Last week, I attended the memorial service for Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John-Stevas). Lord Lamont gave the address and Cardinal Cormack Murphy-O’Connor gave the tribute. Both recounted stories reflecting the wit of the flamboyant politician. Even on his death bed he retained his sense of humour. The Cardinal recorded that he was visited by a nun who, forgetting he was not a priest, said on leaving ‘Goodbye Father’, to which she received the response ‘Monsigner please’.
Norman Lamont in a superb speech recalled the story, variously re-told, of Norman St John Stevas rising to leave a Cabinet meeting, explaining he had to go and change in time for another event. ‘But Norman’, said Margaret Thatcher, ‘I’m going to the same event’ . ‘I know’, came the response, ‘but I take longer to dress than you do.’
After the service, one former Conservative MP saw me and was very keen to set the record straight. The exchange did take place, he said – he was present at the meeting – but it did not occur in Cabinet but rather in Shadow Cabinet. I have not yet had an opportunity to verify it with anyone else who was present, but I thought it worthwile putting it on the record.