The Agreeable World Of Wallace Arnold: The good doctor saw every man as the sum of his parts

Related Topics
ow brief are the memories of journalists! I sometimes think that if one were to ask this or that "distinguished commentator" (dread epithet!) for the name of the last Prime Minister they would be flummoxed, failing dismally to recall the sainted name of Margaret Thatcher!

This phenomenon has become most noticeable over the past week with news reports of Dr Hannibal Lecter, whose recent life has been so vividly if unreliably chronicled by Mr Thomas Harris. (I hold no brief for Mr Harris's methods or integrity: throughout what must have been a most traumatic week, Dr Lecter has maintained a dignified silence, and it is up to us, his former colleagues, to stand by him as these monstrous allegations are hurled at him willy-nilly.)

Sifting through all these recent news reports of Lecter, I can find no reference to his long and invaluable service to the Conservative Party in the 1970s and early 1980s. Yet his loyalty to the Party during those difficult years is well chronicled in the memoirs, diaries and biographies of the time.

For instance, in the first volume of her autobiography, The Path to Power, Margaret pays ample tribute to the man who did so much to pave the way for a far from inevitable Conservative victory in the '79 election: "I am convinced that our majority would have been greatly reduced," she writes, "had it not been for the smooth efficiency of Dr Hannibal Lecter in Smith Square. He knew that an army marches on its stomach, and as chief catering officer, his organisation was quite superb. 'Others come to me with problems, Hannibal,' I had cause to remark to him early in the campaign, 'but you come to me with minced morsels.' "

In his forthcoming memoirs, Dr Brian Mawhinney, who shared digs with Lecter at medical school, is equally full of praise for Lecter's role in swinging the party away from Ted Heath's disastrous Eurocentrism. By this time, Lecter was a senior figure at Central Office, where he displayed a sure hand in staff reductions. "Hannibal's calm was legendary," writes Mawhinney, "and only once did I see it crack. He had always possessed a strong dislike of Brussels red tape. One morning, he was opening his post when he chanced upon a new food hygiene diktat proclaiming that as from 1 May 1981, new regulations would prevent the use of human organs in the manufacture of Scotch eggs. Rarely have I witnessed him so livid. 'Next they will try to stop us placing shepherds in Shepherds Pie!' he exclaimed."

The affable Willie Whitelaw also found Lecter most congenial. In The Whitelaw Memoirs (1989), he describes meeting him with the then-chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Edward du Cann. "Du Cann had rolled up his sleeves for a working lunch," he writes. "Throughout an agreeable meal, Dr Lecter's eyes strayed to du Cann's bare arms. I imagine that, as a medical man, he was worried lest du Cann catch a chill. Towards the middle of lunch, Lecter dropped his napkin on the floor and got down on all fours beneath the table in order to pick it up.

"I was continuing to discuss the domestic economy when all of a sudden du Cann let out a yelp and began to hop around the dining-room, trying to stem the flow of blood from his shin. He began to protest that Lecter had bitten him! Obviously, such an accusation could not be tolerated in the Conservative Party, and within weeks du Cann had been persuaded to take a permanent rest from the pressures of high office. Meanwhile, Lecter set about bringing the miners to heel..."

In his diary entry for 9 June 1982, Woodrow Wyatt records throwing a private dinner for the Queen Mother, to which Margaret Thatcher was escorted by Dr Lecter. "We polished off a very decent Grand Cru Chablis," writes Woodrow, "with two magnums of first-class Cantenac '64, much admired by those who know anything about wine. Hannibal was particularly enthusiastic, declaring it had an aftertaste somewhere between primrose and human kidney. Afterwards, Margaret confided in me that she was going to offer him a top job at No 10. 'He's one of us, Woodrow,' she purred, while Lecter discreetly ran his eyes over the Queen Mum's much underrated thighs."

But early in '83, Lecter seemed to disappear from the political scene to pursue private interests. Harris has made a tidy sum bringing his good name into disrepute. Such is the nature of muck-raking. But I for one will stand by Dr Lecter; if only the Conservative Party today had his bite!

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy