You may think that these articles have a limited readership, being read only by those with an SP10 or 11 postcode who have an appetite for current affairs and a mild curiosity as to what their man in Westminster has been up to. You would be wrong.
Last time I wrote, I made some disobliging remarks about the European Parliament. Its custodians had prevented me from taking a picture of an important work by my father-in-law in the lobby and an account of the incident appeared in these columns a fortnight ago.
The European Parliament has sensitive antennae. My remarks found their way on to the desk of the Director of its UK Office in Queen Anne’s Gate in London– as may well these remarks.
He wrote to me apologising for my “unpleasant and frustrating experience”. He referred to my article in the local paper as a “blog” – a comment I am prepared to overlook. (A blog is a stream of consciousness poured out spontaneously by some of my colleagues; an article for the local paper is a carefully crafted work, taking many hours in preparation.) As well as an apology, the letter told me that the European Parliament’s photo service would send me a digital photo of the elusive bust of Paul Henri Spaak, the pursuit of whom had led to the difficulties that inspired the last column. This has now arrived; it has replaced in the Powerpoint Presentation the blurred image of the Belgian Premier, taken under fear of arrest. I am grateful for this swift and helpful response and draw a line under the matter.
Getting excluded from buildings is a professional hazard for politicians.
When first elected to Parliament over 34 years ago, I arrived on my motorbicycle. (A blue Honda 175, since you ask, with an electric starter – a luxury at the time). I was stopped at the gates to New Palace Yard by a policeman and asked to identify myself. The claim that I was a Member of Parliament, mandated by the good folk of Acton to represent them on the other side of the gate, was greeted with some disbelief; the further assertion that I was a Conservative MP met with incredulity. My identity was subsequently confirmed by colleagues arriving in more traditional and expensive forms of transport and I was eventually admitted.
I had a similar difficulty at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool, where I had been booked into a double room for the Party Conference. Arriving at the hotel, I was told that Lady Young was already in residence. This came as a surprise as I was sure she was back at home, looking after our four children. Arriving in the bedroom, there was Lady Young. But she was someone else’s wife; admission was politely but firmly refused. And on that occasion, there was no opportunity to argue the matter further.