Nicholas Soames MP - Herkey
serious politician has long been struggling to emerge from the globular mountainous shape of Nicholas Soames. Alas, not yet.
Described as a ‘visual interruption,’ his multi coloured socks were his most eloquent contribution to Commons’ debate in his first term. That, and an upper class sneer or two. He regularly heckled ex-liner steward John Prescott speeches with ‘A couple a gins and whisky here please.’ Balancing the class warfare, Andrew MacKinlay described ex-royal equerry Soames as ‘Prince Charles’ butler.’
Not that his royal connections or Churchill family ancestry won him early promotion. He suffered painful obscurity on the backbenches. Nirvana came with promotion to Minister of Defence.
He is remembered as an amiable buffoon who heaped glutinous plaudits on the good, the bad and the useless. It was possibly a defence mechanism against his string of gaffes. He confessed his own incompetence when he forgot his passport on a trip abroad. Later he grovelled with collapsing dignity before a Select Committee after a Gulf War syndrome cock-up.
Losing office was a bereavement. Suppressing the sobs he confessed his grief to his successor.
“I warmly welcome the new Minister for the Armed Forces to the Dispatch Box for the first time. I am sure that he will enjoy the job every bit as much as I did--indeed, I am green with envy at the idea that he should hold that post.
As a minister he identified the real enemy of the realm.
‘It was always my opinion, when working at the Ministry of Defence, that those at the Treasury worked for the Russians. Nothing has since persuaded me that I am wrong.”
He revels in political incorrectness and would love to be classified and revered as an ancient monument.
“For those of us who struggle to operate a typewriter, let alone the Internet, which is an unfathomable and obscure instrument..”
“I do not believe that the equal opportunities training centre.....we should not try to improve our services as employers.”
“Does the minister agree that Sussex cattle, like all the other native breeds, have a heroic place in British agriculture?”
“One of the best regulated sports that I have seen in Britain is Army boxing.”
Life is forlorn for an ambitious backbencher in opposition with only the memories of his ministerial past to comfort him. There was an even a hint that he may be seeking consolation in food and drink. He was once dubbed the ‘Talking Food Mountain.’
Nicholas Watt of Times reported that Soames made a speech on All Fools day 1998 ‘that could be tactfully described as meandering.’ Other commentators said that is was as meandering as a newt. He spoke several times and at great length including the following,
"I remember a morning not long ago: a cold, damp, spring morning, after the House had been sitting all night. The scene that passed before our eyes was one from older days, when you, Madam Speaker, were on the Back Benches, when...."
The Speaker stopped him and ask him to return to the subject of the debate which was superannuation. He did not. He meandered around a new bend and fondly lamented the absence of Dawn Primorolo.
It is a matter of regret to me that the Financial Secretary--a woman who, for whatever reason, commands the universal admiration of Conservative Members--is not in her place. Indeed, she is an esteemed alumnette of the Thomas Bennett community college in Crawley. It may be that her training in that previous existence led her to...”
Mr. Soames later denied being drunk:
“My lunches consist of bananas, still water, preserved apricots and bats’ droppings. I had my very small, abstemious lunch in the tearoom of the House.”
He is now reverting to caricature. In a question session on the right to roam, he aired his happily unique reason for preserving and protecting wild life.
“Does the Minister accept that all who love and know about the hills, the uplands and the wild places in this country will deeply regret and resent his statement? For how long will the right hon. Gentleman allow, for example, the moors to be closed during the nesting season of ground-nesting birds, for shooting at a later date? ‘