By Andrew Leech (email@example.com)
These loans, at 6.5 per cent interest per annum, had been negotiated by Lord Levy, Tony Blair's personal fund-raiser, and it was hoped they would be converted into donations or allowed to run indefinitely. Now, however, there is concern among Labour MPs over how the party can repay the loans if the lenders insist on repayment, as latest Labour accounts available show the party had slumped from a £2.6 million surplus to a £2.8 million deficit, with overall outstanding debts of £23 million.
However, a Labour spokesman urged concerned MPs to stay calm and pointed out that emergency plans against such a contingency were already in motion. One, to be made official on the 1st of April (the first day of the 2006 government fiscal year) is to offer the Greek Government a swift return of the Parthenon Marbles (known as the Elgin Marbles in the UK) against an equivalent loan of £7m, at 6.5% repayable over a 20 year time frame. This “has already been unofficially communicated, with encouraging feedback,” Labour Members were told at a closed session on Sunday.
When polled, Ms Dora Bakoyianni, Greece’s dynamic Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out that “if such a proposal were to be officially made I am sure our country would do its best to accommodate it. I am looking forward to hearing from the British Ambassador, Mr Simon Gass.” She further intimated she hoped Aktor S.A., the company responsible for the building and running of the new state-of-the-art highway Attiki Odos, would consider the possibility of donating €0.25 per vehicle, in view of its recent extortionate 25% toll raise, towards such an endeavour an offer estimated to be worth around €50000 per month at current road usage. This, would not only fully reimburse the Greek Government, long-term, for the immediate loan made, but also generate more funds towards the construction costs of the Parthenon Museum.
BBQ at Buck House
Michael Rodent’s family has been associated with the Palace Ballroom - the largest state room at Buckingham Palace and only one fitted with twin thrones ever since its opening in1856 (to celebrate the end of the Crimean War) when the first Sir Michael received his peers commission to remodel the interior wainscoting. He took the opportunity, then, to build in some strategically placed spy holes which were later used by various British Governments for viewing certain notables invited by the House of Windsor. Indeed, they performed sterling service during the Kaiser’s visit in 1912 and, again, in 1935/6 when King Edward VIII was emotionally involved with Wallis Simpson, providing the information used by the Baldwin Government to request his abdication. However, they have fallen into disuse over the past few decades and Mr Rodent needed access to the original plans in his family’s vault to pinpoint their present locations.
At the east end of the grandly appointed room is a Musicians' Gallery where a military orchestra of the Scots Guards played a selection of music during the banquet. This provides one of the best views and was the viewing location of choice that Wednesday night when President Bush dined at the Palace.
“The president, in his rented tails, seated next to the queen, who was wearing a diamond tiara, was surrounded at a large U-shaped table by more than 60 people; each place set with seven glasses for wine and champagne. The banquet menu was consomme with sorrel, roast halibut with herbs, breast of chicken with basil, roast potatoes, Savoy cabbage and salad, followed by vanilla praline and coffee ice cream. Five wines, including vintage champagne, were also served,” read Rodent’s notebook, “but I fear Mr Bush enjoyed very little of it, as every time he raised a morsel to his mouth Her Majesty put down her fork!”
It would appear that while Mr Bush had been correctly coached on Palace etiquette: that everyone lowers their cutlery the instant the Queen does, he had not been given the necessary tips on how to make the best of his meal while the opportunity presented itself. Instead of heartily tucking in, he politely gave full answers to all questions cunningly and incessantly plied him by those familiar with royal banquets, which left little time for his own enjoyment of the food in the royally allotted span.
Rodent recalls: “A footman’s arm suddenly appeared and deftly whisked the president’s plate away. And as Mr Bush’s halibut solemnly made its exit totally untouched - his eyes, as mournful as those of the fish on his plate, followed it all the way to the door. And, when the same thing happened to the chicken and roast potatoes, tears started to glisten in his eyes. Adam’s apple bobbing frantically, his lips opened and closed in a spasmodic, yet noiseless, chant; while knuckles, still clenching the cutlery, whitened to the same shade as his cheeks . Fortunately, though, he’d managed a complete forkful of Savoy cabbage and three heaped spoonfuls of the chocolate ice-cream before they, too, wended their way to the kitchen in a footman’s hand.”
A later log-entry, taken from a viewing from the wainscot spyhole fitted in the Belgian Suite (where the Bushes were staying) gives us the following: “On Mr Bush’s return, he immediately rang the service-bell and asked for two large steak and mayonnaise sandwiches to be brought. Then he sat and added an entry to his daily diary: BBQ Bush Banquet with Queen. Wonderful ice-cream preceded by delicious but uneatable visions!”
(Posting date 21 June 2007)