I was greatly taken, too, by the snap of Young Winston printed in the newspapers this week as he posed beneath the statue of his grandparents at Chartwell, busily reading a National Trust brochure, his brow suitably furrowed. If only the photographer had alerted him that the brochure was upside-down, the full gravitas of the man might have been captured for posterity. As it is, we will have to wait.
It is thrilling news that Mr Churchill, whose most fervent dream it has always been to see his grandfather's papers preserved for the nation, has now been granted the £12.5m necessary to persuade him to make that dream come true. I trust no columnist this weekend will sink so low as to dredge up Winston's long-forgotten "relationship" (dread word!) with Mrs Soraya Khashoggi, the voluptuous ex-wife of my old friend and quashing partner Adnan. In my view, these affairs are best forgotten (even those which took place "six miles high", or so one hears!) and should be free from press intrusion years later, however fascinating the details. These days, whenever I hear Young Winston speak out on a matter of grave national importance - the perils of immigration, say, or the need for restraint - I force myself to cast away any lingering memories of his earlier improprieties with the energetic Mrs Khashoggi; in this way his message comes across loud and clear.
But today's column is not primarily concerned with Young Winston - or Young Windfall as one must learn to call him!!! I have merely used him and his rightly forgotten extra-marital affair with a dusky beauty - let us call her Mrs K - as a way of drawing the reader into a column on the rather weightier issue of the National Lottery. The lottery has now been running for 23 weeks. With Winston's cash payout (and he didn't even buy a ticket!!) we are beginning to see the immense benefit it can bring. Not only can we read the Churchill Papers without having to obtain written permission from the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wogga-Wogga (!!), but we will also be able to marvel at Mar Lodge, where generations of our noblest ancestors (mine rather than yours, I suspect!) have enjoyed potting their game, scragging their poles, foxing their badgers and thumping their partridges. All this in return for Messrs Tom, Dick and Harry climbing off their Clapham Omnibus (toot! toot!) and dipping their grubby mitts into their pockets on the comically unlikely off-chance of emerging multi- millionaires!
Which brings me to the main thrust of the issue. This week, I had a quiet word with Mr Stephen Dorrell about a magnificent collection, The Arnold Papers, which I have been urging him to preserve for the nation. It includes early school reports, in which the word "Satisfactory" appears with commendable frequency, plus early drafts of the famous speech I made when standing as a candidate at the Epping Forest by-election in 1973 ("Mr Healey talks about squeezing the rich. I prefer to talk of squeezing the lazy - the train-driver, the nurse, the coal-miner, the common-or-garden fireman. And I know in my heart that I speak for the Nation!!") together with a chitty from the Presiding Officer stating that he will be retaining my deposit.
I buttonholed Dorrell over a buffet lunch at National Heritage and asked him to put a price, give or take the odd thousand, upon the aforementioned Arnold Papers. Needless to say, he hummed and hawed (astute business sense!) before coming up with what he called a round figure: £0. "You mean to say," I riposted, "that you are willing to lose them for the Nation!" I even offered to bung in a few original drafts of my legendary Punch articles ("If it's Wednesday, It Must Be Timbuktoo!") but he remained resolute in his apathy.
Dear, oh, dear. One wonders how long this Government can keep struggling on with such second-raters. Luckily, by hook or by crook I have in my possession my own collection of Churchill Papers, all concerning the present Mr Churchill. They include school reports, first drafts of major speeches, stabs at personal philosophy, saucy love letters with full-colour photographs and so forth. If Mr Dorrell continues to neglect the needs of the nation, I shall shortly be asking my young confrre Mr Piers Morgan to help me in my bid to preserve them in any way he sees fit.Reuse content