harry diamond's memoir


can you get me into the papersThree people dominated the affairs of Glasgow City Council during my years there, Dick Dynes, Jean McFadden, and Pat Lally, and they all had a hearty dislike of each other, which did nothing for the harmony and unity of the Labour group or its image among the citizenry. All were Leaders of the council, able, strong-minded people who enjoyed their power. All gave long hours to their work and did it in their own individual way. .

I had my differences with them from time to time but our disagreements were never very serious. Disagreements is perhaps not the right word. I never disagreed with anything they said. I just stood quietly and let them rebuke me for some imagined transgression or omission on my part. Dynes had a tendency to rant, but didn't take long to cool down. McFadden could be irritatingly querulous, and Lally was quiet-spoken but deadly serious.

It's not a good idea for an official to argue with a council leader because there is no way the official can win. On the whole, though, I have little complaint. Most of the time they were approachable and helpful in whatever I wanted to do, if it coincided with their interests.

It's not a good idea either for an official to be too friendly with any elected member, the convener or a member of the committee which dictates the policy of the official's department, because it is inevitable that some time or other a councillor will attack the official when it suits his or her purpose. The elected member will never take the blame for anything that goes wrong. It's an interesting fact that when a politician scores a success of any kind he invests himself (or herself) with astuteness, charm, intellect and political skill, but if the project or whatever doesn't go too well his officials who advised him are all fools and knaves.

Dick Dynes and Pat Lally lost their seats in an election in 1977, undoubtedly because of internal and public disenchantment with their frequent squabbles. Dynes disappeared without trace, which was a disappointment to many people, including myself. He could enliven any debate and was a formidable opponent. He could dish it out and take it, too, but to be rejected by the electorate was apparently just too much for him. He came into my office to say hello a few weeks after his defeat in 1977 and never set foot in the City Chambers again. He died of a heart attack in October 1994.

Lally worked quietly and persistently in the political backwoods and made a come-back to the council in 1980. Six years later he took the leadership from his arch-rival Jean McFadden. She got it back in 1992 and lost it again to Lally in 1994. The reform of local government again in 1995 created an interesting situation when Mrs McFadden, a resilient and persistent lady, was elected Convener of the new City of Glasgow Council, narrowly beating Lally for the post and putting Jean in the running for the post of Lord Provost when the new council took over the running of the city on April 1, 1996.

Jean's elevation to the post was by no means automatic as was proved by a meeting of the Labour group on March 18 when Pat won the post of first citizen by 52 votes to 25 over Jean, which convincingly confirms the old saying You can't tell the result of an election until the votes are counted.

Mrs McFadden did, however, retain the post of convener (or chairman) of the Labour group which was tradionallly held by the Leader of the Council but the perceived wisdom now is that the convener of the group should be impartial like the Speaker of the House of Commons. My only comment on that is Aye, that'll be right.

The Leader of the new City of Glasgow Council is Bob Gould, who was Leader of Strathclyde Regional Council, which disappeared on March 31. The new city council has 83 members, 41 of whom were also members of the old city council, 21 from Strathclyde Regional Council, and 21 new councillors. Confused? Don't be discouraged. Most of the electors of Glasgow have been confused since the reorganisation of local government two decades ago despite heroic attempts to education them. The political make-up of the new council is Labour 77, Conservative 3, Liberal-Democrat 1, Militant Labour 1, Scottish National Party 1..

It is difficult to say whether Dynes, McFadden or Lally made the greatest contribution to the affairs of the city because in the end it's really only a matter of opinion. I daresay each of their followers would be able to list many achievements, real or imagined.

Pat Lally had the highest public profile when I retired in 1991. He led the council during garden festival year, culture year, the bid for the title of City of Architecture and Design 1999, and is credited with ensuring that the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was built before the end of culture year in 1990. As the Lord Provost Pat will now have a further opportunity to make an impact on the life of the city.

McFadden was the intellectual one of the trio, a one-time teacher of Latin and Greek who later studied in whatever little spare time she had as an active politician, graduated in law with honours and became a lecturer at Strathclyde University. Lally was a product of Gorbals and formally unschooled but an intelligent man and a skilled politician.

Unlike many other councillors McFadden never wanted to be a member of Parliament because a council Leader, or even an influential committee convener, can do more for his or her constituents than an ordinary back bench M.P., whose primary function, even if they don't always fulfil it, is to vote the right way with the rest of the party.

Perhaps an even more important consideration prevented McFadden from going to Westminister; the fact that her husband John suffered from kidney failure for a number of years and wasn't able to move far from their home and hospital.

People often ask me is who was the best Lord Provost in my time, a question I find difficult to answer. Best at what? Creating a friendly image of the city? Attracting investment? Generating innovative ideas? Inspiring respect for the city?

Six of them reigned during my 18 years with the local authority. They are elected from among the ranks of the majority party after a municipal election. Understandably there is keen competition for the job as the holder has one of the best jobs in Britain for four years, entertaining visitors of every rank of society from Britain and overseas, travelling extensively abroad, being indulged by an army of councillors and officials, and being treated with respect by the world at large.

The Lord Provost also holds the title of Lord Lieutenant and as such is the reigning monarch's representative in the city with the pleasant task of welcoming members of the royal family to the city.

"He must be a clever man to be made Lord Provost" is a comment I've heard from time to time, an uninformed judgment if ever I heard one. People are made the city's first citizen for a multipliciy of reasons; some to prevent others from getting the job, some to get them out of the political mainstream because they were a nuisance, and some because they were harmless and wouldn't offend anyone. Now and again someone is elected because he or she has personality or real ability but that doesn't happen all that often.

More often than not three or four candidates put themselves up for election. If anyone gets 51% of the votes at the first ballot he/she is home and dry. If not the person with the least number of votes drops out and his supporters give their votes in the next ballot to someone else. Eventually the person with the most votes is elected. . One of his tasks is to chair meetings of the full council, which must be one of the most soporific occupations known to man, judging by the standard of most debates.

The post of Lord Provost is a ceremonial one and although they have considerable influence they have no real power. The influence comes from the fact that people respect the office and pay deference to the occupier because he or she is the city's first citizen. A Lord Provost cannot order anyone but council lower ranks to do anything. He can complain to the leader of the council about someone who would then be told off but that's about all, unless of course it was something really serious.

One Lord Provost repeatedly complained about me to the leader of the council, but as it was well-known that this particular Lord Provost seemed to have an unreasoned hatred of me no-one took any notice of his complaints.

The Lord Provost is a member of all its committees but rarely goes to any of them. It is true that a particularly determined and imaginative Lord Provost can sway people to his or her way of thinking, but the real power in a local authority lies with the Leader of the Council, who presides over the Policy and Resources Committee, and conveners of committees such as Finance, Housing, Planning, Economic Development, Education and Social Work. .

All the Lord Provosts I knew contributed what they could, some more than others. I am no great respecter of persons because he or she holds an important job. To me it depends on how they do that job and their attitude to the people around them that earns respect.

All Lord Provosts complain about the burden of office but they don't like to leave it behind just the same. Herald columnist Brian Meek declared in January 1988, "you would be crazy ever to give up the job of Lord Provost willingly." He quoted an unnamed first citizen's secretary as saying, "I can show you the marks on the wall where they dug in their nails on the last day." This could only have come from Eric Hamilton, who served a considerable number of Glasgow's Lord Provosts with consummate skill and humour until his tragically early death from a heart attack. .

Meek was commenting on a rumour that one Lord Provost of Glasgow, Robert Gray, had let it be known that he would not be averse to serving a second consecutive term., something that no first citizen has ever done because the job is too popular and a lot of other people want it, too. A hundred years ago another Lord Provost wanted a second term but he didn't get it either. Meek described Gray as "a gentle and humorous soul." Maybe it was Bob's sense of humour which prompted him to say to me the day he was elected Lord Provost, "Right, Harry, from now on I want the credit for everything and the blame for nothing."

My attitude to Lord Provosts was entirely influenced by how they co-operated with me as the city's propagandist and what they did for the city. The man who drives the Lord Provost around the city and who has to wait hours outside while the first citizen enjoys an elegant and expensive dinner, or the council officer who has to be obedient and respectful to a Lord Provost who is lording it for the benefit of an important visitor, may have a different opinion from me.

Some Lord Provosts made more demands on my office than others although all of them asked us to prepare background notes or public speeches for them. One or two of them used to phone me every time they had someone of importance in their office and ask me to come down and take their photograph together. It wasn't my job to take photographs but it wasn't possible for me to commission a photographer every time we wanted a picture so my staff and I often took them ourselves.

I carefully posed the Lord Provost and his guest and flashed off my camera several times and everyone was happy. More often than not there was no film in the camera because neither the Lord Provost nor his guest ever asked for a copy of the photograph.

Most Lord Provosts were appreciative of my efforts, even if they didn't embrace me fondly after a successful project. Sir William Gray, a lawyer, lent dignity and authority to the post and worked very hard to attract Civil Service departments and jobs to the city in the early 1970s. Bob Gray was amiable enough but tended towards the pompous, Susan Baird was friendly, photogenic and good-humoured, most of the time anyway, and popular with everyone with whom she came in contact. I was particularly impressed with her performance when I accompanied her and her husband George to Israel in 1990.

I had been trying for years to get the Israeli government to invite a Lord Provost because there were many in the Labour group who had no liking for Israel, even if they didn't know anything about it, and others who were active in the West of Scotland Friends of Palestine, a body whose anti-Israel propaganda was consistently distorted and destructive.

Eventually an invitation came from the Israel Labour Party, with which it was felt the city council could identify more easily than with a government that was 'subjugating the dispossessed Palestinians.' There weren't any Jews in Susan's ward and I doubt if she had much to do with them in her working or political life. Susan and her husband George and I flew to Israel in June 1990 and in the seven days she was away from the City Chambers she did a round air trip of almost 6000 miles, travelled more than 700 miles within Israel in a minibus, cars and taxis, met mayors, generals, diplomats, Arabs, Glaswegians, doctors, Russian immigrants and a whole lot of other people - and won the respect of all of them.

I don't know how much Susan managed to persuade her political colleagues that the Israelis were not the oppressors they imagined but at least she gained a greater understanding of the country's many problems.

Michael Kelly was educated and manipulative, a formidable combination. He was also very lucky that certain things happened during his term of office that enabled him to show how clever he was. On his last day in office he sent me a note say, "I'll get out of your hair now!", which was his way of acknowledging that he had made good use of my office and its staff for four years.

Although he didn't devise the miles better campaign he certainly knew how to use it. Holding a 'miles better' umbrella over the Queen during one of her visits to Glasgow was an inspired piece of showmanship. He was also politically astute.

The ill-fated marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981 put Michael in a quandary. The City of Glasgow had to give the royal couple a wedding gift but the ruling Labour group of Glasgow City Council, who had elected Michael to the office of Lord Provost, didn't approve of giving royalty expensive gifts, especially in times of recession when the city needed all the money it could get.

"We had to give the couple a gift worthy of them, which reflected well on the city, and which didn't anger the Labour group and get the city a lot of bad publicity." he told me later. "They would have gone mad if I had suggested giving them something like a silver tea service costing hundreds of pounds."

Benevolent forces were obviously on Michael's side. Not long before, a Glasgow general medical practitioner, Anne Gilmore, a lady of vision and single-mindedness, had come to him to ask him what help he could give her to set up the New Glasgow Hospice in the city. Michael said he would think about it.

Then he had a brainwave. He phoned the Queen's private secretary at Buckingham Palace and asked if a hospice named after the Prince and Princess of Wales would be acceptable as a wedding gift from the city. Royal approval quickly followed and Michael phoned Anne Gilmore, who could hardly reject the idea. The day in August 1981 my story of the gift appeared in Britain's news media, a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman was quoted as saying, "It is a marvellous present. The Prince and Princess of Wales approve enormously that the money is going to such a good cause."

. A Glasgow Herald leader said, An impressive array of royal wedding presents is now on display in London but there could be no more significant gift than yesterday's announcement that Glasgow's contribution will be a hospice for the terminally ill to be opened in the city within the next two years. The plan meets the criteria for the perfect royal gift in times like these: it gracefully honours the royal couple in a way that is also eminently useful to the community.

Michael Kelly was appointed president of the hospice trust and for the next few years I wrote stories for the news media about every development in the project. Help for the new hospice came from all directions, including of course the district council whose City Estates Surveyor, Remo Verrico, drew up a list of 23 properties which the hospice might convert to its use. Eventually the council gave the hospice three adjoining properties in Carlton Place, on the south bank of the river Clyde, which had been unused for years. They were originally elegant terraced houses owned by industrialists in the last century when Glasgow was one of the world's great industrial and maritime cities. They later became offices and then fell into disuse.

Funds were urgently needed to convert the Carlton Place houses and in December 1983 I went to Sir Hugh Fraser, who had inherited the Fraser store group from his father and was a trustee of the Fraser Foundation, and asked him if he could help the hospice. He picked up the phone and phoned his friend David Walton, chairman of Scottish Metropolitan Properties and a founder trustee of the Isadore and David Walton Charitable Trust.

"Harry Diamond is in my office looking for money for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice," Fraser said. "I'll give £50,000 if you give the same!"

"It's a deal," said David Walton.

I vividly recall that day worrying about the gas bill in my pocket.

Money continued to come in from emigre Scots in Europe and America who had read about the hospice. One gift of $500 came from the Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York to whom I had written. The offical handover of the hospice to the royal couple did not take place until a visit to the city in May 1990.

Since the hospice, which now occupies four buildings in Carlton Place, was opened it has cared for more 2,500 patients, and given support to their families. At the time of writing the hospice costs £1.4 million a year to run and has 22 beds, but only 14 are occupied because of a shortage of funds.

The day Michael Kelly demitted office a laudatory leader in the Glasgow Herald said, he willingly admits to being the beneficiary of luck and sound support from his public relations advisers in the City Chambers. Other Lord Provosts had the same support but would rather go to the stake than admit it.

An outsider could be forgiven for believing that anything I did to attract favourable publicity to the city would be applauded by all my political masters. After all, officials and politicians were all put there for the specific purpose of doing everything we could for the people who lived and worked in Glasgow.

The truth is a little different. Over the years I suffered periodic verbal muggings from politicians of all parties, but on balance I think the Tories were more critical than the Labour members. although I think they were a decent bunch really. The reason was simple enough. The city was ruled for 16 of my 18 years by a Labour administration and the projects I devised tended to reflect credit on the ruling party.

The Tories soft-pedalled a little when they took the administration after an election in l977 although they won only 25 seats. The Labour group won 30 seats but they declined the administration because the Scottish Nationalists took 16 seats and Liberals 1, which meant that the Labour group weren't likely to be able to implement their policies if the others ganged up on them, which was very likely .

The Tories hadn't had power in the city for years so they thought it was time for them to have a go. As it turned out no-one could really do anything with the Scottish Nationalists holding the balance of power. No-one knew what their policy was, except perhaps to sabotage anything that anyone else wanted to do. Through a series of wins at by-elections the Labour group took power again in 1979.

The Tories used to taunt me by telling me, "When we get back into power again you're the first one to go." After the 1977 elections the Tory group leader, John Young, came into my office smiling broadly. "Right, John, I'm just clearing out my desk!" I said, to which John responded, "Oh, don't worry Harry. You're not going anywhere. We want you to do the same job for us that you did for the other lot! I was only joking anyway." Joking or not you can't get rid of senior officers quite as easily as that.

The previous year when Bruce Millan, Secretary of State for Scotland, asked the council to make a massive cut in its spending, one of the council's money-saving options suggested by my friend Bill English, director of finance, was the abolition of the Public Relations department, a suggestion that was enthusiastically supported by John Young who told the newspapers, "We've never found out what this department is supposed to be doing." What he really meant was that his group didn't approve of what we were doing because it made the Labour administration look good.

More often than not the Tories' criticism backfired because they sounded like a miserable, unimaginative lot. Actually I thought they weren't such a bad bunch although they could sometimes be astonishingly petty.

Not long before I retired John Young complained that I had sat at his place in the council dining room. Bob Gray, chairman of the General Purposes Committee, under whose jurisdiction the dining room operated, came into my office one day to tell me about John's complaint. I have to admit he looked very sheepish about it and apologised for having to complain about such a triviality. John himself looked rather sheepish when I tackled him about it later.

Early in the life of the city council I had the idea of having ties carrying the city's coat of arms made for councillors and chief officials. Men's outfitters in the city wanted to sell them but I told them the council held the copyright on the design and wouldn't allow anyone else to use it although I doubt if the council would have taken action against anyone who decided to do it anyway.

The ties came in three colours, blue, maroon and brown. In 1977 when John Young was leader of a short-lived Tory administration he and other Tories and some Scottish National Party members complained that the maroon ties looked very like the Labour Party's red tie. I shrugged off the complaint and then the lady members complained that they hadn't got anything so I produced scarves for them, in maroon.

The Glasgow Evening Times reported one day, Robert Brown, M.P., Minister for the Army, boarded a train in Edinburgh at the week-end for his constituency in the West Division of Newcastle proudly wearing an elegant maroon tie bearing Glasgow's Coat of Arms.

He got it from that irrepressible propagandist on behalf of Glasgow, Harry Diamond, the city's chief of public relations, at the launch of a publicity campaign for the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve.

In front of a delighted throng of Army hierarchy in Scotland and Ministry of Defence officials Harry persuaded the Minister to swop ties.

The story didn't say I gave Brown a beautiful new tie and his Ministry of Defence tie looked like it had been through the battle of Waterloo. I put it in a litter bin.

Councillors thought up the most bizarre reasons for needing another tie, the dog chewed it up, the baby vomited on it, I lost it, I sent it to my brother in Canada, I want to give one to an important business contact. One committee convener went as far as to say, "I think you should give me another tie, Harry. You may want something from my committee one day!"

John Young once accused me of helping the Labour group to dream up anti-government stunts. One alleged suggestion of mine was a papier mache effigy of Mr George Younger, Secretary of State for Scotland, with an axe in his head. A fake funeral procession to the City Chambers, with the Secretary of State as the central figure, was something else I was supposed to have suggested. What the point of all this was supposed to be, I don't know.

Once I persuaded John to speak at a seminar on public relations and he told his audience, quite rightly, that there were not nearly enough people in local government qualified to cater for the information needs of Scotland's 3,837,000 electors. This was generous of John as judging by their votes not many of them were interested in the part the Tories played in local government in Scotland.

When I told him in 1994 that I was writing my autobiography and intended to tell of some of our encounters he laughed delightedly. Next day he sent me a membership form for Cathcart Conservative Association. When I declined to join he followed up with an invitation to a dinner at which the guest speaker was Mr Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence. I told Alastair Mackenzie, chairman of the Cathcart Tories, that I had spent much of my working life listening to politicians making speeches and much as I was an admirer of Mr Rifkind I did not intend to pay £20 of my meagre pension to hear him tell his followers what a great job they were all doing.

John Young didn't think they were all doing a great job. Several times during the year he had voiced his concern over certain Party policies and the attempt to imposed a 17½% rate of Value Added Tax on domestic fuel was the last straw. John declared he would be standing in the 1995 municipal election as a Cathcart Conservative. He would still be a member of the Conservative Party but would take an "independent stance." Bill Aitken decided to take a similar independent stance as a Kelvindale Conservative. Not that their declaration of independence was such a dramatic move as neither of them had any national ambitions and were not likely to be ousted by any official Tory candidates standing against them.

One Tory leader in the City Chambers did have a genuine complaint against me although to his credit he treated my seeming transgression as a great joke. Iain Dyer, a law lecturer, came into the City Chambers one morning to find that overnight he had become a member of the Labour group. An inattentive typesetter had typed Labour under his picture in a brochure I had produced about the council's services. The brochure was hurriedly reprinted.

Local authorities are not popular institutions and councillors are not held in high esteem by the public they serve; a rather blinding flash of the obvious. Some of them ask for the criticism poured on them, but I really don't think they are all that much worse than any other group of fallible humans.

There are myriad answers to the question what motivates people to go into politics. It is not always the craving for power because most of them never achieve any although it is true that people of very modest achievement and intellect can chair committees which dictate the policies of departments with budgets of millions of pounds.

Politics is such an absorbing activity, like bridge or golf or football, and there is always something to talk about, someone to criticise, someone to sneer at. Almost anyone can participate in politics. For most politicians, local or national, the only qualification required is the ability to talk at great length without really saying very much that has not already been said a hundred times before. And if one talks long enough. loudly enough, or outrageously enough one can get on radio or television and become a media personality.

Councillors are drawn from various levels of society. Some of mine were conscientious and honest, some devious, some ineffectual, some witless, some unemployed, and some of doubtful value to any employer. They really weren't all that different from people in other professions and disciplines with the difference that everything they did was done in the harsh glare of public scrutiny. No-one can appear selfless, pure, and unsullied in the constant light of flashbulbs and microphones thrust in their faces.

