21 JUNE 1975, Page 12

Westminster corridors

There is no Humour in the Ruffian Party or else the Members of it would surely have laughed at my harmless jest in Annie's Bar the other night. My audience included the Scions of the Tribune Group of Ruffians who have taken to marauding in the corridors of the Club where they search in vain for poor Mr Reginald Prentice whom, they say, they mean to do a mischief when they find him.

So they came on the night in question (mischief in hand, as it were) to Annie's watering place where I was humming a little ditty penned by my good friend Nick Fitzfosse, and set to music by the Master of the Royal Organ, one Mr Edward Heath, a visionary and European: "Mrs Judith Hart Made a Tart All on a summer's day.

The Benn of Hart Put a Foot in the Tart And found that the Tribunes of the People wanted to have it all their own way, which was embarrassing as the Tart turned out to be a Person of Some Standing."

(Well, we are still trying to make the last line scan).

Pausing only to spill my jug of October on the floor and insult Mr Norman St John-Stevas (who had applied for the part of the Knave of Hart — saucy) the Ruffians rushed out in search of the said Mistress Judith who found it necessary to make a personal statement forthwith in the Chamber of the Club.

Accusing Mr Prentice of composing slanderous ditties about her, Mistress Hart recited the first verse of the song. The Tories and Whigs all laughed. So did Mr Prentice, who was masquerading as the Cheshire Cat on a seat in the Gallery. "Of course I do not expect the Conservative Party to agree," she said. "I am speaking to my honourable friends on this side of the House." Pointedly, she did not look at Mr Harold Wilson.

Referring again to the ditty, she said she feared that the first dangerous stanzas "could prove to be a historic catastrophe for the Labour Party." She meant, I believe, the Ruffian Party.

No one seemed to catch her drift (she should never have taken it off, said one Member) and Mr Heath groaned (quite audibly): "Woe is women in politics." As he uttered these words he looked very pointedly at Mrs 'Harmony Hair Spray' Thatcher.

So angered was our Prime Minister by this display of petulance and disunity within his Administration that he sacked Mrs Hart immediately and (to show who was Master) gave her job to Mr Prentice who said he was tired of being a Cat anyway and really wanted to move into the Third World.

Master Wedgwood Benn stopped playing with his life size Meccano model of an oil rig and said that if "nasty Prentice" was getting the Third World, then he (Benn) was ruddy well going to have the North Sea. Whereupon Pandemonium (no, the Duchess of Falkender has not changed her name) reigned in Mr Wilson's private office.

Ruffled feathers were smoothed into place only when Mr Gerald "Call me Uriah" Kaufman was given the Duchess's job, Mr Secretary Callaghan was given Mr Kaufman's post, and the Prime Minister changed his name by deed poll to Industry Bill. "But you cannot do that," pleaded Mrs Mary Wilson who had got used to calling her husband Harold and who did not want to have to change old habits. "Off with her head", screamed the Duchess who had always wanted to be a Red Queen (and probably will be when the Tribunite Ruffians take over).

The only consolation for the much put upon Prime Minister has been an act of real friendship from a certain Mr Humphry (without an "e") Berkeley (with an "e"). This former president of the Cambridge University Conservative Club, who has changed his politics more often than the spelling of his name, wrote to "The Thunderer" in support of Mr. Wilson.

Mr Berkeley advised the Editor of that journal to "eat his 'words" and admit that he was mistaken about the Prime Minister. Wondering what it would be like to eat one's words, I came upon the trot to the Berkeley mansion in Chiswick. "My dear boy", he told me, "I do it all the time. Wonderful sensation. Non-stop verbal diarrhoea". He should know.

Tom Puzzle