The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Revealed: the Bear who outwitted Mr Howard All this nation needs are some bear necessities

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I note with keen interest that Mr Michael Bond, creator of that most cuddly of creatures, Paddington Bear, has penned a charming autobiography.

In it, he lovingly recalls happier days, days before lesbians and lunatics, before television weathergirls and ballpoint pens, before electric razors and trendy clerics. When Mr Bond was a lad, the world was a far, far happier place, no single-parent families, no fear of walking the streets at night. This was the 1940s, safest of all decades, an era when war, mayhem and murder were virtually unheard-of, and children could rely upon a loving father about the house at all times.

Personally, I am addicted to Paddington Bear. Not in a strictly medical sense (though I have noticed that if one shaves the fur off either of the little fellow's arms, then chops it up finely with a Stanley knife before placing it in a common-or-garden pipe of the type pictured above, a very pleasant, slightly hazy feeling comes over one, and one is immediately transported to a lovely land, full of pinks, greens, oranges and yellows) - no, not in a strictly medical sense, but in the sense of a deep attachment to his ideals and values.

Looked at in one way, Paddington is a South American refugee with no discernible source of income who turns up at one of our leading British railway stations without a penny in his pocket demanding free handouts. At a Tory fund-raising dinner party the other week, I raised his case with the Home Secretary. "I can assure you, Home Secretary," I said, "that Mr P Bear is the most delightful and winsome of creatures - I am sure he has much to contribute to the community at large, especially with HM The Queen Mother now getting on in years." But the Home Secretary was having none of it. "I see no reason whatever to grant the Bear in question a visa," he exploded. "His English is patchy, his status as a political refugee is without foundation, his height is a problem, his brains are made out of a plastic-based sponge and, frankly, I am filled with suspicion over what might be concealed in that suitcase of his. Next!"

No softy, Mr Howard. Yet he seemed strangely moved when I informed him that his Party Chairman, Dr Brian Mawhinney, is a founder member of a select centre-right Conservative luncheon club that rejoices in the name of The Paddington Group. Four times a year, the Paddington Group meets in a private dining-room for a frank exchange of ideas and opinions broadly arising from the life and times of Paddington Bear, each member bringing his very own stuffed Paddington to the table.

The last meeting of the Paddington Group took place in the lovely Westminster home of Mr Jonathan Aitken. In the corner sat Mr Enoch Powell, stroking his Paddington with a sort of manic fury, occasionally lopping his head off on to the carpeted floor before demanding a tub of Gripfix to stick it back on. Alongside him was my old friend and quaffing partner Lord Carrington, every now and then covertly slipping the odd sugar-lump into the cuddly paw of his Paddington. Dr Mawhinney's Paddington was, I noted, rather larger than everybody else's. "That's because I feed him on Winnie- the- Poohs," he revealed.

Among the younger members of the Group, Mr David Willetts brought the full thrust of his intellectual rigour to the proceedings by dressing his Paddington in a mortar-board and claiming that his Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet: Europe: The Bear Facts had already earned itself a pre- publication puff ("One of the most courageous political tracts written so far this year by a cuddly toy") from Sir Alfred Sherman. Finally, Lady Thatcher herself arrived late, sans bear, incurring Peter Carrington's muted displeasure by heading straight for the seat upon which his own Paddington was sucking a sugar-lump, and squashing him flat with her left buttock.

Our debate was animated and broad-ranging. Mawhinney proposed a bill introducing the ethos of Paddington to the debate over Europe. "Stuff the Eurosceptics," he summarised. Others wondered whether, in the short time before the election, we might not snatch victory by dressing Mr Major in a duffel coat and floppy hat. These are desperate times and it is up to those of us in the Conservative Party to remind the electorate that our future security lies with a cuddly bear.

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