Tony Blair's briefs

Why David Davis should have bought a sports car rather than resigning his seat plus the curious conn

If it weren’t for the bees I would be writing this in Howden.

New Statesman High Command has decided that a “genuinely liberal candidate” should stand against David Davis.

“We’re putting up one of our columnists,” they said, “and we think you’re the man.”

“What about Shazia Mirza?” I asked.

Too busy.

Roger Scruton?

Too right wing.

Jon Pilger?

Too left wing.

Clive Stafford Smith?

In America.

Annalisa Barbieri?


How about Julian Clary? He’d bend over backwards to please the voters.

“You’re not taking this entirely seriously, are you?” they said.

I got rid of them eventually, but I hope High Command finds someone. The voters of Haltemprice and Howden need a proper contest.

Rumour has it that the Labour PPC is opposed to extending detention before charge to 42 days. But he is not being allowed to stand.

The Liberal Democrats are not fielding anyone either. They have previous on this. In 1983 the old Liberal Party stood down in favour of the SDP in half the seats in the country, convinced it would win them a majority. It didn’t.

And what has David Davis achieved by his resignation? If you care about liberty, then shadow home secretary looks quite a useful job to have.

His action looks more and more like an outbreak of the male menopause. He should have bought himself a sports car instead.

A by-election costs about the same, but if the Lib Dems had been more courageous it could have proved much more dangerous to him.


A couple of summers ago the excitement over Cash for Honours was at its height. There was even speculation that Lord Levy’s troubles might see the end of Tony Blair.

What would we have made in 1973, I wonder, of the thought that the arrest of Alvin Stardust’s manager might one day bring down the government?

But in those days the link between politics and pop music was closer than most voters realised. One of the most popular bands of the era was The Wombles, who always appeared on stage in large furry costumes.

The advantage of this was that anyone could be a Womble, and a shifting cast of session musicians used to share the gigs between them. But, thanks to the good offices of Michael Levy, on occasion a Womble costume would be worn by a hungry young Labour politico.

Levy’s recent memoirs are disappointingly sketchy on the subject, but it is known that Jack Straw, Patricia Hewitt and Dr John Reid all appeared as Wombles at one time or another.

Fascinatingly, a young lawyer named Anthony Blair would also pull on a costume when the briefs were slow coming in.

Alastair Campbell has ruthlessly expunged this episode from the Blair CV -- I feel a little nervous telling you about it even now -- but was he right to do so?

The Roman Emperors used to keep a slave to whisper “remember thou art mortal” when they got above themselves. Tony Blair would have done well to have an aide close at hand to say “remember you’re a Womble” now and then.

And if he was being particularly messianic, that aide could have added: “Re-member-member-member what a Womble Womble Womble you are.”


You are wondering about the bees?

I have a problem here at the Farm with masonry bees. You can tell they are masonry bees because they burrow into the mortar and exchange funny handshakes.

If you know the best way of dealing with them, please do get in touch.

Jonathan Calder has been a district councillor and contributed to speeches by Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy. These days he prefers to poke gentle fun from the sidelines. He blogs at Liberal England