25 OCTOBER 1975, Page 6

Westminster corridors

The revelation by Downing Street servants that our beloved Leader, Mr Harold Wilson, is in the

habit of giving 'political gifts' (namely, Gannex handbags) has caused me no little embarrassment. I have, of course, returned my handbag and the reversible Ziperama Two-Tone Check Foldaway Gannex raincoat. The trouble is that I cannot think what to do about my yacht, Evening Cloud, which I received from another hand some years after the coat.

With everything in the 'open' (if you will forgive my saying so) I listened with interest Last week as Mrs 'Don't You Dare Call Me That Again' Thatcher was interviewed by a charming girl reporter (or it may have been Bernard Levin in drag doing his bit for International Women's Year) in Blackpool.

"On your trips round the world, Mrs Thatcher," inquired the girl, "how do you keep your hair looking so wonderful?" "Oh, that's an easy one," replied our next Prime Minister, "I use Carmen rollers and Harmony Hair Spray lacquer." You may think that is funny, but I assure you it is absolutely true. And what is much worse is that she gives the things away.

The delectable Miss Arianna Stassinopoulos, 21 (Eton and First and Third), who was at one time a special assistant in the Thatcher household, tells me that the Tory Leader "keeps cupboardsful of the stuff'. When visiting dignitaries call on her, Mrs Thatcher gives them a set of Carmen rollers or a can of Harmony Hair Spray.

This apparently caused some problems while she was in the United States. Mrs Ford mistook the rollers for some newfangled barbecue set (whatever that might be). So she plugged the contraption into the mains (no, not those mains, the Vermont Maines) and attached a Nixon Wild West Beefsteak to each roller. The effect, so I am told, was electrifying. Mrs Thatcher said politely: "Oh, what delicate little steagettes. I love them done to a frazzle."

Poor President Ford assumed that his can of Harmony Hair Spray was some form of personal deodorant and has been in pain ever since. He is reputedly still unable to lower his arms, but (by heck) is working hard on it.

It is not so much the giving of gifts that worries me as the means by which the goods are first obtained in order to be given. It would seem that if you are good with your hands (as the Duchess of Falkender might have said) and can make things like raincoats which you then offer to a close friend to give away like handfuls of coloured beads to natives, then you will be

knighted and possibly even given a peerage. Those who say it is a great pity that there are no more hereditary peerages being created, now have the answer. Gratitude is one thing, but littering Debrett with titles like 'Viscount Gannex of Harmony Carmen' is quite another. Which brings me to last week's Tory Party Wake in Blackpool. Several readers have asked me what exactly happened when Mr Heath, a visionary and giver of yachts, walked on to the platform in the Winter Gardens. It is all quite simple really.

If he had mounted (begging his pardon) the platform from the left, he would have had to pass Harmony Hair Spray to get to his seat. With the massed rank and file cheering him and Mrs Thatcher in his path, he would have been obliged to greet her.

The masses (and the idiotic reporters from the various media) would have taken this as a sign of reconcilation and cheered all the louder.

Now, first of all, Mr Heath did not want to share his ovation with anybody else, and, secondly, he certainly did not want a reconciliation (either real or interpreted). So he went the long way round and reserved his rather wet handshake with the formidable lady until the end. See?

Tom Puzzle