Sweetly Terminal

Edward Pearce

  • Diaries by Alan Clark
    Weidenfeld, 421 pp, £20.00, June 1993, ISBN 0 297 81352 8

‘What’s all this?’

‘It’s the new line to take!’

‘How do you mean, “new”?’

‘There’s just been’ (plainly a lie, since she wouldn’t look at me) ‘a telegram from Number 10.’ I was cornered. The little Portuguese (for the whole of my time as Minister for Trade, I am going to find myself at every international conference where the participating countries are identified in French – Royaume Uni – sitting next to a little Portuguese) was coming to the end of his peroration.

Not, really, that it makes the slightest difference to the conclusions of a meeting, what ministers say at it. Everything is decided, horse-traded off, by officials at COREPER, the Council of Permanent Representatives. The Ministers arrive on the scene at the last minute, hot, tired, ill or drunk (sometimes all of these together), read out their piece and depart.

Some wanker called ‘Caserly’ (that just has to be a false name, probably someone on the editorial staff) has written an open letter to the (Western Evening) Herald saying how arrogant and ‘out of touch’ (yeah) I am, will lose my seat, SDP wave of the future, usual balls.

Actually, little White (Ambassador to Chile) isn’t so bad. A bit guarded, but that’s probably down to the secret FCO biog. which precedes me at all destinations. I am not getting on with his wife though. There is this certain type of woman who simultaneously demands that you make a pass (or at least flirt) and then gets show-outraged, demonstratively outraged if you do. I want to say fat chance dear, calm down.

The actual meal is a shambles, Mad Hatter’s tea party. The so-called Opposition is variously fragmented and, as is usual in such cases, the various fragments are barely on speaking terms. One who is tipped as a possibility for President [correctly tipped EP], a chap called Aylwin got drunk immediately and monologued persistently; although at one point he got into a spat with a couple of others about who ‘denounced’ whose sister during the period of military rule.

Frankly, I’d have put them all under arrest as they left the building. I might say that to Pinochet if I get to see him on Friday.

We opened a bottle of Palmer ‘61. Bruce (Anderson) laid down the law on personalities and ratings. My own shares are down badly after that slip on the Channel Tunnel. She was not going to keep Paul (Channon) on. Bernard had the briefing to hand ... Bruce was dismissive about Tristan, ‘not up to it’; and Gow, ‘can’t get a grip on things’. I don’t like this. These are my friends, I mean my close friends. Then he made matters worse by saying he had had a talk with Michael (Heseltine). ‘He is formidable.’ ‘He’, pause, ‘is’, pause, ‘formidable’.

I got him back to the station at four thirty, smelling powerfully of brandy. Seeing I was a bit dejected, Bruce said he would plug me with John Major and David (Young) ...

I went to Brooks’s, lost £150 and my appetite waned. Returned here and ate a toasted bun, first food since a banana at 1.30.

In the tea room I had a chat with Fallon, a nice cool whip. I complained about all this rotten, irrelevant, unnecessary legislation which clogs our time. Firearms, Football Supporters, War Crimes, Supermarket Trollies (Local Authority Recovery Powers) Restricted Amendment etc ad nauseam. Compounded with our abject failure to sort out the rioters at Strangeways Prison, it was all accumulating evidence of a government in decline. To my considerable pleasure, he was in complete agreement, citing additionally the Iraqi supergun. ‘We should be making them and selling them to everyone.’

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