Diary – June 21, 1994


Of all the extraordinary reshuffle rumours doing the Westminster rounds, the most entertaining of all came my way this morning. It is, apparently, the talk (and laughter) of the Treasury. Prepare to be stunned: Baroness Thatcher for Foreign Secretary?
Risible, ridiculous, impossible. . .I know. . .but not unprecedented. Former Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home came back to serve as Foreign Secretary in Edward Heath’s Government. Likewise, former Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington showed it was possible to have a foot in both the Lords and the Commons.

The idea, say the gossips (carried away, I can only suppose, by wishful far-right imaginations and by Theresa Gorman’s call yesterday for Maggie’s return as party chairman) is that Douglas Hurd will become Leader of the House, replacing Tony Newton. Thatcher’s re-instatement would be designed to win back the support of Essex Man and Woman (who swung to Labour in the Billericay Euro-elections) and to rein in the Euro-sceptics.

Inevitably, the odd bellow of laughter could be heard from Downing Street and the Thatcher Foundation when they heard about it. ‘There are indeed lots of rumours going round at the moment,’ acknowledged a Number 10 official, not wanting to spoil the fun. A pause. ‘But at the end of the day, it is up to the Prime Minister.’

Further to my note yesterday about Glyndebourne’s forth-coming post-Aids version of Don Giovanni complete with Durex condoms, word comes my way from British composer Robin Holloway of the ENO’s contrasting prudery. Holloway, whose opera Clarissa was staged some years ago by the ENO, says the company commissioned him to write a further score. He began one, inspired by former brothel-keeper Cynthia Payne. As soon as it was submitted, however, it was axed, because, says Holloway, they objected to the language. The ENO, sensibly, says it never fully commissioned it – although one can see why the title might worry them: Girls and Boys Come Out to Play.

Revealing he has inherited the family flair for wit is Tom Dobson, 23, son of Frank, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras. Discussing the Labour leadership with his father recently he came out with: ‘It’s not a horse race. It’s dressage.’

A word from Dinora Davies-Rees, stepdaughter of the late David Bomberg, painter of Plazuela de La Paz, Ronda, Spain, 1934 which goes on sale today at Sotheby’s. Yesterday I chronicled how four years ago experts had admitted publicly there was debate over which way the painting should hang. At last I can now seal the controversy with proof from Ms Davies-Rees, volunteered yesterday, that Sotheby’s is selling it the right way. ‘I was ten years old when David painted it,’ she explains. ‘I was in the room next door all the time. There is no way that it is anything other than a Spanish street scene – and, yes, it is hanging the right way up.’ The vendor can now relax.

Sticking his lapel out prominently at Wimbledon this year is Cliff Richard. He – lucky thing – has just been awarded membership of the All England Club, jumping a queue of hundreds because of his ‘contribution to sport’. While other tennis buffs, including players at county and senior club level, have waited 20 years for a place in the 375-strong club, Richard, founder of the Tennis Trail scheme, whereby primary school children are introduced to the game, is thought to have been proposed by Sue Mappin, former British women’s manager.

‘Its great to walk through those gates with my badge,’ Richard explained. ‘I’ll be going every day except one.’ Meanwhile, speculation continues apropos his seconder. Stakes are high on former England No1 turned commentator, Sue Barker.

(Photograph omitted)