It doesn't have to be all sleaze, sleaze, sleaze

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
LAST week, as you will remember, I let our proverbial feline friend out of the cloth container when I revealed that for the past five years I have been an unpaid adviser to Conservative Central Office, with special responsibility for giving the party's image a jolly good dust-up.

I think it fair to say I have succeeded in this aim quite brilliantly. Accordingly, I was delighted to have persuaded the current Party Chairman over a warm sausage roll come elevenses to "cough up" for a small celebration in my honour. We mulled over a number of options - Dame Vera to bellow "There'll be a Wallace Arnold over/ The White Cliffs of Dover" in a special Smith Square anniversary concert, Lord Archer to compere a charity auction on my behalf, Sir Jerry Wiggin to table a special amendment in my name - until we finally plumped for something a little more discreet, a little more "in keeping".

So much has been written about the tiny minority of Tory MPs caught with their hands in the till or - worse - down the brassiere (dread word!), that I decided to organise a luxury coach trip for the vast majority of perfectly ordinary, decent Tory MPs into whose heads never an improper thought has passed. Between us, Hanley and I spent a morning at Central Office going through a register of sitting Tories with a fine-tooth comb, placing all those untouched by the faintest whiff of impropriety on a list marked "Clean Conservatives".

On the allotted morning, the mini-bus turned up bang on time, with a row of seats removed for extra comfort. There was considerable excitement among those who had been invited, with much thrilled chatter as we gathered in the smaller cloakroom at Central Office. "Could everyone please board the bus now!" I shouted through my megaphone, which I had turned back- to-front for the occasion to avoid creating too much clamour in a group so intimate. After a quick inspection of fingernails and a speedy brush- of-hair, we piled into the mini-bus, all seven of us, many finding it impossible to wipe the gigantic beams off their scrubbed faces.

At the appointed hour, off we set - or rather, off we would have set, had I not at that moment noticed one of our number - Valentine Baker, MP - slipping the driver a pack of used fivers with instructions to pick up what he described, in hushed tones, as some "local talent" for the journey. "Out!" I bellowed.

"B-b-but my wife has agreed to stand by me," he replied.

"Out!" I insisted, and without further ado he sloped off, disappearing in the general direction of Shepherd Market. "Driver, proceed!" I ordered. At last the mini-bus eased its way off towards the Embankment, all set for a highly enjoyable day's excursion.

It was just as I was kicking off a little sing-song halfway over Vauxhall Bridge that my eye alighted upon a hint of a rustle and prod beneath the travelling blanket of the distinguished former minister Sir John Law, MP. Calling a halt to the proceedings with my conductor's baton, I pulled back the blanket only to find a young man moustachioed down there, on his knees. "B-b-but he's my Constituency Party Chairman!" protested Sir John, but it wouldn't wash, and nor, judging by his stench, would the young man in question, so "Out!" I yelled once more, dropping them off at the Elephant and Castle.

All went well until Clapham Common, when a temporary lull in our communal singing meant that I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two young MPs at the back. "Blah, blah blah blah blah," said the first one, stalwart pro-pollution campaigner Andrew Newton MP, in muffled tones. "A couple of thou, and I'll ask any question you throw at me."

"Blah blah blah blah," replied his distinguished companion, Gordon Liddy MP, who has a special interest in the elderly. "But frankly I've hired hit-men for less."

"Stop, driver!" I said. I then pointed at the two of them. "Out!"

A sunny day still stretched ahead for the rest of us - myself, the driver, and the remaining two MPs - even if our sing-song had dwindled to a four- part harmony. Alas, I had just sung the opening bars of "Any Old Iron" when what should I notice in the rear mirror but the two MPs piecing together a pocket-sized cruise missile marked "sold subject to contract to S Hussein, Iraq". Greatly saddened, I had no option but to turf them out. I returned to Smith Square with heavy heart. Why, I wondered, must they all insist on being found out?