Inevitably we had nicknames in the best Damon Runyon tradition for many of the elected members. Some of the more memorable were the Six Dollar Man (a play on the television series The Six Million Dollar Man) Crazy Horse, The Budgie, Yogi Bear, Miss Piggy, and Lazarus. One councillor whose favourite reading matter was 'pull ring to open' was known as The Tank and a large lady councillor was known as Queen Kong.

Some councillors made life difficult for me in the City Chambers. There were a number of ways this could be done, some subtle and some quite boorish. Some would criticise almost everything I tried to do and others would be continually sarcastic.

Sometimes they would ask questions at a committee meeting which could only be answered in such a way as to imply that the councillor was half-witted to ask the question. Now and again I would get my own back by giving a councillor who was not overburdened with brains a letter from one of his or her constituents containing a complaint of some kind. I would tell him, "I've told the writer I have given his complaint to his local councillor. I think you should sort this one out; it wouldn't look at all good in the newspapers."

Some councillors and the officials whose departments they oversee have a good working relationship. Others don't. Councillors have a tendency to want to show their authority, especially if they are nonentities outside the town hall as so many of them are.

Often there seems to be a love-hate relationship between councillors and officials. I think this is because elected members have to appoint officials to jobs paying a lot more than the politicians can ever aspire to and this makes them jealous so as soon as they appoint a well-paid official they immediately try to make him look incompetent. The politician will of course plead that he or she is merely making sure the council gets value for the taxpayers' money but I don't see it that way.

Just after my retirement was announced I was approached by a newspaper and offered quite a lot of money (well, it was to me anyway) to "lift the lid off the City Chambers." I turned down the offer, not because I am such a noble-minded fellow but because the "inside stories" hardly compared with Watergate or Camillagate; more like Gardengate..

They were so trivial and tawdry they weren't worth writing about, Besides, I had always considered it an honour to be allowed to work for the city and I didn't feel any compulsion to bite the hand that had fed me and my family for so long. Working for Glasgow was exciting, challenging, rewarding, nerve-wracking, and frustrating, and I enjoyed it all.

There were, however, some things that worried me all through the years. There were councillors and officials who did not always seem to be conscious of the fact that every single person in the authority, from the Lord Provost and Leader of the Council, and the Town Clerk to the labourer in the parks department, were there for only one purpose, to serve the needs of the people of Glasgow, not to provide them with safe seats or comfortable jobs. From time to time I found it necessary to remind people of this fact, especially petty bureacurats behind counters who treated members of the public as if they were a nuisance.

Another thing that worried me was the enormous number of Glaswegians who had difficulty in communicating with their fellow human beings, especially anyone in authority however minor. Many times I found members of the public wandering about the corridors of power looking for an office. Some of them didn't even know what office they were looking for. They clutched letters they didn't understand, not always because the letters were unintelligible but because their powers of comprehension were undeveloped, and were desperately seeking someone who could solve whatever problems they had.

Occasionally I had to spend some time in poorer areas of the city where I met people whose articulation and use of language was so bad I could not understand anything they said. I had to ask them time and time again to repeat what they had said and they always answered in mumbles with eyes cast down as if afraid to look anyone in the eye. They were unable to communicate with anyone outside their tight little circle. The outside world was somewhere to be feared. This worried me because they were unable to articulate their needs, aspirations, fears, and problems. This inability to communicate made it difficult, of not impossible, for them to defend themselves against large bureaucracies like the local authority, big companies, public utilities, or any other organised institutions who visited indignities or injustices upon them.

Once upon a time we in Scotland were able to boast about the superiority of our educational system. It would be difficult to persuade me of it's superiority now. Unfortunately I can only articulate the problem; I do not know the solution, although I do think discussions on education are made at too lofty a level, prone to intellectual debate rather than the practicalities of the classroom.

One night at a dinner given to a very influential group of business men in the very elegant Satinwood room of the City Chambers one of the guests engaged me in polite conversation over the brandy and cigars.

He asked me what I did and when I made the mistake of telling him he asked me a lot of questions which I answered with considerable and uncharacteristic patience....spanning in 15 tortuous minutes a career of 50 years in journalism and public relations.

Eventually my inquisitor leaned across the table and asked in a voice dripping with sincerity and the thirst for knowledge, "Tell me, is it possible for someone like you to work yourself up to be a councillor?"

When I told some of my political masters they said, "You should have told him it would take you 20 years to work yourself DOWN to be a councillor!"