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May. 16th, 2011

In line with best practice, I will not link to the Daily Mail article that this post is culled from, even though I’m aware that many people’s first instinct will be to visit it immediately to verify that I am not making this stuff up.

A few extracts from Whatever Next?, the memoirs of Earl Ferrers, published this Thursday at £25:
While John Major was Prime Minister, he asked me to go to the Department of the Environment. It had always seemed to me that the department reflected the long-hair and sandals brigade, and tried to protect all the bugs and beetles which I find a menace.

‘The environment’ is the ‘in’ thing. If you are doing something for the environment, that means you are a good person and taking your responsibilities for the planet and the bugs seriously. That is rubbish. The world has been going for hundreds and thousands of years, and one wonders why, in 2011, there is impending disaster. I don’t believe it.

When I got to the department it appeared we had a big issue: the dung beetle. It was one of the animals that it was proposed we should protect. Who on earth wants to protect a dung beetle? Most people don’t know what it is, or what it looks like. If you saw a beetle walking across the kitchen floor, how would you know it was a dung beetle? If you conclude it is a dung beetle, then you must not kill it—or you will have committed an offence. But who is going to know that you have killed the dung beetle? Are they going to shop you to the police? We’ve all gone bonkers.

The Conservative Government introduced the Wildlife And Countryside Bill and part of it was to protect bats. I thought the Government had gone mad.

Lord Melchett was a bumptious young Labour Peer, about 24, who became exasperated with me for some non-sympathetic remarks about bats. He said: “I am sure that what the noble Lord is saying is not the advice of his officials.”

I said: “No. It is from my own experience. If there is one thing which my family cannot stand, it is bats. The girls dive for cover. They are terrified of the bats getting into their hair. The place is mayhem until the bats are removed. And, when it is suggested that the bats have the same right to your house as you have, I just don’t agree.”

It was not the Government line, it was mine—and I lost.

Naturally, with all the travelling and rushing around as a Minister, there were bound to be times when one was caught out. Which I was—by Mrs Thatcher.

When I went with my wife, Annabel, to No 10 for a lunch, I had not had time to look at what we were doing in the House of Lords that afternoon. During the pre-lunch drinks, the Prime Minister said: “Lord Ferrers, what is the House of Lords discussing this afternoon?” Horror of all horrors. I had not the slightest idea—and I was Deputy Leader of the Lords. I was mortified. Back in the House of Lords, I told fellow peer Christopher Soames: “I am in a terrible state.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I have bogged it with the Prime Minister. She asked me what the House of Lords was doing this afternoon and I didn’t know.”

Christopher roared with laughter. “She knew perfectly well. I told her myself this morning.”

At Question Time, if you can score a point or make them all laugh it is very satisfying. The schoolboy ethos is never very far away. When one Minister was at the Despatch Box, I found a drawing pin and placed it on the bench next to me, where the Minister was going to sit. John Belstead, who was Leader, practically had apoplexy. He screamed sotto voce, if one can do such a thing: “No. No. No.” I removed it just in time.
The noble Earl has one or two admiring things to say about women’s appearance, too, which I’m sure will make heartwarming reading for any ladies, although to get the fullest picture it’s also worth noting his publicly stated opinion on their nature as well.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 16th, 2011 01:39 pm (UTC)
Have literally just finished watching S1 of "The Thick of It", which I hadn't seen. Astounding: the real life people are actually thicker than their caricatures.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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