Notebook

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Funny how things turn out, isn't it? Take John Patten. Can't do a thing right at the moment. And he's been ill. Kind of thing that makes a person think about how it all might have been different. John, for example, was a bit of an actor in his time, and actually got to play a singing butcher in the film version of Oliver] If he had been spotted then, who knows? Hollywood, along with, or perhaps instead of, Michael Caine or Roger Moore. Could have been up for Bond. Snappy dresser, certainly. Instead, it's been geography don, education secretary, and a lot of aggro. Makes you think.

Makes you think, too, about the extraordinary luck which brought us today's top Tories. If John Major, for example, had been a few inches smaller, he would have got that job on the buses, and would probably even now be helping old ladies with their shopping trollies on the 159 from Streatham to Oxford Circus. And did you know that in Essex, as a boy, Sir Norman Fowler was an oustanding goalkeeper, the net minder and custodian who steered King's Road Primary to Chelmsford Schools Cup triumph? In 1966 he would have been about the same age as Gordon Banks, too. But he chose politics, as did Kenneth Clarke, whose other ambitions were to be a works driver for Ferrari and to play the tenor sax, a sort of Nigel Mansell with sideburns.

Michael Portillo is another one with showbiz leanings, as you can tell from his present hairstyle, a tribute to the great Ken Dodd. At eight, Michael was the Ribena Kid, with the world stretched before him - Bisto, Levis, Milk Tray, perhaps, even, Gold Blend. But no, he chose politics. Douglas Hurd has sacrificed a full-time writing career, as has John Gummer, who, at eight, won a prize open to children under 16 offered by the newly nationalised British Gas on 'What Mr Therm Gets From Coal'. John was also for a time a RE teacher at a secondary modern, and Gillian Shephard was a French teacher.

John McGregor, as you might expect, is an accomplished magician, a member of the Magic Circle. As a teenager, he used to perform at summer variety shows: his particular expertise was mind reading, a talent which has not proved all that useful with the present Cabinet. And Peter Brooke, as we all know, has a fine singing voice. The greatest loss, though, in recent times, has been that to the confectionery industry, where, at J Lyons, M Thatcher worked in the research department checking the quality of cake fillings. And you wonder why swiss rolls don't taste like they used to.

Comments