7 AUGUST 2004, Page 28

The Notting Hill Tories obviously need to be interviewed by social workers

The previously most famous resident of Notting Hill, now publicised as possessing its own Tory 'set', must have been

John Reginald Halliday Christie, who emerged after the second world war as a serial killer of women.

He was hanged — one of the few Notting Hill residents to be so, though many older Tory MPs now believe that more should be. One likes to think that if the set had existed in his day, Christie would have been a member. He had been an auxiliary policeman during the war. Thus, like most policemen in those days, he would have been a good Tory. The rise of the liberal policeman, ingratiating himself with the liberal press, is recent. We must hope that Christie would not have succumbed to that.

We can imagine Notting Hill set members telephoning one another in some excitement.

'This fascinating man called Christie is coming to dinner next week. We so much hope that you and Aurelia can come.'

'Love to. We were at Glyndebourne as guests of the Christies only last week.'

'Er, I'm not sure that John Reginald is the same sort of thing. I mean, I'm sure he's the same family. But he has different interests.'

'What sort of interests?'

'Well, he's a policeman. To be perfectly honest, I hardly know him. He just turned up at the house, and asked if there were any vulnerable women in the neighbourhood whom he could keep an eye on. He said there were a lot of perverts about these days. So we asked him to do a paper on it for the shadow Cabinet.'

Now the area is home to a number of youthful Tory media people and MPs. Two of the MPs who are said to be close to Mr Howard are Mr David Cameron and Mr George Osborne. Mr Boris Johnson has been included in most articles about the set, even though he lives in Islington, quite a long way from Notting Hill. This is because there can be no mention of media people and Tory MPs nowadays without including Mr Johnson.

There have been Tory sets in the past. For example, the Twin set — always followed by the phrase 'and Pearls'. That was when the Tories had those mighty women under mighty hats, and more often than not won elections. Sadly, as a result of the revelation of the Notting Hill set's existence, violence now taints the Notting Hill once associated with just Christie. These young Conservatives have been discovered to be tormenting a group of defenceless Conservative MPs in their sixties and older. These youths call the MPs 'bed-blockers'. They want to turn them out of their beds at Westminster, and seize their seats and beds for themselves and their friends. The scandal has distressed the nation.

One of the MPs accused of blocking a bed was Sir Peter Tapsell, aged 74. But Sir Peter is more alive than plenty of Tory MPs half his age. He is always there in his backbench place. That is much more than can be said for many of the youths. The same is true of another victim, Sir Patrick Cornaack.

What usually happens in these cases is that the relevant local authority carries out an inquiry into whether there was a failure of responsibility on the part of the social workers responsible for the well-being of the children, or MPs, concerned. In recent years, such inquiries have been robust and unsparing in their conclusions. In the case of the Notting Hill Tory youths accused of tormenting Tory MPs, it might well be found that the social workers of Kensington and Chelsea Council — on whose territory Notting 11111 is to be found — had a duty of care towards Sir Peter, Sir Patrick, Mr Michael Mates, Mr Derek Conway and the others. There was, however, a systemic failure of co-ordination between the relevant departments. For example, one of the departments — White's Club — should have noticed that the MPs were of an age when they were vulnerable to being abused. As a result, they became prey to a gang of ruthless young people who, disturbingly, included several girls. One of them, Miss Whetstone, claimed to work closely with the leader of the Conservative party. Investigation into another woman minor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, showed that she earned a living by writing columns in the Daily Telegraph. It was unclear whether her parents, who lived in the country, were aware that this is what she had been doing in London.

It was also unclear to what extent Mr Boris Johnson had been involved in these assaults on elderly MPs. That his name was listed as a member of the violent set suggests that he might have acquiesced in the offences concerned. But this would more appropriately be the subject of a separate inquiry on the part of Islington social services who are responsible for him. All in all, a worrying case all too typical of the Conservative party and modern Britain, though the two are not synonymous.

Writing here about Prospect magazine's list of Britain's 100 leading 'public intellectuals', I questioned whether one of them existed: Mr Julian Le Grand, It was just something about the name. In last week's Spectator, he had a letter published claiming that he had had a book reviewed in The Spectator. The letter came from 10 Downing Street, where he seemed to be an adviser. He was also kind enough to send me a copy of the book — Motivation, Agency and Public Policy: of Knights, Pawns and Queens.

That a man works in Downing Street and publishes a book is not of itself proof of his existence. At first I assumed that the review was published when I edited this magazine, which would have been why I did not see it. But it was last March.

A Prospect writer had a piece — 'Referee's Report' — in the current issue about how he 'kept out vote-riggers' from the readers' poll of the top five intellectuals. 'A late flurry of votes for Julian Le Grand — possibly after Frank Johnson in The Spectator questioned his existence — had the reek of orchestration about it. .

What a killjoy! The great Marxist Professor Hobsbawm was in the top five. Marxists are renowned for 'orchestrating' votes. We can imagine many an old Hampstead Stalinist sending in the proHobsbawm votes of the neighbours in his expensive street, most of them hedge-fund managers. Apart from that referee, all concerned come out well from this game.