the life of a Conservative MP is extremely busy without having to recall that one has the added burden of "parliamentary duties" to perform.

Looking it up in my business files, I discovered that my time as an MP goes back to 1974, when I first gained a seat representing a town in the Home Counties somewhere in the Sussex/Surrey/Kent area or thereabouts, if I remember rightly.

I had been looking for a safe parliamentary seat for some time, eventually impressing the Home Counties selection panel with my doughty defence of Capital Punishment. I would promise, I said, not only to press the button, but, through my lucrative directorship of metal and steel manufacturing companies, to supply and maintain the electric chair at a greatly reduced rate. I also made a firm commitment, if elected, to buy a house in the constituency. I am a man of my word, and on election I kept that promise, buying a pounds 120,000 house via my directorship of the reputable property company OFFLOAD, immediately converting it into a luxury development for battery hens, then changing its use to retirement flatlets for the infirm, before selling it at a 500 per cent profit in the late Seventies.

Within the Conservative Party, I am widely regarded as a good constituency MP. I make an absolute point of popping down to the constituency at least twice every General Election, just to check that things are ticking over smoothly. I think my constituents, if any, would regard me as a very dull dog were I to have no outside interests. How on earth could I help the ordinary bloke in the street if I did not have a decent number of directorships of leading arms manufacturers to fall back on? Otherwise one would be forced to sit in the House of Commons or one's constituency, day in, day out, year after year, giving one a terribly limited view of the world outside Parliament and its potential for destruction at an affordable price.

It is time, too, to come to the defence of my old friend and quaffing partner Mr David Mellor. It has been said of David that he is an MP. Whether or not this is the case, I am in no position to judge. That is a matter for him and his conscience. But what I do know is that he is a first-class company director who, through his love of classical music and his deep interest in civilised conversation, has managed to boost arms exports by anything up to 40 per cent. There is now barely an arm severed or a limb shot off anywhere in the world without David having first enjoyed a delightful all-inclusive dinner with the Government Minister, Head of Armaments or Generals in question.

His first love is, of course, classical music. David likes nothing better at the end of a busy day than to pour himself a drink, slip off his bullet- proof vest and place a new CD recording by the Vienna Philharmonic on his gramophone. On the subject of music, his conversation positively sparkles. "I always maintain that Schubert is the heat-seeking missile of the classical world," he might say, "while a string quartet by Haydn can blow the heads off of up to a thousand innocent bystanders without the need to reload."

Listening to a Mahler symphony, say, or a Mozart piano concerto, David will allow vivid pictures to dart into his mind. "In that extraordinary climax to Mahler's 5th, I like to picture up to 10,000 refugees killed in saturation bombing, leading to reorders of up to 20 high-velocity jets for return matches," he once told me.

Contrary to what the envious might suggest, David is a man of the soundest principle. He has told me time and time again, for instance, that he would not hesitate to resign his directorship if any company for which he worked saw fit to distribute anti-personnel land-mines across his Putney constituency.

Like David, my principles forbid me from divulging my extra-parliamentary income. If I am paid a modest consultancy fee of, say, pounds 65,000 a year to secure lucrative contracts from foreign investors, that has nothing whatever to do with my being an MP. And for that little bit extra, I will happily explain this position to foreign investors over a highly agreeable lunch in the Members' Dining Room of the House of Commons. Book now to avoid disappointment.

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