Tuesday, 2 March 1999

Minister congratuales England

Matthew Parris,


Which is why Gwyneth Dunwoody (Lab, Crewe and Nantwich) comes as such a relief. The veteran "old" Labour rightwinger arrived yesterday arrayed in a new garment. A vast purple wrap, hundreds of square yards of it, covered this substantial lady. She described the "enormous opportunities" presented by the Millennium Dome: "a great public space," she said. Ah, Gwyneth, how true: but not our greatest public space! It lends a whole new meaning to the right to roam.

And a new fascination to the concept of women's rugby, heavily plugged yesterday by the Sports Minister Tony Banks.

For Monday mornings, Mr Banks chooses a wicked little black suit, three-piece, which he wears with a puckered face and sourly deadpan expression. Apropos of nothing much, Mr Banks offered his congratulations "to the England women's rugby team, on their victory over Scotland". Mr Banks's felicitations will raise a cheer in the ladies' shower room.

"I was there," he declared grimly. "And it was in fact very, very enjoyable rugby and I'd encourage people to go to women's rugby." Sadly, Mrs Dunwoody looked unconvinced.


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