Wednesday, May 13, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: David Penhaligon second home scandal breaks!

....I shared an office with David Penhaligon...David was a remarkable man from whom I learned a very great deal. He loved to hide behind the bluff exterior of a simple Cornishman. But behind this facade was a most acute mind, butressed by a real genius for speaking in a way which made even complex issues understandable to ordinary people. He was a natural comic, with superb timing, as well as a very decent man and a most generous colleague who went out of his way to help me through my first year in Parliament. One thing he was not, however, was organised. Another thing he was not was tidy. And the third thing he was not, was an early riser. None of these drawbacks would have been too serious for someone sharing an office with him, but for the fact that David did not just work in his (our) office: he also slept there - usually until around eleven in the morning. It seemed, moreover, that he only had two shirts (drip dry), one pair of underpants and one pair of socks, which he would wash nightly and hang out on the office radiator to dry. This presumably had not mattered with Bill Pitt (the previous co-occupant), since he too, was a late riser. But I am an early riser and am invariably at my desk by eight at the latest and holding my first meetings shortly afterwards. Not that this disturbed David's sleep patters in the slightest (he would, I am sure, have been quite capable of sleeping through a full-scale bombing raid).

It did disturb me, thought, for I was acting as Liberal Parliamentary spokesman on Trade and Industry....and in this capacity had regular morning meetings with bankers and industrialists who wanted to be helpful. What these captains of British industry thought of meetings conducted to the accompaniment of David's stertorous snores and underpants hung in festoons around us, they were far too polite to say. I soon learned from bitter experience to avoid fixing meetings before 11.30. Before this, David could at any moment emerge, bleary-eyed, stubble chinned and usually naked, but for a very skimpy towel round his midriff, and thread his way wordlessly through the assembly on my side of the office, heading for the adjacent Gents lavatory and his morning ablutions.

Paddy Ashdown - A Fortunate Life.

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