Conspiracy theory as political big guns take French leave

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 July, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 July, 1995, 12:00am

GASP for breath those who accuse Mr Patten of staying too close to his old chums at Westminster.

This year he is holidaying in France just a few kilometres away from Mr Major.

The Prime Minister and his wife, Norma, have taken a villa in the Dordogne in southwest France, for years a hideaway of the genteel English middle classes.

Mr Patten will be little more than a stroll away in the valley of the Lot, where, looking over wooded limestone valleys, he will easily be able to take his mind off pressing matters at Government House.

Add the fact that one of the Governor's senior aides is renting a villa just a few kilometres away in St-Cyprien and there is enough to keep even the most cynical of conspiracy theorists happy.

What can they be discussing? What's more, Home Secretary Michael Howard will be nearby, as will Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke's officials will not say where he is heading, but it is believed to be France.

Labour leader Tony Blair will be found in Gascony, an hour's drive to the south, dreaming up more ways to steal the centre ground.

Mr Patten could easily drive down for a lunch of pate de foie gras, a glass of kir and a lively chat on the handover.

Other senior players in the shadow Cabinet are said to be dotted around the area.

But Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is being kept at a suitable distance in his cottage in Burgundy.

In the past, the Pattens have been advocates of Tuscany, where the English go to chat to each other and ignore the local Italians.