The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold: Tory MPs with whom I've shared a bed

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The Independent Online
TO BE honest, I can't remember if I shared a bed with Mr David Ashby, MP, and frankly it is no business of yours whether I did or not, but in this day and age, one gentleman may surely share a bed with another (particularly if he be of a medical persuasion]]) without anything remotely unpleasant taking place.

This is the opinion I put most forcibly to Mr Witchell (Mr Witchhunt, more like - I jest]) on BBC Gogglebox's Breakfast News. You may have seen me, pipe in hand, setting the world to rights with my customary mix of wit and commonsense. I will admit that I got off to something of a shaky start. 'I have the fullest confidence in the Prime Minister's magnificent campaign,' I thundered to Witchell. 'And I believe it is high time we all took a leaf from the Conservative book and went Back to Buttocks. I'm awfully sorry, bit of a tongue-twister, we'll have to record that again. Cameras off please, I said CAMERAS OFF]]'

At this hiccup, little Mr Witchell kindly pointed out that the interview was in actual fact being broadcast live. With a lifetime's experience and a well-loved broadcaster behind me, I took a deep puff on the trusty old pipe, issued a lighthearted chuckle and, quite brilliantly, executed a crafty re-think.

'As I just said, Back to Basics is an excellent yardstick by which we all must live, and in Mr Major, if I may say so, we have found a master philosopher.' Then, to pour more cold water on the Ashby rumpus, I proceeded to list the Ministers past and present with whom I had shared double beds, often on important fact-finding missions abroad. With the cameras now switched off, might I now enlarge on these reminicences through the more friendly medium of the printed word?

It was, I think, Uncle Tom Driberg who first alerted me to the vast savings to be gained by sharing a double bed in a hotel room with a fellow MP, and from that day to this, I have always leapt at the chance. For who, might I ask, wishes to dig deeper into his pocket than he needs, particularly if those trousers belong to another?

Only last week, on a special inter-parliamentary delegation to study pension schemes in the Seychelles, I had the good luck to be billeted with that doughty old Parliamentarian, Mr Enoch Powell. Let me make it clear that no suggestion of impropriety took place. Indeed, I nipped into one side of the bed in my plus-fours and hunting jacket, and Enoch nipped into the other in his pin-striped suit, with all three jacket buttons firmly done up, and several extra sewn on. If we touched at all, it was only to shake hands before lights out, and though a little taken aback when Enoch began muttering 'Amo, Amo, Amo' in his sleep, I was reassured the next morning when he explained that he had merely been calling for Ammo, in preparation for any overnight insurgence by our coloured brethren.

On another occasion, I greatly enjoyed sharing a single bed with those two champions of decency and morality, Mr David Evans and Mr Geoffrey Dickens. Once again, I must reiterate that the faintest hint of lewdness will be met with a veritable battery of writs from all three of us. As good Conservatives, we were simply saving money, and when we spied a single bed in a Birmingham motel, we simply couldn't resist it, David on top, Geoffrey in the middle and myself, having pulled the short straw, at the bottom, all fully clothed and with thick blankets - impenetrable without scissors - wedged securely between our thighs.

Much of the blame for the Government's present distress at unwanted pregnancies vis-a-vis Party Conferences can, in my opinion, be laid firmly at the door of the Central Office computer dealing with Bed Allocation. Generally speaking, senior party figures are placed two to a bed in strict alphabetical order at the conference hotel, so that in 1992 Tim Yeo should have been tucked in with either Sir George Young or Miss Ann Widdecombe, neither of whom would have presented any problems. Instead, through an administrative mix-up, he found himself hugger-mugger with Miss Stent, hence the subsequent loss of his ministerial career.

But it is Sir Edward Heath for whom I feel most sorry. Due to a similar mix-up in '93, he found himself sharing with Mr Blobby, then appearing twice nightly at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool. Happily, no baby resulted, but - strictly between these four walls - I am led to believe it may have been a damned close-run thing.

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