UK Politics

Milligan's week: Breeding hell

There was furious talk and tweeting about Howard Flight, the Tory peer and his "breeding" gaffe on Thursday.

I gave him a call to talk about it all and, to his credit, he answered his phone but hung up pretty damn quick when I asked him about it.

I've had the "breeding" line directed at me, by a Conservative Party chairwoman of one those very safe, lush Surrey seats.

It was a fine summer's day and I was seven months pregnant.

I lay like a sweating walrus on a deck chair in her garden.

She was a wise old owl, with a sergeant major's clipped voice, her cheeks dimpled and dusted with a fine pink face powder.

'Breeding age'

The association was in the process of selecting a candidate for their very safe seat, I was asking her if she might consider choosing a woman to get their numbers up in Parliament.

She pondered the question as she poured the tea.

"We would never choose someone like you dear," she eventually answered patting my bump fondly. "No. We couldn't possibly have a woman of breeding age."

At least she was honest about it. Some might have lied. I much admired that honesty and it made a terrific quote.

Earlier this week, I found myself sitting in the office of a shadow cabinet minister and he told me solemnly, and I mean with absolutely no irony, that, following the recent leadership election, the Labour Party now contained "Ballsites, Edites, and Daveites or Davidites. Possibly Dianeites."

"And do they, these factions, chat to you about Ed Miliband and his leadership?"

"No never, but I believe it's the Blairites who are briefing, you know, to the papers, against Ed, they're hacked off because David didn't win."

Black dog

His eyebrows swooped down in disapproval. I glanced out the window to catch a glimpse of the marauding students below.

"The Blairites. I see. Who?"

"The BLAIRITES,"

"And what about the Brownites, do they still exist?" I ask.

"Harrumph."

Later I had a cup of green tea with an ex Brownite, he used to brief like a crazy man against Blair, and promote Brown, but the moment Brown took over, he began lamenting the loss of their greatest leader. Huh?

Anyway he said that there are also "Cruddites" - those who fancy John Cruddas, the backbencher, as the next Labour leader. A bit far fetched?

Back in the office at Television Centre I was skimming through the morning in a fairly OK-ish mood until I began listening to David Cameron doing his "happiness" thing and slunk into a black dog mood.

The Prime Minister suggested that the key to well-being was asking how people are feeling, how their relationships are fairing. I conducted a quick survey of the World at One planning desk.

I asked: "How are you?"

They took no notice of me, I repeated the question,

"NO how are you really? And while I'm about it, what's up with your relationships? You can tell me, yes you can, be truthful. BE TRUTHFUL."

I was told to sit down and get on with my report.

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