Via a comment in Mr Eugenides’ blog, I see a rather unpleasant story by Iain Dale about the appalling behaviour of a senior Labour politician over a decade ago; Dale’s rightly been criticised by many people in the comments section for failing to mention that, at the time, the politician had an alcohol problem that he’s since acknowledged and that he’s been dry for 10 years at least. Indeed, I seem to recall reading somewhere that he quit when the late John Smith had apparently told him to choose between drinking and a front-bench Labour post.
Reminded me, though, of a story a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for many years told me at my mother’s funeral. I can’t vouch for it, but, knowing my friend, it’s almost certainly true, though possibly a bit embroidered. She’s a London tour guide and, some years ago, was taking a bus-load of schoolgirls round London. The coach pulled up near the Palace of Westminster, where she was supposed to take the girls off the bus and walk them round the area, take them round the Abbey and so forth. However, as they were disembarking, a very flustered police woman, wearing a flack-jacket and carrying a machine gun (at least according to my friend) rushed up and ordered them back on the coach. Panic among the schoolgirls, of course, and there’s my friend absolutely furious and trying simultaneously to calm the girls and find out what on earth is going on.
Then, round the corner comes a group of officials, police officers and so on, two of them carrying a semi-conscious Boris Yeltsin, who was then on an official visit to London. As she said, clearly he’d had a brief walking tour round the area, or at least round the Palace of Westminster, on his schedule and turned up utterly legless. What she couldn’t understand though, and neither can, is why on earth no one had the sense to cancel it, but instead decided they’d do the tour even though they had to carry the drunken president. Presumably Boris Nikolayevich wouldn’t have minded — probably wouldn’t even have noticed — if it had been cancelled..