Clement Crabbe

Article excerpt


LOBBYISTS are limbering up for that annual carnival of subornation, the party conferences. Palms will be squeezed like window-cleaners' chamois leathers. Livers will quiver.

Deals dirty will be done. The association of British Hand Grenade Manufacturers is blowing a fortune on a stand at the main conferences. Its PR manager wears a blazer and keeps photographs of his teenage daughters in his wallet. The association prides itself on a friendly approach. Its stand is always popular, not least for the bowl of free peppermints alongside the replica landmine.

Pillco, the pharmaceuticals giant, has prescribed a series of conference lunches for party frontbenchers and 'opinion formers' (various Murdoch editors, leader-page pimps and greasy eminences including Manhattan economist Irwin Ringrot, who hasn't missed a conference for years). These lunches will be held in private boudoirs well-removed from prying eyes. Pillco believes in the transparency of its corporate mission but there are limits, y'know..

The Obesity Institute is weighing in with a five-course gala dinner, followed by speeches from party spokesmen on health. Chox Inc., the Swiss-based foods giant, hopes to change its reputation as one of the most vile exploiters of child labour in the Third World by placing 'goodie bags' in the hotel rooms of all delegates.

The National Insomnia Campaign will be holding a breakfast briefing 5.15am start..

Environmental campaigners are jetting in from around the world to discuss climate change.

Poverty Today magazine is sending out stiff invitations to a champagne reception in the Excelsior Ballroom. And one of the big London management consultancies will be conducting 'post-politics challenge' seminars for Labour MPs and 'how to make allies with business' meetings with Tory MPs. Brown envelopes at he door.

British politics. Setting probity standards at which the rest of the world can only marvel.

HAVING just endured the misery of George Monbiot International Airport (actually that dump Stansted), Crabbe wonders: Why no buskers at airports? A bloke on a squeezebox would be far preferable to those godawful 'bing bong' announcements of the latest delays. Better to give one's last few dinars to a busker than to one of our larcenous banks which crookedly refuse to exchange small-denomination money.

SENATOR John McCain would have struggled anywhere but America. Why? His middle name is Sidney.

There have not been many successful Sidneys in world politics. …