Enough, Lord Cormack!

Patrick Cormack
The noble lord in mid-oration

Peers have been told to keep their speeches shorter. As Labour’s Lord Kennedy of Southwark put it, there are too many “waffly speeches, waffly questions and waffly answers”. So there was a startled “oh!” in the Upper House when Tory peer Lord Cormack – a noted historian – rose to his feet to “welcome the comments about the length of speeches”. Some peers consider Lord Cormack to be among the most prolix of their lordships, but he was not having any of it. “I speak often, but not at length,” he said. If you say so, my Lord.

Mary’s marriage tips

Dame Mary Berry has offered her tips for a long and happy marriage in the Bath Chronicle (she has been married to Paul Hunnings for 57 years). “We don’t have arguments. I just go into the garden or the greenhouse if he’s annoying me,” she says. Can Peterborough readers offer any other tips?

Penny’s DC jibe

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt was on sparkling form at the Adam Smith Institute’s Christmas party this week. “I am just going to give a quick plug for the House of Commons gift shop for things that we have on special offer,” she told guests. “We do have some lovely discounted Advent calendars. We have a HS2 calendar – but I don’t recommend it as it is very overpriced and there is not enough chocolate to get you to the second week of Advent.”

There is a Labour Autumn Statement Advent calendar, she said, which “looks fabulous but there are no numbers”. And then she delivered the coup de grace: “My favourite and my recommendation to you is a creative collaboration by all Old Etonians in Parliament. It looks like an ordinary Advent calendar but all the doors have been opened for you by your dads.” What would David Cameron say?

Val’s cider

Scottish crime writer and Nicola Sturgeon pal Val McDermid has been pondering her early years as a journalist at the Plymouth and South Devon Times: “I’d take home £96 a month, £60 of which would go on rent,” she says. “It didn’t leave a lot – although with a gallon of cider costing just a pound, we survived.” That’s the spirit, Val!

No cigar, Winston

Frasier star Kelsey Grammer sadly could not join me, ex-rugby player Lawrence Dallaglio, Italian siren Nancy Dell’Olio, lyricist Sir Tim Rice, as well as boxer David Haye and artist Adam Dant at this year’s uproarious Cigar Smoker of the Year awards at Boisdale restaurant in Canary Wharf. The highlight was when Randolph Leonard Spencer-Churchill, Winston Spencer Churchill’s great-grandson, stepped up to announce “cigar producer of the year”. He greeted an extremely convincing Winston Churchill lookalike as “great Granddad”, to gales of laughter, as long-haired bon viveur Boisdale owner Ranald Macdonald (in a pink dinner jacket) held court over proceedings. It was that sort of evening.

Wrong Paddington

Poor ex-Radio 4 News Quiz host Miles Jupp, 44, says he gets recognised for a film he wasn’t even in. “People say ‘Oh, Paddington, that must have been fun’,” the well-spoken actor grumbles. “I’m not in Paddington. Presumably Hugh Grant? The bear? Well I’m sort of Bonneville-lite, aren’t I?”Personally, I remember Jupp from his best work – as Archie, the Inventor, in the BBC’s Scottish children’s programme Balamory.

Sophie’s security risk

Former fashion model Sophie Dahl has been discussing The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford, one of the books which she says changed her life: “I spent a weekend reading this when I was 16 or 17. Linda was the most romantic heroine, and I too longed for a louche ‘Fabrice’ type. I once sat on a case at the Gare du Nord hoping I might find one. But a guard told me I was on the wrong platform and a security risk. So that was the end of that.” Truly, the city of love.

Dirty beasts

Margaret Thatcher made headlines in 1988 when she launched the Tidy Britain campaign after becoming appalled by roadside litter on a drive through the Home Counties. Decades later, not much has changed. TV presenter Eamonn Holmes this week described a three-hour car journey on GB News with his co-presenter Isabel Webster. Holmes complained: “I said, ‘look out your window now’, who dumps litter out of their windows? It really annoys me. Sandwiches, cartons, milk bottles, whatever. We just have to accept that people are very dirty. They’re dirty beasts. There’s a lot of dirtiness out there.” Maggie would agree.

Peterborough, published every Friday at 7pm, is edited by Christopher Hope. You can reach him at

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