This little piggy had a sorry end

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The Independent Online
TO THE Belgo Centraal, an alleg-edly famous restaurant in Cov- ent Garden, to meet a President Clinton lookalike (though not behavealike, of course) in the shape of Robert Sturdy, the Tory MEP for East Anglia, or some such vast tract of the countryside - much of which he owns. It seems that Comrade Sturdy, who made his fortune out of renting road-rollers to unsuspecting councils, had one of those escaped Tamworth-style pigs on his north Yorkshire farm. As a piggy-wig should, it lived in the woods by day and devoured his potato fields by night. And, like a true tyke romantic, Sturdy had it shot. Small wonder that he chose the wild boar sausages for lunch.

IT'S ALL very well John Prescott telling fellow ministers to get out of their chauffeur-driven limousines and walk. He does so himself only to cross the pavement and order a large box of monsterburgers. The Deputy Prime Minister was spotted parking his gas-guzzler in Walworth Road - on a double yellow line - while he went into the kebab shop. Mrs Creevey is my witness. The Deputy Prime Minister was spotted walking last week from his office to the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting. "I suppose I'll bloody well have to do this every day now," he grumbled to anyone who would listen.

However, the diary is willing to believe the protestations of his junior minister, Angela Eagle, that she travels by public transport whenever possible. Creevey spotted her at a number 12 bus stop in the same road the other morning. But it might just have been her twin sister, Maria, the new MP for Liverpool Garston. Very confusing.

IT SAYS "confidential" at the bottom and "in confidence" at the top, but Michael Fabricant's private invitation to fellow Tory MPs to join him in setting up a new parliamentary forum called Renewal naturally fell into the diary's hands. Fabricant (Lichfield, Bouffant-Haired Enthusiastic Party) excitedly gasps that the group will be "a dining club, a think- tank and a pro-active engine for our Party's ascendancy". He also effuses: "We hope it will be great fun, too." Conservative backbenchers are asked to go to a drinks party on 25 February to discuss the project. "To maintain confidentiality", the bash will be held in a fourth-floor office in Norman Shaw North, the MPs' grim office block behind Whitehall.

What extraordinary cloak-and-dagger nonsense. Old Fabbers plainly spent too much time in the Soviet Union. He is none too happy about his little plot seeing the light of day. "I don't want to discuss it," he said primly. When told that Labour already had a Blairite pressure group called Renewal, he replied: "Oh dear. Perhaps item one on the agenda will be a change of name." Plus ca change...

BE INTRODUCED to the Shropshire Shouter, aka Owen Paterson, the new member for Shropshire North (Conservative, Serious Oaf All Departments), who was ticked off for his noisy interruption during Prime Minister's Questions. "Save your voice for when you are outside the Chamber," ordered Madam Speaker, in her best barmaid-voice. "Stop shouting!" Paterson, educated at Radley and Cambridge, was something in leather until he inherited the Shropshire North constituency bequeathed by the amiable and cultured John Biffen. How we miss him.

AND WHILE we are in the territory, a case of cold Conservative feet. Alan Duncan MP, the Tory leader's chief bottle washer, was due to attend a photo-call at the gates of Downing Street to "present" a Golden Pig Award to Tony Stalin (get it?) in recognition of his topping the wholly invented Labour Sleaze League. Duncan, whose diminutiveness is only exceeded by his pugnacity, failed to show up. Could it be that he is still embarrassed about finding a whole herd of swine under his pillow a few years ago, in the shape of his purchase of an el-cheapo council house next door to his exclusive Westminster address - a stroke of luck that cost him his Parliamentary Private Secretaryship? It will not shock you to learn that the Golden Pig award was the naffest objet politique ever to emerge from the bowels of Central Office. That's saying something.

DRINKS and red faces time at No 12. Clare Short's popular research assistant Virginia Heywood is going back to Australia, and the Overseas Development Secretary threw a party for her in the Chief Whip's Downing Street residence. All the Chateau Montserrat was paid for by the minister, it must be said. Virginia was presented with a huge signed photograph of the Cabinet, which will take up practically the whole of her luggage allowance. But she exhibited true Oz stoicism. "Trouble is, where will I find a house with a lavatory big enough to hang it?" she asked.

Paul Routledge

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