Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mark Legless

It appears that Mark Reckless - crazy name, crazy guy - has now apologised for being found drunk in charge of a mandate during the long run up to the vote on the Budget earlier this week. I can't blame him - who hasn't had a few drinks and done something embarrassing? Let's face it, Charlie Kennedy has only just realised that he was running the Liberal Democrats during his years of alcohol excess.

And to be fair to Mr Legless, I'd need to be paralytic to vote in favour of Osborne's budget - I'm not sure that beer goggles come in that level of strength, to be honest. How must it feel to wake up next morning and realised that you screwed an entire country while under the influence? Perhaps we should be more concerned about those who went in to vote sober.

Reckless claims that he knew he'd had too much, so he decided against voting, whereas slightly more sober observers suggest that the alcohol had rendered him unconscious and asleep, until he was eventually poured into a cab by his party comrades for a £150 ride home. And an embarrassing dressing-down by the whips the following day for missing a three line vote.

He wasn't the only one - one doorkeeper at the Palace of Westminster received an apology the following day after receiving a mouthful of abuse from a female Tory MP who was similarly over-refreshed. There are also reports that Labour's Steven Pound, always good value at the best of times, was being fuelled through the night on more than just strong cocoa.

Alcohol and politics have always gone together. Labour's George Brown is the originator of the tried and tested euphemism from Private Eye, 'tired and emotional', which was coined to explain behaviour that might otherwise have been ascribed to drink. Some observers actually report that Brown wasn't really a great drinker, it was just that he couldn't handle it and a little went a tremendously long way. More recently, Alan Clark was famously accused by Clare Short of presenting a bill while drunk, a statement that caused uproar at the time, but which was also entirely accurate. His diaries reveal that Clark had come fresh - if that is the right word - from a wine tasting and was certainly struggling with sobriety.

Closer to home, our own John Hemming started strutting the national political stage by getting 'hog-whimperingly drunk' at a Private Eye luncheon and revealing to those present - in strictest confidence -that he had recently impregnated his assistant and fellow local councillor, a fact that came as a surprise to his wife.

My favourite drunk politician story comes from John Simpson, who recalls that at the time of the revolution against Gorbachev in 1990, he ran into the Russian foreign minister leaving the Moscow White House, the office of Boris Yeltsin. Simpson asked after Yeltsin and was assured that the hero of the resistance was hard at work organising. Some years later, Simpson ran into the minister again and discovered the truth - rather than having just come from a high-level meeting, the foreign minister had left Yeltsin where he found him - unconscious on his office floor with a bottle of vodka beside him.

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