11 OCTOBER 1975, Page 16

Westminster corridors

Our Defects and Follies are too often unknown to us; nay, they are so far from being known to us that they pass for Demonstrations of our Worth. This makes us easy in the Midst of them, fond to shew them and to be esteemed for them. Then it is that a thousand unaccountable Conceits, gay Inventions and extravagant Actions must afford us Pleasures and display us to others in the Colours which we ourselves take a Fancy to Glory in.

Thus, this past week, I have oft had occasion to comment as I roamed the Corridors of Blackpool. Leaving the care of my allotment to the rotund Diarist from The Thunderer (he has, it is rumoured, a way with a marrow) I took coach North for the annual Assembly of the Ruffians hoping for some Gentle Sport.

Little did I imagine that so many would seek to Glory in such Variety of Colours. I had supposed that after my observations about him in a recent Puzzle, Mr Ian Mikardo, from Tower Hamlets, Bethnal Green and Bow, would attempt to wear something known as a 'low profile' and be seen less in the company of the affectionate Miss Jo Richardson, from nearby Barking.

Not a bit of it (or, alternatively, quite a lot of it). For I encountered Mik (as he is affectionately known — though Mr Harold Wilson did say to me, "If it is Mac the Knife, could it be Mik the . . .") on his way to the Sunerama Sauna Lounge of the Imperial Hotel wearing open-toed sandals and a kaftan and puffing furiously at his pipe.

"Rubbish," quoth he, before I could say a word. "Wherever I go, my secretary goes. Harold taught us that years ago." I allowed this uncouth allusion to the Duchess of Falkender to pass me by and pressed on with my 'Lobby inquiries'.

It was then that I was grabbed from behind (if you will excuse the expression) by an irate Mr Joe "SS" Haines, the Prime Minister's stormtrooper extraordinary. "Look, son," said he, the aroma of Mitcham Mints pervading his very words, "you and your mates in the press can just lay off of (sic) this one. There is no rift. Harold and Benn and Mik are all good friends and we are (expletive deleted) fed up with your Tory press barons trying to come between us."

With that he turned on a crisp Hush Puppy heel and left me. So, towel in hand, I made my way to the Sauna Lounge which had been turned into the Mistress Bebington Massage Parlour for the duration. There, in the halflight, I perceived a number of younger Ruffians plotting their plots no doubt.

For some reason, Midshipman Robin Court (a well known Whig) had been made privy (which is perhaps not the word I should have chosen) to their ploys. "Oh yes," said he with an expression of acute pain (for he had just left the Chief Whip), "they want a new Leader."

When I put this to our beloved Prime

said: "So you're at it. What nonsense. I have been coming to these conferences for over seventy years and I can say with all candour that this is the best, most harmonious one of all. People hold differing views of course — like Benn being keen on Clem and me preferring old Hugh.

"But when you get down to it we are a totally united Party and what I told the Nation in February 1974 has come true." I thought there was something odd about his voice but could not put my finger quite on it. Then, as I passed the phalanx of security guards by the Hotel Swimming Pool, I noticed Mr Wilson crawling (or it may have been a breast stroke) strongly up and down.

That, in itself, was odd. For it is common knowledge that Mr Wilson cannot swim. Then I heard him say "Hello" to a fellow water baby and the whole thing fell into place. There is only one Prime Minister of recent years who can swim strongly and we had all thought he was still in China.

The Ruffians have their new Leader. A swift face job in Peking (a lot of work still to be done on the accent) and hey presto, Mr Edward Wilson, ne. Heath, a visionary and actor of many parts, has dreamt the impossible dream. And what, you may wonder, of the old Mr Wilson? Did you notice, during some newsreel clips taken recently in Washington, that Mrs 'Harmony Hair Spray' Thatcher had taken furtively to smoking a pipe and wearing a Gannex rain dress?

Tom Puzzle