Thomas Creevey His Diary: Why Hague is pulling his hair out

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Poor young William Hague, the child Secretary of State for Wales. He's not only losing his hair, presumably in pursuit of the Home Office, but he has lost the public relations battle with Michael Forsyth, his rival in Scotland. Forsyth is still snickering over his publicity coup in getting the Stone of Destiny returned to its native country. Daft lad, he fondly imagines there are votes in it.

Hague, who yesterday hosted a gathering of Tory MP hopefuls from Wales and Scotland in Cardiff, has been seeking to emulate the Caldedonian hard hat. Was there, he asked John Major, a Welsh trophy of war carried off by the English that could be returned to the principality? The Stone of Ystradgynlais? The Druids' throne? Owen Glyndwr's chamberpot? Lloyd George's inkstand? Neil Kinnock's joke book? A slim volume, you could put that in the post. Unfortunately, said Downing Street, a trawl through the records yielded nothing. Apparently, there was nothing worth stealing in Wales. This is a slur upon the Welsh. Creevey only passes it on to you because it might stop Welsh MPs ringing him up about it.

Wonderful isn't it, the old Etonian connection? Behind the spat between Labour and the Daily Telegraph lies an older form of communication, the bush telegraph. The drums have been sounding between William Waldegrave, Her Majesty's minister for something in the Treasury, and Charles Moore, suave editor of the DT, on the subject of tax, the Opposition, and the upstart Peter Mandelson.

Waldegrave, he of the tremulous upper lip, got on the blower to his fellow old Etonian (maybe Moore was his fag at school, he certainly looks the part) and invited him to "get Mandy".

This was after the shy and allegedly retiring spin-doctor had monstered George Jones, political editor of the Torygraph, at a press conference. Lackey of Conservative Central Office, and all that. Quiet George is not a man given to self-publicity, but he duly obliged with a first person piece complaining about Mandy's intimidatory style. Mmmmm, yes. But who is really intimidating whom?

IT'S official, as the tabloids used to say. John Major is boring. Creevey has it on the authority of the Beeb, no less. A teletype message to Alistair Darling, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury from Radio 4's The World Tonight, which has fallen into our hands, stands him down from an interview to comment on the Prime Minister's latest oration: "We do not wish to proceed with the interview as the Major speech is uninteresting."

Lord Healey confessed the other day that he was a "clapped-out, boring old fart". Can this be the same grand old Duke of Yorkshire who bewailed there wasn't enough time to get his leg over with the comely columnist Petronella Wyatt?

He was talking, all right rambling, in conversation with Francis Beckett, who is writing yet another biography of Clem Attlee. Beckett rated the interview the best he has had on the book so far, except that Healey's memory failed him at a critical juncture. Anyone who has been round the Labour Party for more than five minutes knows the Baron Riddlesden (it's an old part of Keighley, with a famous 'all, y'know) is likely to break into song at any moment. Leave the room if it's his national anthem, "Ilkla Moor baht 'At", a tuneless dirge if ever there was one. Stay if it's "Bandiera Rossa", the Italian Red Flag, which he delivers con brio. What's more, he knows all the words, in the original. Which is more than can be said for the song he launched into before the astonished Beckett. It began:

"The Grand Old ILP

The most amoebic party

That ever you did see

We reproduce by splitting..."

And he couldn't remember the rest. You get his drift, of course. The long-defunct Independent Labour Party - forerunner of Old Labour - was well known for its Fissiparous Tendency.

Someone out there must know how it goes. Come on, let's hear from you!

So great has been the clamour to nominate Sir Patrick Cormack, who harrumphs in the Conservative interest for Staffordshire South, for this column's Malvolio Medal for the Most Self-Important MP, that the rival claims of Bill Walker (North Tayside, Extremely Silly Party) could easily be overlooked. That would be most unfair.

Biggles, as Walker is known, intervened in the firearms debate to put down Tommy Graham, the circumferential member for Renfrew West and Inverclyde. "Weapons are lethal only if people intend to use them in an evil way," he ranted. Well, self-evidently so. Biggles continued: "A skean-dhu in the hands of a madman is a lethal weapon."

A what? My colleagues on the Scottish prints say a skean-dhu is a knife worn down the woolly stocking when a gentleman is sporting his kilt. The idea of gliding, camping, scouting Bill going wild with a ceremonial dagger is most entertaining. There should be a video. It would make Crash look like The Famous Five Go To Kirrin Island.

So this week's crossed garters go to Bill Walker, the man who wore red underpants beneath his kilt in the Chamber. His only serious rival was Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd, who bores for Morecambe and Lunesdale. In the firearms debate, he accused a Home Office minister of uttering a "slightly loaded" remark.

More tales from Creevey's snout in Brassed Off country. The winner of the lottery for Barnsley East was Jeff Ennis, the substantial leader of the local council. He will be a Labour MP by Christmas. Let us hope that he does not win the other lottery, for Private Members' Bills. When asked at the selection conference what Bill he would introduce if he won the annual MPs' draw at Westminster, he went into overdrive, promising to slap a tax on excess packaging on luxury goods. Just what they need in a run-down mining area! Can't you just hear it on the doorstep? "What we need, mester, is less wrapping on us Cartier watches." What a wally. Almost makes you ready to vote for Ken Capstick, the candidate for Scargill's Leaving Party, as the Socialist Labour Party is known. But not quite.

Comments