‘Paul Johnson has killed Gordon Brown.’ This news was brought recently to Tessa Jowell, Anji Hunter, Margaret Jay and other Labour luminaries gathered in the Sabine hills near Rome. Shocked, they reached for their BlackBerries to find out more and make arrangements to fly home. Luckily, matters were quickly explained. After Mr Brown’s failure to call an election last October, Carla Powell, host of the above, named her pet rabbit after him. She possesses eight dogs, including a large, amiable stray called Tony Blair. Tony Blair never dared molest Gordon Brown. But six of Carla’s dogs are dachshunds, and the fiercest she named Paul Johnson, after this magazine’s distinguished columnist. