The Agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: As I remember it . . .

Share
Related Topics
MY OWN period as a highly successful - indeed most would argue thoroughly distinguished - Conservative backbencher (1983- 87) has given rise to my volume of highly praised memoirs, Mrs Thatcher and Me: The Enterprise Years (1988), an invaluable primer for those who want to know what really went on in front of the closed doors at Number 10.

I suppose many would criticise me for my honesty, but what is the point of a political memoir if it be not candid? Nevertheless, a number of my colleagues will have retired hurt after a brief perusal of the tome, among them:

Nigel Lawson: 'Nigel is immensely able, and I am full of admiration for his verve and intellect - as he doubtless is for mine.' (p213)

Geoffrey Howe: 'I take my hat off to Geoffrey for steering this nation through a difficult period - with no little help from yours truly, I might add.' (p359)

Kenneth Clarke: 'I can see a great future for this exceptionally talented young fellow, who has placed himself firmly under my wing.' (p456)

I even have the odd, brave word of veiled reproof for Mrs Thatcher herself, such as 'She is a truly remarkable lady, and all of us in the party, and in the country as a whole, owe her a terrific debt' (p532) and 'what on earth would we do without her?'. (p674)

It is this sort of devil-may-care candour that, my friends assure me, gave my memoirs such an edge, crammed full of wry, brilliantly observed portraits, showing how very close I was to the centre of power:

John Selwyn Gummer: 'Rapidly developing into an international statesman of towering vision, I have noticed that John sometimes enjoys a tuna sandwich for lunch - the same as me.' (p693)

Norman Fowler: 'Norman has the habit of occasionally removing his spectacles and giving them a quick polish, the better to pursue his dynamic and imaginative policies. I rather think he got the idea from me, though I have little or no proof to back up this hunch.' (p721)

Sir Marcus Fox: 'Marcus spells his surname without an 'e' on the end, so that it consists of just three letters - three letters less than my own]' (p747)

And so, alas, to the subject of today's column, my poor old friend and quaffing partner Alan Clark, whose 'diaries' the house of Weidenfeld has seen fit to publish this week. Many will remember Alan as a minor character who popped up from time to time in my own memoirs, eg:

'Alan and I have developed into the most terrific chums: the upper classes must stick together, and all that]' (p756)

'Across a crowded room, I

exchanged knowing glances with Alan Clark; two pals, bound together by background, humour and political belief.' (p782)

'I bumped into Alan Clark on the stairs. 'Love to have a drink with you later,' he said, giving me a cheery slap on the back.' (p824)

But reading the same events described in Alan Clark's 'diaries' this week, I wonder if the poor fellow hasn't done himself a grave disservice:

'Am struggling to throw off that podgy little pushy creep Wallace Arnold, dandruff and all.'

'That oily little runt Wallace Arnold beamed at me across the crowded room. I sneered back at the poxy little arriviste.' .

'Bumped into Wallace Arnold. 'Love to have a drink with you later,' I said in my most sardonic tones before trying to push him down the stairs.'

And so on. It is not that I mind the personal nature of these comments, not at all, absolutely not, not one bit, sheer high spirits, we are still the greatest of friends. But it is Alan's own reputation for which I worry. He has brought opprobrium on the House, has caused immense damage to the dignity of public office, and has blackened his own name in the annals of our time. And let us not forget his poor wife, Jane. Frankly, it is the fundamental dishonesty of the 'diaries' to which I object.

Why, oh, why, could he not have told it as it was?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?