Michael Howard is not Michael Howard

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The Independent Online
I recently speculated on the reasons why Michael Howard behaves the way he does - ie, like a man who is deliberately trying to bring the Home Office into disrepute. I came to no conclusion. Unlike the anonymous writer of a letter to me, who claims to know the truth.

What was very interesting about this letter is that it came from a mole deep inside the Home Office. I have no clue as to who he is. I have had the letter tested for fingerprints, DNA, Semtex, gelatin, tallow and bull semen, etc, but whoever sent the letter is a professional and there is no trace of any clue.

Except, of course, the contents of the letter itself.

I leave you to judge that for yourselves. Here it is.

Dear Mr Kington,

You have correctly observed that Mr Michael Howard has, over the years, done less than justice to the post of Home Secretary.

He has behaved wildly and erratically. He has fired heads of the Prison Service on a whim and paid them compensation under duress.

He has seemed to think that prison is the only answer to crime, just when everyone else seems to conclude that prison actually causes crime, and has embarked on mad schemes to build more prisons at huge expense, thus causing more misery and suffering and needless retribution.

He has evolved his policies in order to satisfy the baying for blood of the mob in the street, until even the mob in the street stands abashed and quiet at Mr Howard's vindictiveness.

He has tried to take the law into his own hands so often that it has taken the combined strength of all the judges to get it back out of his hands again.

You probably know all this by now yourself. It is not news to you. But there is something else you do not know, which is known only to a favoured few of us working here at the Home Office.

Here it is.

As you know, Mr Howard is not afraid of criticism. In fact he thrives on it. The ruder people are, the more he grins and the more he thinks of ridiculous new policies. Like many people who are convinced of their own righteousness, and you may well think of John Birt in this connection, they think that opposition to their ideas proves they are right.

But Mr Michael Howard has a weakness. He is afraid of physical assault. Indeed, like many another weak but self-inflated man, and you may well think of Hitler and Mussolini in this connection, he is afraid of assassination.

Yes, he genuinely fears that there may be an attempt on his life. Perhaps by someone banged up too long in jail and newly released; perhaps by some outgoing judge maddened by Howard's intransigence. But Michael Howard genuinely believes that there are people out there mad enough to get him.

To this end, he has hired, not bodyguards or security men, but lookalike Michael Howards! Ridiculous though it sounds, he has sought out several men who are the spitting image of him, down to the moon eyes and the cunningly mad smile and the big chin and the tasteless spectacles, and paid them to appear on all occasions when he was due to appear in public: to open new prisons, for instance, or detention centres for immigrants, or boot camp sales ...

Every time you thought you saw Michael Howard on the podium on the news, it was actually a lookalike Michael Howard!

But there is worse to come.

We at the Home Office now think that Mr Howard has actually been assassinated.

We think that it happened about a year or two back.

We think the crime was committed by one of these Michael Howard lookalikes, who promptly stepped into his shoes and carried on doing the same job - ie, looking and sounding like Michael Howard - but at a much higher salary.

Whoever the man is who has been masquerading as the Home Secretary for the past year or two, he is a brilliant impersonator.

The only snag is that he is not a brilliant Home Secretary. In fact, as you have noticed, he is an increasingly erratic and hopeless Home Secretary, which is what you would expect from an unemployed actor.

"That is the situation as it stands at present. A situation for which there is no precedent. Frankly, we are at a loss what to do.

Should we unmask the "Home Secretary"? Should we have him locked away? Should we even have him assassinated, as he did Michael Howard?

I will let you know what we decide.

Yours etc ...

Personally, I can't wait.