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Comment: dinner party with MP left me tongue tied
I imagine several local taxi drivers could tell you they’ve had that MP David Gauke in the back of their cab, but I wonder how many of them can say, as I can, they once sat next to him at a party?
Mr Gauke’s children go to the same primary school my daughters attended and recently, my husband and I were invited to supper by mutual friends.
I’ve shaken hands with the odd politician (some were very odd) at work over the years but never actually met one socially and my heart sank when I found myself sitting next to none other than our MP.
I don’t mind admitting I inwardly panicked at the thought of making small talk at a party with someone who has the ear of both the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Because I know where Mr Gauke lives, how many children he has and what his wife does for a living, I could hardly rely on the usual openers of “and what do you do?” or “have you driven far?”, could I?
What could I say to an MP that he wouldn’t have heard 100 times before, or that wouldn’t make me look ridiculously naïve, tediously parochial or just downright ignorant?
Tell him that I’m a floating voter who has voted in the past for the best-looking male candidate, or for the female candidate, just because she was a woman?
Confess that during my flat-sharing days in London, when I moved every couple of years or so, sometimes I didn’t even know who my local MP was?
The answer was I wouldn’t think of anything remotely original or incisive to say and although Mr Gauke was a very entertaining dining companion, I can’t remember anything I said, which is a shame.
You see, when I bumped into Mr Gauke’s wife at the school gates the following week and apologised if I’d bored her husband, she gave a most unexpected reply.
She said she had overheard David on the phone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the previous evening and heard him say: “No, no George, these things do matter.
“We were at a party on Saturday and the woman next to me felt very strongly about it.”
Apparently, while I thought I was spouting platitudes about the state of the nation, I was in fact, being “work-shopped” and whatever I said, Mr Gauke felt the Chancellor should know about it.
But, if I have played even a small part in influencing Government economic policy, I cannot for the life of me remember what I said.
The only thing I do recall telling him was some quip about my days on a small community paper, where the big stories were always about death, dog dirt in the park or dangerous driving.
With Chorleywood Common in mind, and for want of something more intelligent to say (and possibly too much wine inside me), I asked the poor man if he received many dog poo letters. His reply, which he uttered without a moment’s hesitation, was brilliant.
“Actually, most people use ink.” Who says politicians can’t relate to ordinary folk?
We women often moan about male arrogance, but machismo proved to be a lifesaver last week when Watford resident Dennis McCarthy defied the “road closed” signs where Chorleywood’s Green Street meets the A404 and decided to brave Green Street’s seemingly permanent flooding and drive into the town centre.
Just as well; there in the infamous dip in the road, he found 87-year-old Joyce Simpson, whose car had conked out in the puddle, sitting chest-high in cold, dirty water after falling when trying to get out of her car.
“It was my male bravado to break the barrier down, but if I hadn’t, she would have stayed there, possibly all night,” Mr McCarthy told me.
Mrs Simpson, who was on an errand for Chorleywood Care at the time, tells me her car is a write-off, but is philosophical.
“These things happen,” she says.
Not if the powers-that-be mend the roads, tend to roadside ditches and install effective drains, they don’t.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I am on the committee of the newly-formed CAIRS (Chorleywood Action for Improved Road Safety), which has the parlous state of Green Street and the A404 in its sights, as part of a campaign to ensure pupils’ safe passage to St Clement Danes School.
I’m appealing to you here in print, rather than over dinner, Mr Gauke.
Perhaps, once again, you could pass what I say onto the right person?