Monday, May 09, 2011

Character Parts by John Mortimer (Penguin Books 1986)

'But there was no election for leader. It was all done by word of mouth?'

'Word of mouth. Yes. All sorts of strange things were happening. Ted Heath went up to Scotland and for the first time in his life he shot a stag! Can you imagine that?' Lord Hailsham was laughing again. 'I think Ted Heath was Warwick the Kingmaker.'

'Was it all a great disappointment to you?'

'Not at all! I was just not selected. It must have been much worse for Ted Heath, To be chosen and then de-stooled. In the presence of the tribe! To be de-stooled.' His lips pursed in a long and hilarious double 'o'. 'What a terrible humiliation.'

'Besides which I've known all the recent Prime Ministers and not one of them died happy in his bed. Except Macmillan. Yes. I think he'll die quite happy.'

'Is Macmillan a wonderful actor in the House of Lords?'

Of course. The old boy's a superb performer. But when he was Prime Minister he was always rather piano. Rather quiet and understated. And you know why? The best of his generation was killed in the 1914 war. And he could see their ghosts looking down at him from an imaginary gallery, all saying, "Look down there. It's little Harold! They've made him Prime Minister, and we were cleverer than him." That made Macmillan rather quiet.'