6 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 14

Westminster corridors

From the Correspondence I receive, I may cast my Readers under two general Divisions — the Mercurial and the Saturnine. The first are the gay part of my Disciples, who require Speculations of Wit and Humour. The others are those of a more solemn and sober Turn, who find no pleasure but in papers of Morality and sound Sense.

The former call everything that is Serious Stupid; while the latter look on everything as Impertinent that is Ludicrous. Well, on this Occasion, Puzzle must I fear be Saturnine; for matters of some disturbing nature have come to my Attention. The Issue is so serious that I fain cannot be gay.

The Club being in Recess, I travelled for my annual sojourn with my good friend Mr Patrick Cormack, the Tory from South West Staffordshire. "Come," he said (somewhat infelicitously I thought), "and see what it is like in the Black Country". Taking this to be an allusion to the problem of immigrants, I thought the journey well worth my while, for though I am no Whig there are those who say I am of a Liberal Turn of Mind.

It was therefore a disappointment to me to discover that the 'Black' in 'Country' tefers not to the pigmentation of the skin of the natives there, but solely to the label on the favourite brand of Scotch of my Lord Trysull and his friends Sir Charles Freeport and Sir Frederick Longpocket.

Sir Frederick, you will be glad to hear, now has an Italian assistant from the fair City of Verona whom I was enjoined to call Count Generoso — for the reason that Sir Frederick's pockets have grown even longer. But I digress.

Hither (if they will excuse the expression) to the Cormack country seat we all came where we were attended by Sir Tetton Hall, who is a great fan df Mrs 'Harmony Hair Spray' Thatcher (well, he is a fan of all ladies really) and who repeatedly applies (unsuccessfully) for membership of the Club under the Tory banner.

"Forsooth," said he, "there is a plot to unseat Harmony Hair Spray which has been laid by Mr Edward Heath, an activist and European." "Lawks gramercy," quoth we in unison, "but how has this come about?"

Sir Tetton became conspiratorial. It was some time before he sobered up, in fact. Then, enjoining us to treat the matter as one of great confidentiality, he recounted this macabre tale.

Harmony Hair Spray, in her efforts to heal the breach between herself and the said Mr Heath, sent emissaries to the former Tory Leader begging him to forgive and forget. They bore gifts — wondrous chintz curtains for the windows of Morningcloud which Harmony Hair Spray had herself made with her Daintytoy Electric Sewing Machine.

The emissaries were rebuffed by Mr Heath. One of them, a Mr Fergus Montgomery from Altrincham, was actually nobbled (which must have been very painful) and they returned downcast (Mr Montgomery on crutches) to their Mistress.

It was then vouchsafed to us by Sir Tetton that Mr Heath intends to stand against Harmony Hair Spray (whatever that might mean) in the election for the Leader of the Tory Party that must, by the new rules of procedure, take place at the start of each Session.

When this news leaked out, other prospective candidates entered the lists, including Sir Geoffrey Howe, a fat man, and Mr Ian Gilmour, a thin man. I cannot recall who first suggested it, or what stage of intoxication the party had reached, but some idiot then said that what was needed was 'a compromise candidate'.

With an alluring degree of modesty, Mr Cormack immediately stepped forward and accepted our nomination. Nothing, it seems to me, can stop him. He has the right credentials (he even put his son down for Eton before he was born and was bitterly disappointed when he turned out to be a girl — not that that would cause any wonderment in the new Eton). He believes in consensus politics (that is he holds no strong views of his own).

What is most important is that Mr Cormack has proved that he is a fighter. Some years ago, when he was struggling for his own political life in Staffordshire, he displayed all those quintessentially English qualities that we have so come to admire. When he looked like losing, he fought dirty. When he won, he was ungracious. What a successor to Mr Heath and Mrs Thatcher he will prove to be.

Tom Puzzle