How to greet Mr and Mrs Hamilton: my guide On sucking kumquats in the nicest possible way

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
Bournemouth - A life on the ocean waves! An exceptionally lively conference awaits us this week. Though I am now a fully fledged Referendum Party candidate, I retain a warm place in the very bosom of the Tory Party. By the bye, may I clear up any possible misunderstanding arising from this week's leftish shenanigans? Like my old friend and quitting partner Mr Neil Hamilton, I have never received a penny's cash for so-called questions. Any worthwhile amount of notes can prove a devil to the well-tailored suit: cheques, bankers' drafts and postal orders are infinitely preferable.

This is just one of the handy tips I passed on to the editor of the indispensable new edition of Debrett's Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, published last week. I am delighted that he has seen fit to include a fair sprinkling of my advice, much of which will be of great help to some of the more, shall we say, "horny-handed" among the new intake of Conservative MPs. Pray, allow me to share a few of my more telling tips on modern etiquette, at no extra charge:

How much should I tip the Chairman of the Conservative Party: There is absolutely no need. Ten per cent is added automatically to your bill after dinner. Any donations above and beyond this sum will be distributed evenly among the various Party Fighting Funds, no questions asked.

How to Eat a Kumquat While Dancing with the Wife of a Retired Major General: This is a problem that has long foxed the experts. In her excellent handbook on etiquette, Don't say Bog, say Khazi, Dame Barbara Cartland advises that the kumquat should first be stealthily lodged in the left ear of the wife of the retired Major General. Keeping both hands firmly in their usual dancing positions, the male dancer should then suck on the kumquat as and when the mood takes him, diverting the attention of the wife of the retired Major General from the kumquat by kicking her in the shins, in strict time to the rhythm of the accompanying music.

How to Address an Ex-Royal Duchess: This is a tricky one. Anything too formal would be inappropriate but, on the other hand, one does not wish to be too familiar. The modern school of thought argues that it is perfectly correct to voice the informal greeting, "Your place or mine, darlin'?", offsetting it with the more traditional nod and wink. But to "old fuddy- duddies" such as myself (!), this seems somewhat too casual. Personally, I would advise the more formal deep bow down to the toes, remaining in that position until the Royal personage expresses herself satisfied.

How to Interrupt a Princess As She Talks of Her Marriage Breakdown to Her New Age Counsellor on a Mobile Telephone While Riding a Bicycling Machine in her Health Club: This problem is becoming increasingly common. The correct procedure is simple. On no account interrupt the Princess. Simply stay quiet, take notes, and contact your nearest publisher.

Social Precedence on Official and Social Occasions: At any formal or semi-formal dinner party, it remains important to observe the traditional pecking order of social precedence. The order of precedence at any conference dinner party in Bournemouth this week is as follows: The Prime Minister, Senior Cabinet Ministers in agreement with the Prime Minister, Senior Cabinet Ministers holding the Prime Minister in Contempt, Junior Cabinet Ministers with One Foot in the Redwood Camp, Disgraced Ex-Editors of Leading National Newspapers Still Hoping for an OBE, Award-Winning Political Commentators Experiencing Severe Problems with Alcohol, Ministers' Wives, Ministers' Mistresses, Ministers' Ex-Mistresses, Journalists over 17 stone, Journalists under 17 stone, Wealthy Constituents, Other Constituents, Mr Ian Greer (unseated).

The Correct Method of Approaching the Disgraced Ex-Major Father of a Disgraced Ex-Royal Duchess Upon Encountering Him at a Society Ball: With a brace of security guards, a guard dog and a finger pointing firmly towards the exit.

The Correct Way to Greet Mr and Mrs Neil Hamilton at This Year's Bournemouth Conference If They Catch You Off Guard Before Your Hasty Exit: Neil! Christine! Long time no can see!

How to Raise a Laugh at a Formal Dinner Party of Conservative Backbenchers: Take a slow swig of brandy, replace glass, look thoughtful and say, "Personally, I think we've a jolly good chance of beating Blair this time."

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