27 JULY 2002, Page 10


Atn Widdecombe and John Prescott are stamping around inside my head, marching up and down, bellowing at each other in a cacophony of incoherence. Bang, bang, bang, bark, bark, bark, they go. O000wwwwwwww! Believe me, this is the hangover from hell. My head.... Lord, please. help me out here. I think Prescott and Widdecombe have just been joined by Cyril Smith and the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band. Somebody do something. Where are the drugs when you need them? It's the morning after the Today summer party for contributors to the programme. The time is seven o'clock and the programme is on air, same as usual, but I can't tell if that new noise is Geoff Hoon being interviewed by John Humphrys for the delectation of our listeners, or an entirely internal phenomenon, yet another example of intense neurological torture. After a cup of agreeably acrid BBC coffee and four Nurofen, things start to come back in bits and pieces. But the names remain hazy and unattainable. For instance, I can remember one of our broadcast assistants being sexually propositioned by a backbench Conservative politician . . . but sadly, for the purposes of this article, I can't get a hold of the name of the MP. It floats towards me every so often and then suddenly spins away, out of reach. But I can recall the thin line of lust-induced drool on his chin, and I remember exactly what he said: 'You're rather beautiful, aren't you'? I'd quite like a piece of you for myself!' And, even more clearly, I recall what she said in reply: `I'm sorry, but I don't go in for that kinky Tory stuff.' If only the name of the man would come hack to me. Maybe later, when this business in my head calms down.

It's not quite a disciplinary issue — failing to respond to a Conservative's advances — but I will need to have words. I think. Staff are instructed, according to strict BBC producer guidelines, to be equally flirtatious with Labour and Tory politicians (and even Liberal Democrats, although one would not wish to press the point). The trouble was that that young Labour moppet Ed Miliband was at the party, and most of our women fell for him. Or maybe it was his brother, David. Who knows? They are almost identical: dark-haired, fresh-faced, intense and clever. There was much swooning. On no account will either be on the guest-list next year. None of the women I invited — Nastassja Kinski, Emmanuelle Beam Tara Fitzgerald, Helena Bonham-Carter (preferably dressed as a monkey, as in her last film) or Sarah Alexander — turned up. Not one of them even returned the RSVP, What has happened to manners these days? By noon my head has cleared sufficiently to become enraged by the huge bonuses paid to top BBC executives, which I have read about in

the staff newspaper, Ariel. I seethe and take more Nurofen. My objection is entirely unprincipled: I simply wish that I had received a huge bonus, too. Quickly, I decide upon a course of retaliatory action. I will henceforth refuse to attend any BBC meeting with people whose bonuses are bigger than my entire salary. That should strike out half of the list. I resolve, further, that I shall attend meetings with people whose salary is three times that of mine (or above), but will turn up late and sit in the corner sulkily, sneering at the power-point projection display and fiddling impatiently with my house keys. 'You do that anyway,' a senior manager remarks, not inaccurately.

0 bviously I have become profoundly alienated by the process of the accumulation of capital, or, at least, my continued exclusion from it. Perhaps I was premature in my rejection of Marxism and should therefore rejoin the Socialist Workers

party, which I left at the age of 17. They were good, kind people, the Middlesbrough branch of the SWP: committed revolutionaries who always bought me drinks and politely asked after my parents. I remember well the induction speech delivered to me and my friend, Tim, when we joined at the age of 16 — a comprehensive Marxian analysis of history and world affairs, taking in the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, feminism, racial equality, the slump-boom cycle of capitalism, false consciousness and so on. After the lecture, an affable steelworker called Davey took us both aside for a pint. 'Great to have you here, lads,' he said. 'Now, all those things they've been telling you tonight are absolutely right' — and then he drew a little bit closer and put a hand on each of our shoulders — 'apart from the stuff about women. Believe me, lads, they're talking crap. Women are neither use nor fucking ornament.'

So farewell then, Scruffy, my pet piebald girl-rat. She died not — as is invariably announced in the obituary pages of the Daily Telegraph — after a long illness but, instead, after being thrown head-first at a wall by one of my sons. Or at least I think that's what happened, after a Critnewatch-style reconstruction, during which Tyler (four) and Wilder (three) were transformed from normal, straightforward little boys into convincing replicas of Stephen Byers. 'It wasn't me, it was Wilder.' We weren't playing with Scruffy.' 'We were playing with Scruffy, but only nicely.' Nobody threw her at the wall, she did it herself.' 1 never said we weren't playing with her.' Etc. Anyway, this sweet-natured, inquisitive little creature somehow suffered head injuries, and even after a series of expensive injections at the vet's still spazzed around her cage, tumbling over and growling and falling down as if possessed by the spirit of Iggy Pop. And then came the big question: to destroy, or not to destroy? Her quality of life was, unquestionably, hugely impaired and she might well have been in pain. But I was worried about the possible existence of a Disabled Rats' Action League, a pressure group convinced that not only was she perfectly happy in her severely brain-damaged state, but actually better off — like those weird deaf people who complained about Jack Ashley's cochlear implant on the grounds that he was missing the innumerable benefits of not being able to hear. So I left her alone and she died anyway. A cheaper, but not necessarily more moral, solution.

Rod Liddle is editor of the Today programme.