I taught William all he knows about Tory bonding

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
May I stick my neck out? With the young Mr Hague, I think we have a "winner" on our hands. Indeed, this man has the word winner written all over him in broad italic script from a quill pen held by a steady but imaginative hand.

Steady as she goes! He has nothing to be ashamed of. His training as a Management Consultant with my old firm of McKinsey bodes very well. Management Consultancy is a delicate art. Upon accepting a commission, the up-and-coming Management Consultant must learn to pocket his rake- off double quick, nose about for a few days among the smelly socks brigade of middle-management, and then, come the weekend, compile a top-level report advising in words of no less than three syllables that the only option open is to dismiss between a half and three-quarters of all staff, excluding, of course, those who put him up to it.

Mercifully for young William, the British electorate have done most of his dismissing for him. Where are his ex-colleagues now? On Thursday last, I received a letter from my old friend and quaffing partner Malcolm Rifkind, who is as happy as can be expected in his new position as Retail Manager (Menswear and Haberdashery) at the new branch of Bentalls Department Store in the Arndale Centre in Worthing. William Waldegrave is, I hear, doing quite magnificently in his new role of Visiting Professor (Geese and Goslings) at Cirencester Agricultural College. Ian Lang, bless him, is still writing out the job applications, but has every hope of acceptance as the principal assistant to the Maitre d'Hotel at the up-and-coming new Angus Steak House in Kircudbright. And word has it that my old friend and quaffing partner Michael Portillo has carved himself a suitable niche as the men's knitwear model for the Spring 1998 Argos catalogue, with responsibility for polo necks, cardigans and multiple co-ordinates.

But William still has 160-odd colleagues (or, rather, 160 odd colleagues - pray forgive me that irresistible jest!!) to knock into shape. I was much encouraged by last weekend's news that he is to take them all off on a weekend "team-building" holiday at a country hotel. His mission? To restore morale, instil discipline and promote fellowship. One side pretend to be tins of Kennomeat, the other side pretend to be dogs; one side, tadpoles, the other, minnows; one side, rudderless boats, the other, headless chickens. This is, of course, an old McKinsey routine, and all the better for that.

When I was privileged to occupy a senior position in McKinsey, back in the late Seventies, I came into the office on three afternoons wearing successively a bright blue baseball cap bearing the legend "Skweeze Me, Please Me", the full-dress uniform of the Coldstream Guards and, finally, a Minnie Mouse costume plus rodent facial mask, complete with spotted head-ribbon. Suffice it to say, I emerged a better man: the very next week, I was able to recommend over 250 middle-ranking machine operatives for immediate redundancy, the following week a further 75 members of middle- management.

With this in mind, it was natural that William should approach my own good self for advice on how to make his "survival weekend" go with the proverbial swing. After much thought, I faxed him a timetable for successful Tory team-building. Saturday 9.30am: Assemble in hall with firearms, T Gorman and E Heath don Pantomime Horse costume. 9.40am: Gorman and Heath released from trap, given 10 minutes start without map.

9.45am: Commence "Shoot the Horse" competition. 10.15am: After successful conclusion of competition, call twin by-elections without delay. 12.30pm: With team now united, Bar-B-Q lunch to be served on patio, cooked blindfold and washed up naked by defeated candidates only too happy to take any job they're given.

2.00pm-6.00pm: Executive role-play commences. All MPs to assume roles of disgruntled has-beens undergoing severe identity crises. W Hague to cajole them out of it with promise of runaway election triumph in 2012.

8.30pm: Bedtime. Members are reminded that secretaries, personal assistants, Cabinet colleagues, etc, must remain in separate quarters. Couples commence executive "happily married" role-play.

Sunday 9.15am: Commencement "paint-balling". Mr and Mrs Neil Hamilton in bunny costumes to be released from traps. Parliamentary team lent morale- boosting cohesion through shared aim of eliminating all bunnies.

Sunday 12.30pm: Close of play. All remaining MPs to lie down, play dead and, after 10 years, hope for sympathy vote from electorate.

2.30pm: Departure of W Hague, tanned and reinvigorated, with top-secret plans for constructive dismissal of between 150 and 160 remaining Conservative MPs. Bravo!

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