Standards I expect from a Tory minister: The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold

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TWO SHORT words spring to mind: tch, tch. I greatly regret that my old chum and fellow charity fundraiser Tim Yeo has been caught dangling his toe (or teo - I jest]) in the treacherous and fast-flowing waters of adultery, but his resignation was by no means before time. May it be a lesson to us all.

This was the gist of my remarks to a private meeting of the 1922 Committee which that most estimable of Yorkshire gents Sir Marcus Foxe had urged me to address. To break the ice at what might have been a tense meeting, I opened with a small witticism. 'In my view,' I said, 'he will have to GEO.' After the laughter had died down, I altered my tone to one of greater bottom.

'The last thing I wish to do is drag up yet again the names of those of our colleagues in the Conservative Party who have found themselves in the self-same sinking vessel,' I said, 'Jack Profumo, Cecil Parkinson and David Mellor among them.' I then outlined the basic standards of behaviour expected of any senior Conservative minister by the party as a whole, namely a blue-and-white striped shirt, a spotty tie, a handy stock of Traveller's Cheques, clueless in-laws, a loyal and long-suffering wife, and a varied supply of resignation letters. Finally, I congratulated my colleagues on the 1922 Committee on their own high moral standards, and resumed my seat to a standing ovation.

It was around this point that a distinctive puffing noise began to be heard from one of the large cupboards at the back of the Committee room. 'See what that is, could you Wallace?' whispered Sir Marcus, as the next speaker began to expound on the value of marital fidelity. So I crept around to the back of the room and swiftly opened the cupboard door, only to find the vice-chairman of the Ways and Means Tory Backbench Sub-committee - a most distinguished gentleman with a host of valuable opinions - blowing up a full-size inflatable doll, his trousers around his ankles. Usually, this would have been a perfectly normal sight, but I couldn't help noticing the aforesaid doll was an effigy of an under-age Golden Retriever.

'My God, Clarence,' I hissed. 'If this ever becomes public, you'll be forced to resign]' From time to time one had obviously seen him around town with this blow-up doggy, but one had literally no idea that their friendship had blossomed with quite such rapidity.

'But she's not PREGGERS yet]' he countered in a whisper.

By this time, our small commotion had begun to create something of a stir towards the front of the room. 'Could we have a little hush at the back, please, gentlemen,' said Sir Marcus. 'We're trying to listen to Jeffrey on the subject of never visiting prostitutes.'

Having helped the poor chap flatten out his doggy and pack it away in his briefcase, I returned to the main body of the room, only to find myself sitting next to a prominent anti-Maastricht campaigner. 'Could you pass a programme?' I whispered. Without so much as a downward glance, he passed me a copy of Fiesta magazine, open at a feature - new to me - entitled 'Readers' wives'.

'Actually, I asked for a copy of the programme,' I whispered. 'Oh my God]' he said, realising his mistake. He then snatched the magazine back, but not before I had caught a glimpse of the wife of a senior Secretary of State, spreadeagled saucily on a hearth rug. 'Awfully hard to get, these days, a good hearth rug,' I said, venturing to 'smooth over' what might have proved an embarrassment.

At this point, the final speaker, a veteran Tory and a lifelong member of the General Synod, rose to his feet. 'I think we all agree with Sir Marcus,' he opined, 'that government ministers should live by the highest standards of rectitude - and that there's simply no excuse for Yeo's behaviour, none whatsoever]' As the applause for these sentiments raged on and on, he pulled out a handkerchief from his upper pocket only to dislodge a box of Durex Gossamer Fetherlite Fully Ribbed Extra Sensitive Fruit-Flavoured Fun-

Shaped Condoms that had been nestling therein. Alas, the applause came to a sudden halt. All eyes were upon him. 'Ah] There they are]' he blustered. 'Excellent Christmas Tree decorations - eye-catching but not showy, don't you know?' And so we all rushed to congratulate him on thinking about lovely family occasions, even at this most difficult of times.