My Parliamentary ‘swan song’, on 8th May, is a debate that I have initiated in Westminster Hall on the subject of ‘Best Value (Local Government)’. The Government Minister who responds to my speech says that she “found it very interesting to listen to the points made by the hon. Member for Ludlow, although I did not agree with a word that he said”. As a Labourite she would say that wouldn’t she, but that in no way detracts from the fact that I had the best of the argument. Personally I am content that my last debate is about Local Government because that is where I came in, so to speak, all those years ago, as a very young councillor on the ‘all-purpose’ Wolverhampton County Borough Council. What a pity it is that more of my Parliamentary colleagues haven’t cut their teeth in local government before aspiring to run the country but when, at the beginning of this Parliament, I suggested that local authority experience should be de rigueur for PPC s the idea went down like the proverbial lead balloon!
The following day Malcolm Pearson takes me to tea in the Peers Dining Room where we run headlong into Norman Tebbit. Like spontaneous combustion, the two of them are soon joshing about forming a new Conservative Party once the General Election is out of the way! There is nothing conclusive arising from my meeting with Malcolm other than a suggestion that if he wants to publicise the findings of his media monitoring campaign, TFA’s ‘Freedom Today’ would be pleased to run the story. Without prompting, Malcolm tells me that his father-in-law, Robert Fellows, was the Queen’s former Secretary. Whether or not this explains Malcolm’s reluctance to ask questions in the Lords about Her Majesty’s constitutional position in the aftermath of the European Treaties I shall never know.
Today, Thursday 10th May, is the last day of this Parliament and I am pleased to be able to have a final crack at Gordon Brown at Treasury question time. My question to the Chancellor is “In advocating the single currency, will the Chancellor make sure to remind the British people that every time we have been on fixed exchange rates, unemployment has increased astronomically?” Needless to say, Brown sidesteps answering the actual question but concludes his reply by saying “The Conservative Party must make up its mind in this campaign. Is it against a single currency in principle, and therefore for ever, or against it only for one Parliament?” I couldn’t have put it better myself!
At the end of the last vote at 17.51 Nick Winterton invites me to his office in Portcullis House for an end of term drink. There, somewhat to my surprise, I find the Chairman of the ’22 Committee, Archie Hamilton, together with Eric Forth, Edward Leigh, Gerald Howarth and the ‘Young Pretender’, David Davis – not a ‘wet’ to be seen! Enjoying Nick’s excellent champagne and the fascinating gossip makes me late for my rendezvous with James and Penny Cran at the Rochester Brasserie where we unwind at the end of what I can only describe as a far less than satisfactory Parliament.
At 08.10 on 17th May I listen to Wm. Hague being quietly barbecued about his inconsistencies by John Humphries on the ‘Today’ programme. This interview only serves to convince me that, in terms of winning the Election, we haven’t a prayer but I suppose that I’ve known that all along because of William’s failure to come down firmly on one side of the argument or the other or, failing that, at least stick to some sort of fundamental principle!
And so as I head for ‘the blue remembered hills’ of Shropshire I am happy to let my friend and colleague, Teresa Gorman have the last word. Teresa has told her husband Jim that if the Press call he is to say “Teresa don’t do politics no more”!
from "Cracking the Whip" the fast paced political memoirs of Christopher Gill, Maastricht rebel and former MP for Ludlow.
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