We have just received another posting from Sally, full of wisdom and insight.  If you haven’t yet read her November offering you really ought to read that first. As we said then, “all is not as it seems”. The clue is in the numbered paragraph 5 below.  More than that we are not saying.

W4MP Ed.

Sally’s 5-step guide to successfully taking your Member of Parliament out to meet ‘the public’

  1. First of all, don’t panic. This will all be over shortly.
  2. People probably won’t throw things at you. Though you know your boss is two stops short of Dagenham and shouldn’t be let near the drinks aisle of the local Netto, the average member of ‘the public’ believes they do an important job and will be genuinely excited to meet their MP.  As a result your worst fears are hardly ever realised. Hardly ever. Really.
  3. Have faith in your MP. The natural charm that allowed them to get elected in the first place, and which is equally notable for its almost total absence in between election campaigns, will suddenly come to the fore.  Try not to act too surprised when they reveal themselves to be capable of grown up conversation, say something witty, or even (though this is unlikely) answer a question about politics articulately, with genuine insight and without the use of briefing notes or interns.
  4. Clear your backlog before the visit and keep your wits about you.  An MP out in public poses a Clear and Present Danger to your workload.  Forget any thoughts you had of clearing off out of the office at 5:30 today or anytime in the next couple of weeks. Promises will be made, ludicrous bits of casework picked up, embarrassing or borderline illegal donations solicited, and endless photos posed for to go on that ‘sketchbook thing on the internet’.  Learn to spot the early signs of what’s known in bag carrying circles as the boss ‘going a bit King Solomon’.  Nip it in the bud with a well timed rugby tackle at knee height.
  5. If your MP has died in deeply suspicious circumstances, nobody’s noticed yet and you’ve been impersonating him for the past three months, under no circumstances should you agree for him to appear as ‘Father Winterval’ at a ridiculous PC cost-cutting post-Christmas local market. Do not, then, in a panic, get your dad to do it instead in the hope that nobody will notice.

That last one’s really important.

January 9th, 4:15pm, West Twittering Winterval Market

“HO HO HO!  Merry Winterval!  And what would you like young boy?  Have you been good this year?”

“You’re not Santa. You’re the MP. My mam told me. And anyway, Christmas was two weeks ago…”

“The MP? That Appleby fellow?  I can assure you I am not!  HO HO HO!  I am Father Winterval!

You can almost see what the council was going for when they came up with their Winterval festival. Everyone knows stuff’s’ cheaper in the January sales – so surely all those Christmas decorations and grottos are too?  It’s not like Morrisons need theirs until August anyway.  Though I’m not sure it was a good idea to get that Alan Rickman impersonator to launch the whole thing by telling a school full of children that Christmas was cancelled.

“Yeah you’re him, the MP. You’ve got a fake beard. My mam said you’re generally alright and a real gentleman, not like the rest, but that this year you’ve been a very naughty boy and I should come and see what I can get because you’ll probably bung an iPad on expenses for me like you did last year.” 

“He did what? The cheeky litt… OH I MEAN… HO HO HO – HARK AT THE CHILD!  Now take this lego set and bugger off kid…”

I’m not sure ‘Father Winterval’ was the smartest idea anyone ever had. Austerity is one thing, but this is  just barmy.  It’s almost like they had a competition to come up with the stupidest thing possible to bait the local MPs into publicising.

Still. my dad’s doing a good job.  He’s got the voice almost right – plummy, gin soaked and deeply cynical, jollity enforced for just as long as it takes to get his picture taken with a few cute children. Nobody would look twice if he stood up at Prime Minister’s Questions next Wednesday to sycophantically praise the important role the government’s ferret cull has played in supporting rural communities, and most importantly, people who like killing ferrets.

“HO HO HO.  Merry Winterval little girl!  Have you been a good this year?”


The child looks at my father pretending to be the MP pretending to be an Austerity Britain version of Father Christmas, with a mixture of fear and utter bewilderment, her brain unable to comprehend the terrifying world she has been thrust into.  Then she wees herself.

You and me both kid.

5pm and we’re getting to the tail-end of the queue, just toddlers, harassed parents and bored looking 5 year olds remain.

Dad looks like a haunted man – he’s currently being lectured by an 11 year old in deck shoes and a blazer on why he should vote for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union – and I decide he’s done his job and it’s time to get him out.

I slowly edge towards the local party organiser, Geoff (dressed somewhat inexplicably as one of Santa’s elves) with a view to creating a distraction and extracting my dad from what’s now turned into an extended essay on the failings of the Lisbon Treaty, and the benefits an independent Britain would accrue from membership of NAFTA and closer trading ties with ‘the colonies’.

‘Geoff, I think we need to get him out of here, he’s gone sort of waxy and his right leg won’t stop shaking.  Just do what you can to distract people and I’ll get him out.’

Afterwards, when the police had taken Geoff away, I thought about those words and how carefully I’d chosen them.  Not carefully enough it seems. But then I didn’t realise he’d bought his bloody halbard with him.

Not to worry, the police reassured my dad that it was all just for his own safety (parents can get a bit tetchy when you threaten to chop their kids up, even in jest), and that ‘it’ll all be sorted out Mr Appleby Sir, don’t you worry’.  My dad’s promised to get them all honours if they make it all go away.

Anyway.  The local paper got their photo long before Geoff attempted to reenact the Battle of Worcester (that toddler did look a lot like Oliver Cromwell now that I think about it), so the world still thinks Rt Hon Gerrard Appleby is out and about, working hard for the good people of West Twittering and Chode.

What a start to 2012…

If you haven’t yet read the first instalment of Sally’s diary – ‘A cuckoo in the duck island’ – click here.

Added by Sally on 25th January 2012