From Sir Vince Cable MP
Q. I have an unfulfilled ambition to win a national title for ballroom dancing in my age group. But this leadership thing gets in the way of my training. What’s more important — Parliament’s squabbling schoolroom or Blackpool’s twinkle-toes ballroom?
A. What’s all this either/or business? These days the only way to become a leader is to become a celebrity first. Viz Trump. If they like you as leader it won’t be because you’ve got the ‘leadership thing’ — it will have been the twinkle toes that swung it.
From Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
Q. My two eldest sons are becoming quite good at playing the trumpet but when they practise this wakes the baby. Nanny does not approve. I don’t want to discourage them. But we mustn’t upset Nanny. What do you recommend?
A. Youthful trumpetry is often a precursor to fame and fortune in other areas. The late Sir Bernard Fergusson (Lord Ballantrae) entitled his memoirs The Trumpet in the Hall. Give Nanny Veronica a harmonica to join in. Let them practise in the wine cellar while she watches baby on a hand-cam.
From Michael Whitehall
Q. My wife, in addition to hiding the shredder which I use to dispose of unwanted round-robins and photographs (why do people stuff Christmas cards with endless pictures of themselves and their gurning offspring?), has another annoying habit at this time of year. She insists on inviting dozens of people to lunch, many complete strangers to me, who I then have to entertain at great expense. This year I plan to book a fleet of minicabs for everyone at 4 p.m., but she says this is inhospitable and rude. Your thoughts?
A. Grin excitedly as you announce to each guest on arrival that they should conserve their energy for the walk you will be leading at 4 p.m. ‘Bring all your personal effects with you,’ you can drawl as you hold the door open later. ‘We may not be back for some time.’ You’ll find most revellers will be too drunk and tired to find the idea of a walk through the cold appealing, especially when loaded down with presents and wearing the wrong shoes. Lead the diehards to a more neutral location, such as a pub, before getting a call on your wife’s mobile that requires you to love and leave them.
From Tim Martin
Q. I have campaigned vociferously for Brexit. In my own world of pubs, Leavers prevail. However, my wife insists I attend Remain-dominated dinner parties over Christmas, where I am as popular as Jonny Bairstow in an Aussie team talk. How can I ingratiate myself with the bourgeoisie?
A. Subtly encourage the inevitable kangaroo court atmosphere so the rival males can let off steam and use you as a verbal punchbag, asserting their masculinity and showing off in front of their wives. You might initiate a dispute on one of the Leave campaign’s less sound assertions and concede points so they can be seen to have ‘won’. Let Christmas spirit prevail as you use your own unpopularity to boost the group’s self-esteem.
From Lord Archer
Q. Since my wife (also Mary) became chairman of the Science Museum, she is regularly invited to posh lunches and dinners, while I remain at home with her cat (Sunita), ordering takeaways. When I was finally invited out, to the opening of the Bloomberg HQ in the City, Mary was seated between the governor of the Bank of England and the Lord Mayor, while I was relegated to the far end of the table and asked if I was the husband of Dame Mary Archer. I feel lonely and rejected. How can I improve my situation?
A. Turn the nuisance to your advantage and found an elite social club for men in the same boat. These could include HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Philip May, Ned Rocknroll and Cdr Timothy Lawrence.
From Nell Hudson
Q. Often, when telling someone I’ve just met what it is that I ‘do’, their immediate response upon hearing that I’m an actor is to ask me if they ‘might have seen me in anything’. I’m then forced to go through my CV with them, while they frown and say: ‘No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that…’
A. Actors are often greeted with indulgent nods when they announce their profession to strangers. (Incidentally, it’s still considered gauche to pose this question as an opening gambit.) Why not state that you have a greater following in another country, the US for example, or even Albania? This will circumvent any annoying suppositions that you are unsuccessful or a fantasist, as your interlocutor will be unlikely to be able to prove it. Any other work you’ve done that they’ve heard of will be a pleasant bonus.
From Steve Allen
Q. Is it ever acceptable to invite someone from a reality show to spend Christmas with you, and if it is, what would be a good present to buy them?
A. It’s always acceptable to ask anyone, even a stranger, to spend Christmas with you. They don’t have to say yes. Ideally, you will have others present to dilute the weirdness. A surprising number of people — singletons, exiles, divorcees and dog-owners who don’t want to be separated from their pets — have, for various reasons, nowhere to go on Christmas Day and would welcome any invitation, let alone one from the insomniacs’ saviour and LBC’s most-loved presenter.
From John Kasmin
Q. I am exhibiting examples from my postcard collection in a show called ‘Dizygotica’ at Rupert Wace Ancient Art in St James’s. The idea is to juxtapose the ancient art with a postcard which echoes it in diverse, quirky, mysterious and thought-provoking ways. Now I hear a neighbour has been offended as I accidentally wrote to thank her for lunch on a postcard showing an ancient gorgon from the temple of Artemis in Corfu. Unfortunately there is a similarity between the gorgon and my friend — how can I make amends?
A. You must make a personal appearance on your old friend’s doorstep. Kisses speak louder than words and the gorgon is of the right age to regard being smothered by an affectionate abundance of them as reassurance rather than harassment.
From Ruth Davidson
Q. My mother often tells me that I look scruffy. What’s the appropriate dress for a leader of the Scottish Conservative Party?
A. Your mother should relax. Your own spontaneously evolved style speaks so eloquently of egolessness that it is of wide appeal to your fan base.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues