n YOU, with me, will have noticed the Prime Minister's tie on Tuesday. What a knot! A knot of remarkable, awesome proportion. What did it mean? Had he bought a tie that was too big for him, or was there something more? I telephoned my style consultant, Bryan Nilon. "That knot was saying 'I'm big, I'm boss, I'm butch'," said Bryan. "That knot was sheer, smoking testosterone." Not entirely convinced, I spoke to Mary Spillane, of CMB Image Consultants, style adviser to myriad MPs. "I've never seen anything like it," she said. "He was obviously tying his tie in a dither on the big day, knotted it one time too many and nearly hanged himself." Would it catch on? "Not a snowball's chance in hell," said Ms Spillane. Pity. I was getting rather good at it.
VELLUM, slightly but unmistakably perfumed, arrives by special courier. It is from my indefatigable social correspondent, Miss Celia Circular: "After lunch at Daphne's with Divine on Tuesday, I was indeed fortunate to join Lords Palumbo, Howe, Alexander, and Stevens (of Ludgate; you know, Captain, the little fellow with glasses who runs Express Newspapers) in a service of dedication at St Stephen Walbrook for Lord Palumbo's spirited new development, Number One, Poultry (the one the Prince of Wales got so steamed up about because they were knocking down some ghastly Victorian stuff to make room for it). Highlight of the service was a rendering of Zadok the Priest, which is, of course, used at coronations; but I was assured this was not a coded message for the Prince. My afternoon, though, I regret to say, was ruined by the sight of Mrs Dieter Bock, wife of the Lonrho chief, Lord Palumbo's partner in the project, wearing a diamond necklace with a trouser suit. Sadly, London is not what it was." Thank you, Celia.
n NOW stand by. I have exciting news of Sir Edward Heath. Some of you, I know, have been waiting 20 years for his memoirs. You will remember the heady excitement of 1985 when we heard he had signed with Weidenfeld to produce in 1987; and the bitter disappointment when 1987 passed without his troubling the bookshops. Since then, not very much, except a parting with Weidenfeld and the repayment of the portion of the circa pounds 150,000 advance advanced to him. But now, action. A man from the Daily Telegraph has been appointed to supervise the research team of three coping with some 14 tons of papers. Over them looms the overseeing figure of Anthony Seldon, political biographer (his Major is due out next year). And, of course, Sir E himself. The mighty operation is looking for spring 1997 delivery. And for a publisher. Crikey.
CABINET reshuffles wouldn't be the same without a Captain Moonlight Reshuffle Roundup, would they? 1) William Hague, the new Welsh Secretary, used to live with Alan Duncan in Lord North Street. 2) Michael Forsyth, the new Scottish Secretary, used to live with Teresa Gorman in Lord North Street. 3) Michael Forsyth believes "both parents and teachers have a role to play in improving standards of behaviour". In May, 1994 his son Nicholas was expelled from school for bad behaviour 4) Michael Forsyth cycles; so does Sir George Young, the new Secretary of State for Transport, sometimes with his wife, Aurelia, on a tandem. 5) Delegates to an Institute of Housing conference addressed by Sir George put paper bags over their heads emblazoned "Do not disturb until this speech is over". 6) Alastair Goodlad, the new Chief Whip, used to be known as "Duracell" after his habit of going on interminably. 7) Douglas Hogg, the new Minister of Agriculture, used to make cuckoo calls when Tony Benn was speaking in the Commons; and put his thumbs in his ears and wiggle them. 8) When Hogg came to the Commons his desk was in the division lobby and other Tory MPs played a game of throwing rolled-up order papers at him. 9) You scored five if you got him on the head. 10) Virginia Bottomley was so relieved to be out of Health that she punched the air like a boxer on her return to the Department.
n I DON'T know about you, but, personally, I'm more than fed up with these journalists who persist in implying that politicians are a scheming, serpentine crew with a keen interest in grandmother futures. So I find it particularly hard to give any credibility to the idea that Labour pulled a fast one on the BBC during the Tory leadership election. Consider the allegation: Labour's research among the punters reveals that Kenneth Clarke is the least (repeat, least) attractive proposition as Conservative leader. Next, somehow, what appears to be an internal Labour Party document finds its way to BBC political reporter Jon Sopel. Said document shows Kenneth Clarke as the most (repeat, most) attractive proposition. Sopel, spurning all doubts, files a report which goes out on Radio 4's Today programme. Please, tell me that such things cannot be!
THE lively, inventive columnist, I am told, likes to give readers a little something to keep them going between columns and ensure their return. So here goes. Last week in the Commons, Nicholas Soames, the luxuriantly upholstered Defence Minister, was invited by Denis MacShane, the luxuriantly Labour MP, to toast the Prime Minister's election victory in "Australian champagne" as a protest against French nuclear testing. Mr Soames' chief reason for declining seemed to be a shuddered distaste for the Australian sparkling. This is a gross slur on the grapes of our post-colonial cousins. Clive Jenkins, a man who bon viveurs for Wales, swears by the old methode diggeur. So the Captain has had a little beaut, Yalumba Cuvee One, under eight quid, sent round to Soames. Will he drink it? Will he like it? Can you wait?
The Captain's catch-up Service
YES, it's that time of the week when you settle back and find what else has been going on in the world ... A man in Oldham who went to the police station to report an assault was locked in for 16 hours after he took a wrong turn and a one-way security door slammed shut behind him ... Thieves stole an entire street in east London, using a mechanical digger to carry away more than pounds 100,000 of Victorian cobblestones ... Sgt Robin Murdo-Smith, of Southwark, London, is producing policemen garden gnomes as a crime prevention aid ... A Roman Catholic priest had 70 doves roosting on the roof of his church in Rugby shot by a pest control company ... Guests bombarded a gunman with sandwiches after he burst in on a German wedding reception. He fled empty-handed, without even a sandwich ... Deaf burglar Klaus Schmidt, of Berlin, was jailed for four years following his arrest by police after he had failed to hear the alarm going off ... Guinea pigs make up 1.4 per cent of Britain's pet population, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association ... Police in Holland are catching criminals by using the earprints they leave while listening at windows.
DEAR DAIRY: a group of cows pictured yesterday being addressed by the new Minister of Agriculture, Douglas Hogg (out of picture, foreground). "We were seeking assurances that there would be no discrimination against dairy workers in favour of the pork trade," said Gert (first left), afterwards. "It's an obvious worry, given his name," said Daisy (centre). Buttercup (right, chewing vigorously) refused to comment. Had they been impressed? "They're all the same, politicians," said Gert. "Promise you the earth when they want your vote, then you don't see them again for five years." "We're not a bunch of sheep, you know," said Daisy. In the background, John Major leads the Westminster Eurosceptic Cycling Club on its first London to Brussels rally. The truth, for once, is less interesting: it's some cows ignoring the Tour de France. Photograph: APReuse content