Went to a cocktail party. Some little toadthrush suggested I was a sort of spokesman for the Conservative Party. Peaceable cove though I hope I am, I nearly decked him. So let us get this straight. I am not, repeat not, a mouthpiece for Tory Headshed. The motive behind my occasional fulminations is the reverse. It happens that I simply cannot abide young Cheesygrin, or his wretched "Project" or his "Unfinished Revolution". Now, you may say that this is very naughty. Are we not all supposed to swoon when he passes by? Well, if I have to stand there and watch the best constitution in Europe torn to shreds, the best parliamentary democracy treated like a whore, a great country being broken (under the weasel-word "Regionalism") into fragments, the most beautiful countryside I know of driven to destitution, and standards in public life converted to a foetid midden, what am I supposed to say? Whoopee? I sussed out this shower for what they really were in May 1997 and started chi-yiking back then, even though everyone else seemed to be queuing up to kiss the hem of Tony's nightie. I may be a bastard, but at least I an a consistent bastard.
A Jiffybag arrives with a book in it. Control Freaks by Nicholas Jones. It seems that, two years ago, this journalist was browbeaten by a garden ornament, better known as Robin Cook. Tut, tut. One hears a lot of this nowadays; complaints of media exquisites being reduced to sobs by threats and abuse for the crime of disobedience in their prints.
Forty years ago (wait for it) when I were a lad (that's better), journos were a lot less fragile than they seem to be today. In those days, Fleet Street was a community and fizzed with a pretty rugged independence. We were very non-PC. We smoked, we drank, we whistled at deep cleavages, but at least we prowled the tarmac, used up a lot of shoe leather (you can't do that in Guccis), tracked down, mailed down and brought home our own stories. No question of waiting for something from a spin-doctor to arrive on our laptop screens (which we didn't have) or standing patiently around to be dumped on by some deranged Doberman in Downing Street (which the PM didn't have). Had anyone tried it, I think he would have found himself in a dentist's chair, saying: "Aaaaagh!" On the first day of national service, a grizzled old warrant officer told us: "If you don't want to be buggered, lads, don't drop your trousers and bend over." Quite so. You can only bully people who are prepared to be bullied. So the next time someone subjects you to snarling abuse or a naked threat, don't wait two years for a whinge: just knock out a couple of teeth. Their behaviour really does change quite quickly by the second time.
A huge wad of Sunday papers. Apart from the foot-and-mouth epidemic (imported from South Africa, due to government incompetence, if you want to know), it's all sleaze, sleaze, sleaze in high places. Several old Labour stalwarts in the House have finally gone on record as saying enough is enough. One of them even reminded us all that new Labour was supposed to be a stark contrast to the Major regime.
Looking back, there was something almost touchingly pathetic about Tory sleaze, and all those hounded from office. Apart from Norman Lamont (cabinet, but not sleaze; the ERM affair), David Mellor (junior minister, caught out tupping a wannabe actress) and Michael Mates (junior minister who gave a daft watch to the fraudster Asil Nadir), all I can recall is that the sinners were of impeccable obscurity until caught groping a dancer or staying quiet about a freebie.
Today's sleaze is of a different and much worse order, being much, much higher up. Now, it is right at the heart of the Cabinet and the "payroll vote". The former produces more pork pies than Walls, and the latter seems to have more tea leaves than the Cutty Sark. One becomes almost nostalgic for the days when turpitude in office was confined to dodgy envelopes from an even dodgier grocer or patting a barmaid's botty.
Lunch with fellow desk-jockey Ken Follett. Labour of course, but we are none of us perfect. But at least he is old Labour, man and boy. Got standards, principles, like they used to have. He went off-message some time ago by blowing his stack and complaining about charac- ter assassination. The Borgias haven't touched him since; they are a pretty vindictive crowd, even though he did a lot for the party over the years. The media said he did not like spin-doctoring. Not the same. Wrecking reputations behind the arras is a quite different art form; it is called black propaganda.
The worst damage done to Downing Street since the election was not down to the huge Smith Square machine at all. It was done by the late Alan Clark. He put it about that Cherie Blair had assassinated the Downing Street cat. For three days, this caused a certain A Campbell to go into a high-octane panic. This was serious. British governments can fall over that sort of thing. Eventually, a decrepit moggie that had a passing resemblance to the missing feline was brought in from retirement in deepest Dulwich. The story blew over, but it was touch and go.
It takes a real public school sh*t to come up with that sort of stroke. And that is Headshed's problem this election: there aren't many of us left.