Diary

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Varsity blues for Central Office

OF LATE, Tory Central Office has been rather magisterial in its approach to Conservative students who they feel could be doing more to restore the Government's fortunes. Earlier this month, the Diary noted an attempt by Smith Square to censor the Young Conservatives' magazine, Campaigner, which had planned a front cover with a 'back to basics' theme. Now Central Office has spotted dissent at one of the country's most prestigious young political organisations, the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA), and dispatched a representative 'to sort out the mess'.

According to this term's chairman, Julian Bailey, Central Office became concerned when he appeared, contrary to its wishes, on a TV quiz and then commented unfavourably to the press about attempts to dissuade him. This, he says in the student rag Varsity, was its reason for sending Nick Green, eastern chairperson of Conservative Students, to CUCA with the intention of forcing him to resign, which he has now done.

Central Office, he maintains, would not agree with this interpretation. He says that 'trumped up charges' of financial indiscretion were being used to remove him as chairman. These include the one of 'borrowing' pounds 180 from CUCA funds to print his programme of events - rules say he should pay out of his own pocket.

Green, who admits being sent in by Central Office, insists that Bailey, who has been replaced by one Patrick Heneghan, is overdramatising the situation: 'This is student politics, not House of Cards.'

THE Liberal Democrats are not confident about their chances in the by-election at Rotherham, where they polled 5,000 votes against Labour's 27,900 at the general election. But the party's likely candidate for Rotherham is already preparing for the chase. Best of luck to David Wildgoose.

Wheelchair fare

FOLLOWING my item last week about the Tate Gallery's on-off ruling about whether visitors are allowed to sketch at special exhibitions, I am now told the gallery is also confused about its policy towards visitors in wheelchairs. One visitor accompanying her handicapped partner to the Picasso exhibition on Monday was told she had to pay for both of them, and thereafter became a human yoyo, bobbing between various officials with different views on the matter. The gallery blames the people in the ticket booth, who are unconnected with the Tate. For the record: if you're in a wheelchair, don't pay.

CONFESSION time for Baruch Hirson and Paul Trewhela - inspired authors of the political publication Searchlight South Africa. In their latest edition, they explain why the left-wing magazine, hitherto a quarterly, - is to become an annual one. They are running out of contributors, they say. If truth be known, they ran out a long time ago, and have since been writing the whole thing themselvesunder a number of pseudonyms.

Signs of Portillo

AS MPs continue to slog their way through 244 clauses of the Finance Bill during the committee stage, Michael Portillo will grace the assembled gathering for no more than six of them, according to a Whitehall memo leaked to the Labour frontbencher Nick Brown. The MPs will not be best pleased by this, particularly when they know that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has agreed to go on a weeklong Foreign Office trip to South America while they continue their labours. He did turn up the other day, mind you, though his attention was not as undivided as his colleagues might have wished. He spent some of the time signing photographs of himself for admirers in the public gallery.

A DAY LIKE THIS

24 February 1678 Edward Lake, archdeacon of Exeter, writes in his diary: 'Charles I was always very severe in the education of his son: insomuch that at St Mary's in Oxford he did once hit him on the head with his staff when he did observe him to laugh (at sermon time) upon the ladies who sate against him. 'Twas at that time observed his majesty had good spirit and courage: for some officers being gone forth into the country to plunder accidentally met with one of Cromwell's officers who had been very active against the king, and brought him to Oxford; there was a great concourse of people at his entrance, whereat his present majesty walking the streets demanded what was the matter. They told him that . . . they found an old rebel: he asked what they designed to do with him: they said they were carrying him to his father; the king immediately replied, 'Carry him rather to the gallows and hang him up, for if you carry him to my father he'll surely pardon him.' '

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