The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: Oh, happy clappy day with caring friends in Blackpool

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The Independent Online
"There's something I've always meant to tell you, Brian ... and it's this," I said, taking a deep, deep breath. "I love you, Brian. I love you to bits."

Sir Brian Mawhinney hugged me to his breast. "And I love you, too, Wallace. And we ... we both love Peter."

It had been a very caring day at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool. In the morning, Peter Lilley had taught us all what love is. In the afternoon, Michael Portillo had given us a lesson in caring. In a private meeting afterwards, our young leader, William, had presented each of us with a specially gift-wrapped parcel. Signed "Big hugs from Willy and Ffion", with the face of a little "smiley" man neatly drawn in the dots on both 'i's, the parcels contained a vividly-coloured creature I had never encountered before.

"You've each now got your own 'My Little Pony',"said William. "It's yours to keep and to cherish. You'll find he loves to be stroked, and you may gain great pleasure in combing his lovely long hair with the enclosed hairbrush. Spend at least a half-hour with My Little Pony every morning and every night, and you'll find he repays your love a hundredfold."

"He's so ... so ... beautiful, William," stuttered John Redwood, fighting back the tears as he unpacked his very own My Little Pony, all lovely bright pinks, oranges and mauves, from its case. "And I'm going to treasure him all the days of my life."

You see, this is the week we as a party have been learning COMPASSION. As Peter Lilley pointed out in his moving address to a tearful assembly, it's not that compassion hasn't been there before, it's just that we've never managed to express it. Caring has always been an essential part of Conservative Philosophy, but in recent years it has perhaps been overshadowed by those other essential parts, such as Not Caring, and Not Caring At All.

But now, as my old friend and quipping partner Johnny Redwood pointed out, this has all got to change. "Speaking personally," he said to conference, 'there's no one I like more than a single mother. And if she's a black, single mother on benefit, then so much the better."

While Johnny was making his speech, I saw Peter Lilley's face twitching competitively. "Some of my colleagues," he said, when it was his turn to speak, "have told you of their love for the black single mother on benefit. That's good - as far as it goes. But, Mr Chairman, I ask them this: have they no room in their hearts for the black homosexual languishing in prison on charges of benefits fraud, or the poor unemployed youth, ostracised and a little bit sad, whose only entertainment is graffiti and street violence? Let us say to them all: 'We love you, friends, and what's more we EMPATHISE WITH YOU. We in the Tory party know what it is like to be spurned by society and held up to ridicule. Let us join with Princess Diana in saying, 'Come, friends, come let us hug one another'."

Needless to say, by this time the vast majority of the audience was sobbing its eyes out, colonel huggingmajor-general, captain of industry kissing ageing party worker, teenage Conservative student with skin complaint embracing tweed-suited fuller-figured lady JP from Cirencester. And into this scenario, with irritable sideways glances at Peter and Johnny, walked the warm, familiar figure of Michael Howard.

"Mr Chairman," began Michael, "I regret to say that I am unable to go along with the somewhat mean-spirited and hard-line nature of the approach of my colleagues. With the greatest of respect I must ask them, "Have you learned nothing from the mistakes of the last election? Have you no compassion in your hearts for the hard-core pornographer in our society, struggling to make a go of it with outdated equipment, overweight models and seedy, backstreet premises? Or for the illicit drugs smuggler, perhaps from Africa or the West Indies, denied a proper, caring welcome by cold- hearted British customs officers? In future, Mr Chairman, we in the Conservative Party must reach out to these dear, dear people, hug them, kiss them, but, above all, let them know we CARE."

The audience got to its feet and cheered Michael Howard for 20 minutes, just two minutes short of the ovation given to dear Margaret Thatcher during the Miners' Strike. As he passed through the crowds, elderly men knelt down before him and young mothers held out diseased babies for him to touch. This was a new Michael Howard, working for a new William Hague, the two of them heralding a new, loving and giving Conservative Party, all ready to win the next election with a huge majority. And then, and only then, will we be able to implement our Scroungers Crackdown scheme: and about time too!

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