When I fell into PM’s arms
Chris Moncrieff shares some of his best memories from his many years as a political reporter.
- On how the late Labour MP Denzil Davies resigned from his shadow Defence Secretary post - by phoning me.
Davies was no fan of (Neil) Kinnock and ultimately became utterly frustrated with Kinnock’s leadership of the Labour Party. It culminated with Davies telephoning me at home in the middle of the night, announcing - to me rather than to Kinnock! - that he was resigning on the spot from the defence post, accusing Kinnock of running the Defence portfolio on the hoof, and taking decisions without even mentioning them to Davies.
Needless to say, Kinnock turned puce with rage when he woke up to hear the news.
- I remember once sneaking into an MPs-only lift in the House of Commons. It stopped at the next floor and in stepped Enoch Powell. He took a long, hard look at the “This lift is for the use of MPs only” sign and then took an equally long, hard look at me, and commented: “I must have missed the by-election”.
- Prime Minister John Major once saved my life. When I was running along the Great Wall of China to catch him up, I found myself galloping out of control and possibly about to hurtle to certain death off the wall.
But he adroitly fielded me. When later I phoned the news desk, who had by then seen a picture of this incident, the news editor said: “What on earth are you doing in the fond embrace of the Prime Minister?”
- I and a lot of other Fleet Street types were waiting in the Kremlin for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and John Major to meet. I spotted a plate of biscuits on a table we were standing behind. I thought “How generous” and passed them round to the other hacks, took some myself, and soon the plate was empty. When the large figure of Yeltsin arrived, he took one look at the empty plate and roared “Where are my biscuits?” I was too cowardly to own up, and some poor functionary was sent away to fetch some more. But as I cowered in the background, and Yeltsin glowered at us all, I knew he knew exactly what had happened...