In June, 1959, Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, then Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, got frightfully pissed on a club crawl in Soho, as one did in those days.
One drink led to another, and before you knew it Lord Home climbed on top of a table and went into a dance. Later he didn’t remember much of his choreographic exertions, so the exact tune and the dance steps remained shrouded in mystery.
However, both the song and the steps must have been rather energetic, for Lord Home fell off the table and broke his foot.
Later he hastened to reassure his colleagues and the local Tory organisation that no impropriety normally associated with Soho clubs was involved. In fact Lord Home was dancing not with naked strippers but with his wife Baroness Home who probably was dressed, at least partly.
Commenting on the mishap, Lord Home stuck to the bare bones: “I was dancing on a table in a bar in Soho when I fell off and broke my foot. My wife Elizabeth was with me – but thankfully she’s a far better dancer so didn’t fall off.”
No suggestion was put forth by anyone involved that the Baroness’s knack for dancing atop furniture could be parlayed into a lucrative career in that part of London.
Perhaps it was understood that a Soho couch dancer would be an inappropriate spouse for a Tory minister. Or else it was Lord Home himself who put his broken foot down (“A chap has to draw the line somewhere, what-what?”).
Instead everyone had a good laugh. For example a Tory councillor from Lord Home’s county said, “We found it hilarious and gave him plenty of stick. The imagination runs wild when you hear it was when he was dancing on a table at a bar in Soho.”
Another local activist also saw the hilarity: “Alec definitely has a fun side. Obviously we’re sad to hear he has broken his foot but we will be giving him some stick about how he did it. We’ll have to try and get him a buggy or wheelchair so he can do his usual tour of everything.”
In short, a good time was had by all – especially since Lord Home pressed on with his duties, courageously refusing to cancel his forthcoming tour of North Africa. “He’s a real trooper,” commented a ministerial colleague.
Do you believe this story? Of course you don’t – it’s too preposterous for words. No one in his right mind would believe for a second that the somewhat limited but utterly proper Alec-Douglas Home, the future PM, could have found himself in such a risible bind.
Well, you’re right. You shouldn’t believe the story because I’ve made it up.
Actually, I didn’t make up the events and the comments on them as such – I merely shifted them back to the 1950s from the time they actually happened, which was a couple of days ago.
I’ve also changed the participants’ names. So for Elizabeth read Margaret, and for Lord Home read Mark Harper, our current Immigration Minister.
Suddenly the story becomes eminently believable, doesn’t it? What would have been unthinkable for Alec Douglas-Home or any other contemporaneous minister, is par for the course for today’s politicians, Tory or otherwise.
If a modern PM can get so drunk that he leaves his children behind in a pub, why can’t a junior minister get pissed and make an obscene spectacle of himself in a public place? Or why can’t another MP be arrested for picking a fight in another public place?
No reason at all. We don’t really expect our leaders to have a modicum of dignity, do we? Of course not.
We expect them to be like regular blokes, but without the common sense many real regular blokes have to have to make their way in the dog-eat-dog world.
Our rulers needed no common sense to get into politics and they need none to stay in it. They needed all sorts of other qualities, which in no way preclude vulgar behaviour in the after hours.
Dignity? Honour? Respect for the office? Really, only a hopeless stick in the mud would expect today’s politicians to possess any of these, especially when ‘chillaxing’.
So I hope you’ll join me in wishing Mark a speedy recovery and success on his official visit to Algiers. I’m sure the Muslims will appreciate his fine qualities and idea of fun even more than we do.