23 AUGUST 1975, Page 14

Westminster corridors

This, my one hundredth Puzzle, is designed as a Speculation on the Subject of Hope. It is a precept of mine that we should not entertain an Hope of any thing in Life which lies any great distance from us. For the ShortnesS and Uncertainty of Time makes such a' Kind of Hope unreasonable and absurd. Now the Isles okScilly, lying as they do such a great distance from the Club, should not (if the aforementioned precept is to be followed) entertain any Hope for us at all. And yet, for some weeks past and regularly each summer, the Isles have played host not only to Hope, but to his spouse Faith and his great friend Charity, Duchess of Falkender.

The sight of our beloved Prime Minister sunning himself on the beach in this Scilly way, clad only in his Batman T-shirt and khaki Co-op surplus shorts, caused me some annoyance. I happened to be passing the Isles on board the yacht of a certain mariner, European and visionary and saw it all (as Mr Joe Orton might have said). So I sent to the Duchess with word that it was unseemly for her Master thus to behave. Fie on it, quoth I, it ill becomes the Leader of a Great Nation to idle away his time while the Country is brought to its knees by Inflation. Reaction, of course, was swift. For Mr Wilson does not like people to go around crying inflation and burying their heads in the sand. He ordered the ever-faithful storm trooper of Number Ten, Mr Joe '$S" Haines, to get his ,head out of the beach and pack Mute de suite (as Giscard taught him to say). Dragging himself from the depths of his easifold-packaway deck chair (a Sunday Times special offer which he got when they serialised his memoirs under the title of the Crossman Diaries) Mr Wilson rushed to the telephone and alerted the Cabinet. "I have been thinking," he said (and which few of them thought possible) "that we may be in for a bout of inflation. "Now I do not want the nation to panic, so obviously I must be seen to be in charge. [The Duchess prompted him very discreetly on the extension phone in the sunerama cosi-lounge]. Therefore I have decided to curtain, oops, sorry, she says curtail my sojourn in the Scillies and return to London to broadcast to the people and put their minds at rest."

Accordingly, the Prime Minister together with his entourage (another Giscard word) comprising a meek (but Faith-ful) wife, a Duchess, a dog called Paddy and a porter disguised as Haines returned to London last Tuesday. When he got back to the Town, Mr Wilson found that inflation was even worse than the Duchess had said it would be. It was running (as they say) at two million per cent. Gone was the Prime Ministerial car at the airport. All he got was a motorised rickshaw for Mrs Wilson and the Duchess and the loan of Peregrine's bike with a bent (if he will excuse the expression) front fork.

Mr Secretary Shore, the wild man of trade, had intended to be at Stansted to meet the party. But Mr Shore insists on buying British and no spare parts (that is a new engine) were available for his nationalised Leyland three wheeler which was due anyway for a major service having covered a record-breaking seven miles from the factory.

The broadcast by the Prime Minister orl Wednesday night was a solemn and impressive affair. Television screens' were given, a black border and (respectfully) Mr Wilson allowed his pipe to go out. He said that he was not trying to pull the wool aver the nation's eyes. Thing5 were indeed serious. Let there be no mistake about that.

But he knew the Dunkirk spirit would prevail (this was taken to be a reference to a party of day-trippers who had been stranded on the Continent owing to a strike of some sort and who were bearing up with remarkable fortitude and were actually finding life in Calais rather agreeable not to say cheaper).

Then Mr Wilson offered us the bitter pill of truth. "Inflation is running at two million Peri cent," he declared ominously. "Accordingly, have decided to spend two million pounds 0' your money on a campaign nationwide to bring home to you the fact that inflation is running 3t two million per cent.

"It is not enought for me to tell you this an warn you of the consequences. I want to sPelw, two million pounds and make jobs for severe' people I owe faVours to so that the message

be brought into your home. It is your money ' am wasting. It is your pigeon. You caused the ruddy inflation in the first place by electing 3 Ruffian Administration. Now you can put the bitter fruits of your folly in your pipes an smoke them," he roared, mixing his metanh0r5 wonderfully as he faded from the screen to the strains of the Death March in Saul.

Tom Puzzle