The adjective "nice" is not one I employ lightly, but was ever a man so thoroughly nice as Dr Brian Mawhinney? Yet somehow that little word does not capture the essential Mawhinney. No, two rather longer words must suffice: unpleasant and thoroughly - though not necessarily in that order! Apologies, Brian - only jesting! Nevertheless, there is, for all his gentle air of bonhomie, something of the killer instinct in Brian. Strictly entre nous, only recently I heard he had undergone extensive dental surgery in order to sharpen his canine teeth; they can now find their way through the toughest Harris Tweed or stoutest wing-collar.
It was Brian who first suggested to the Prime Minister that I would be the perfect candidate to organise the final Tory Party Conference before we enter the run-up to the General Election. "Prime Minister, we need someone to rouse the spirits of the faithful, to galvanise the weary-willies, and, above all, to get our winning message across to the public at large," said Dr Brian. "And for all these tasks, Prime Minister, Wallace Arnold is your man."
I got down to the job with customary vim. An inveterate list-maker, I made a list of eight sound Tory achievements from the past four or five years. This comprised:
1. Statesmanship: firm, decisive action by Mr Major ensures Norman Lamont is no longer in Number 11.
2. Europe: party continues to engage in lively discussion.
3. Health: overwhelming majority of Britons still alive, some really very healthy indeed.
4. Environment: no major earthquakes, volcanoes or tidal waves in Britain under this administration.
5. International Trade: Great Britain's trade links with the Isle of Man have never been stronger.
6. Arts and Leisure: English player reaches quarter-final at Wimbledon. National pride restored.
7. Agriculture: after five years, still a lot of agriculture around, particularly in rural areas.
8. BSE scare: no scare at all. Bury St Edmunds remains firm Tory stronghold. Likewise Belgravia and some parts of West Sussex.
Splendid! But we in the Tory party have not always been as good as we might be at getting our message across. To my mind, this can only partly be explained by our inability, as yet, to lay our hands on a suitable message. But we must never be slow in blowing up our own trumpets. For this reason I have designed a programme for the Conservative Party Conference that is designed to shout our very real achievements from the drainpipes.
As usual, the Conference will be debating selected motions submitted by Conservative constituency associations up and down the country: as I always say, we in the Conservatives must never forget our ass roots. The first session on the Tuesday opens with a major debate on Europe. The bold motion is submitted by the North West Hampshire Conservative Association, and it goes like this:
"Recognising the massive achievement of the Government in preventing the gluttonous Europeans led by the 22-stone roly-poly Herr Kohl from feasting their fat bellies on some of our finest British Beef, this conference urges the Government to bring forth additional legislation to restrict consumption of our finest British cuts only to those who can really appreciate them, ie those who were born and bred in these isles, and are not members of pressure groups, minorities, factory workers, the unemployed, or other trouble-making organisations."
I am delighted to say this motion will be answered by Mr Douglas Hogg, who has done so much to remind our European partners that the British are still perfectly able to laugh at themselves, or their elected representatives.
First class! Other motions will follow, ending with a tour de force from Mr Michael Howard, graciously replying to a very positive motion congratulating the Home Office on the record number of people firmly locked up behind bars, and calling for still more prisons to be built, so that the guilty may in future be joined by the shifty, the shirty and the just plain scruffy. Result: full speed ahead for Election Victory! Hail Major! Hail Mawhinney! Hail Arnold!