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Thriday III


Just the one whisky. Anything more would be foolish.

strictlytrue was in the Press Bar, taking advantage of its one-off liberal opening hours. We went to watch the Commons thrash it all out. A packed house of pissed MPs goaded and bayed at each other. I know that cliché demons will defecate in my frappé for this, but seeing it all on TV is precisely NOTHING compared to being there in person. When you leap up to the dispatch box to rebut your enemies’ point, and your entire party are cheering you and bating the opposition (with a fair bit of anti-gout cordial inside them, it has to be said), and you're riding this astonishing wave of noise, whipping yourself into a crazed moral fervour—it must be like riding the biggest motorbike in the world.

Charles Clarke had a piece of paper thrust into his hand by an assistant, and he stood up and read it out like an automaton, despite the fact that it had sod all to do with the point the Tories were banging on about. It was hard to know whether he thought he was being cleverly evasive or if he was just too drunk to tell.

The opposition had picked up on something Blair had said that appeared not to be, strictly speaking, entirely true [Massed crowd: Gasp!]. John Gummer, in Blair’s absence, said as much, to appalled howls from the House. The Speaker ordered him to withdraw the accusation (Hon. Mems can’t accuse other Hon. Mems of lying). Gummer retracted, saying instead that “the Prime Minister often manages to be misunderstood—even by his own Home Secretary”.

Michael Howard kept insisting loudly that the PM be made to come to the chamber “RIGHT NOW!” and face the accusations that he had lied to the House. The Speaker plaintively pointed out that he couldn’t force anyone to turn up. Shortly afterwards the House voted, and trooped rowdily through the lobbies. When they resumed, Howard leapt to his feet and brandished the voting list. The Prime Minister had voted. He was in the building. He had gone through the lobby, and then scampered off again to wherever he was hiding. There was no sign of him. Contempt? Confusion? Cowardice? Or an astute and adroit manoeuvre by an unparalleled political genius? We’ll have to wait for the memoirs to find out.

Post office vans make deliveries in a narrow courtyard. There’s no room for them to turn round, so there’s a huge turntable in the tarmac to do the job for them. We discovered that it can go round really fast even when there isn’t a van on it. We played on that for a bit after we left the Press Bar. None of us were sick, and no-one came and discovered us, which was probably just as well.

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