Wednesday, September 22, 2010


4.50 From Liverpool

Another week of mystery (will the media report anything like what's actually going on?) and suspense (will Millennium finally win the Blogger of the Year Award?) has drawn to a close with outgoing President Ros Scott's final set-piece speech to Liberal Democrat Conference. Yet one of the biggest questions remains unanswered. Why is Ros not standing for another term of office? Conspiracy theories abound as she returns to her village (no, not that Village, as she hasn't technically resigned). Well, I saw her just now at Jury's Inn Hotel before she left, and I can exclusively reveal her new vocation, thanks to a slip from Ros' constant companion, that endearing old buffer Colonel the Honourable Lady Mark.

It turns out that with the murder rate so high in the House of Lords and all those international business conspiracies operating out of the draper's in her 'quiet' little village of St Mary Mead Ottery St Catchpole Creeting St Peter, she has her work cut out for her – so she's retiring to deploy those brilliant listening skills that so deftly directed the Federal Executive and picked up Lib Dem gossip from around the country to fight crime. Her first investigation, I'm told, is to pin down who killed off the Trident programme; was it the Liberal Democrats, in the morning, with the policy motion? Or was it, as incisive old Miss Cable judiciously dropped into conversation the other day while picking up a macaroon, the knives of the Treasury?

So be careful, murderers and masterminds, next time you see a little old lady sitting in the corner apparently fixed on her knitting. It could be Ros, if she looks uncannily glamorous for her 97 years and has a distinguished gent with a beard at her side. Or, more dangerously still, might it be the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Crochet?

I even came under suspicion myself just the other day; my old friend Kiron Reid stopped me in the Arena lobby and asked if I'd like to help him lift some boxes of Liberator Magazine. Of course while nothing could give me greater pleasure, I had a cast-iron alibi in the form of telling him that, no, I had to retire to my hotel room and type up my interview with Nick Clegg from last Friday. While Kiron was eyeing me warily, as if he thought this might in some way be an excuse, at exactly that moment the Deputy Prime Minister happened to walk by and ask, "Have you written up that interview yet?" So, if you think suspiciously conveniently corroborated alibis only occur in Agatha Christie novels, and then only for the guilty party, nothing could be further from the truth. Why, for me to be guilty, I would have to have secretly not in fact wished to lug about several boxes through the rain, and nor would I yet have finished typing up my piece about Nick a couple of days later. Um…

Oh, and there's something else I have to pass on, as well. Ros' implausibly demanding retirement wasn't the only secret Colonel the Honourable Lady Mark let me in on. Apparently she's investigating someone terribly senior, and I've just thought of exactly the clue she's been looking for.

But first, I'll just have this cup of tea that's been left here for me. It must have been Richard, though I didn't hear him come in or say hello – I must have been engrossed in typing. Odd tea they serve here; smells like bitter almonds…


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