|For you, the war is over
22 Oct 2005
After its star-studded launch at the House of Commons, with all the flashing cameras and adoring fans, the show starring the potential leaders of my Party will shortly be coming to a cinema near you. Given the large numbers of Party Members in the County, both Dave and David would be well advised to come here a-wooing.
At the hustings in the House of Commons, where all four original contenders addressed us last week, it was rather like going to Silverstone. No one would admit it, but we were all waiting to see who would spin off the track at high speed– but no one did.
My horse – Ken Clarke, the Rushcliffe Ranger - fell at the first fence and I switched my allegiance to Dave, the Witney Wonder. As readers will know, my record in backing the winner in the leadership contest is patchy, with my only success being in the one horse race won by Michael Howard, the Folkestone Flyer, in 2003. The odds on Cameron lengthened when the bookies heard he was my tip.
Interspersed with the leadership election, the business of the House continued as normal.
For thirty years, I have been asking Ministers to visit my constituency, an invitation which they have politely declined. Imagine my surprise when one of them, Geoff Hoon, agreed to look at the NHS in North West Hampshire. There is a small proviso – I have also to visit the NHS in Ashfield, his constituency, but that is a price I will gladly pay to have a member of the Cabinet down here.
And then we were dealing with the Identity Card Bill – which seems to come around as often as Leadership Elections. I have no rooted objection to carrying an identity card, but I do have some doubts about how the Government is setting about this.
The subject of identity cards reminds me of an incident when my Party was last in Government. I was due to fly overseas, on Her Majesty’s business, at a time of high security alert. Presumably to minimise risk, Ministers’ flights were booked under an assumed name. I was told that I was Mr Henry Mackenzie, for the purpose of the trip, and remembered this when I went to the check-in desk. By a happy coincidence, Mr Henry Mackenzie was also very tall, and his secretary had booked him a seat by the emergency exit with ample leg room.
But then the cunning plan broke down. “And can I see your passport Mr Mackenzie?” asked the check-in lady. I felt like a prisoner-of-war in the Great Escape, for whom Donald Pleasance had failed to produce the necessary documentation. Happily, my Private Secretary was at hand, and I left him to deal with the growing numbers of security staff that arrived on the scene, as the lady at check-in desk depressed an invisible button.