About me
Bookshop

Get new posts by email.

About me

Humphrey has died

HumphreyHumphrey, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, has died aged 78*. Possibly the most interesting of the former inhabitants of Downing Street, he was drafted in a year after the retirement of the previous incumbent of his post, Wilberforce, in 1987 following 70 years’ faithful service*.

Humphrey combined the Blairite spirit of social mobility (homeless to Minister) and Thatcherite cost-cutting (£3900 off the Downing Street pest-control bill) long before David Cameron even thought about cutting his political teeth.

Like most Downing Street residents, Humphrey was involved in many scandals during his political life. In 1994, he was falsely accused of murder, leading Prime Minister John Major to personally protest his innocence. The very next year, he was found to be ‘missing, presumed dead’, though three months later was found to have been merely holidaying at the Royal Army Medical College. This discovery lead to him releasing his first, and only, public statement to the press:

I have had a wonderful holiday at the Royal Army Medical College, but it is nice to be back and I am looking forward to the new parliamentary session.

Things were relatively stable in Humphrey’s life until the upheaval caused by Labour’s election in 1997, which badly shook Humphrey, and led his long-term kidney condition to worsen. He was forced to retire later that same year, though controversy still surrounds the issue of his departure: Some say that Cherie Blair insisted on his retirement, though this has been consistently denied.

Even in retirement, scandal was never far away: Shortly after Humphrey’s retirement, Alan Clark MP alleged that he had been assassinated by the incoming Labour government, and demanded evidence that this wasn’t the case. Of course, Humphrey was more than happy to oblige, but valuing his privacy insisted on a photo-shoot at a secret location, picturing him with a stack of the day’s newspapers. Many cruelly commented that he appeared to be putting on weight in retirement, and these comments led to Humphrey retiring completely and permanently from the media spotlight.

In 2005, Humphrey was briefly back in the news, with an attempt to discover his whereabouts using the Freedom of Information Act. These efforts were largely fruitless, though The Independent did claim to discover that he was alive and well.

Earlier this week, the Downing Street Press Office announced the sad death of Humphrey saying that he ‘sadly died last week some time’. To think that one of (if not the) longest serving resident of Downing Street was not honoured in any way, or even given the dignity of a proper announcement of the date of his death, is rather distressing. One would hope that, after so many false announcements and presumptions of death throughout his life, when it finally did come, he would be properly respected. But it was not to be.

Requiescat in pace

*That’s cat years, of course.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

‘Comment is free’ finally launches

I missed this earlier in the week (think I must have had my eyes shut or something…)

Guardian Unlimited have finally launched their long awaited collective comment blog, “Comment is Free“:

Welcome to Comment is free, the first collective comment blog by a British newspaper website. It will incorporate all the regular Guardian and Observer main commentators, many blogging for the first time, who will be joined by a host of outside contributors – politicians, academics, writers, scientists, activists and of course existing bloggers to debate, argue and occasionally agree on the issues of the day.

It’s well worth checking out, and it’s certainly been added to my feed reader!

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

Education reforms

It appears that Mr Blair will, this evening, get his education reform bill through the Commons. Lucky him. He’s also not going to see anything like the huge rebellion some think he will – as far as I can see, he’s not going to have any huge haemorrhage of support. That seems hugely unlikely. He’ll certainly still get a majority of his party – more like two-thirds, if not more.

Of course, if David Cameron wanted to play nasty, he could have some sudden epiphany, and do a complete U-turn, and not support the bill. Then there’s a reasonably high chance that it would not be passed (though that would still take a Labour rebellion of 35), and Blair would pretty much be forced to resign. It’d do some damage to the Conservative party temporarily, but a limited amount, especially as it would barely make it into the news cycle if Blair resigned. But I very much doubt he’d ever do that, or even that he could – a lot of Conservative MPs are very much in favour of the Bill, and probably wouldn’t stick with a change in party line.

So this crucial vote isn’t really so crucial. Only if forty or so Labour MPs rebelled would it cast doubt on Blair’s leadership, and that’s not going to happen. At least, I highly doubt it. We’ll find out in a few hours, I guess.

Update
Heck, I didn’t think he’d get 40 MPs rebelling, and it turns out he had 51. Shows how much I know. But he did get his timetable proposal through, so that somewhat lessens the blow. Probably not in the Mail, though, I’d imagine.

This post was filed under: Politics.




The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.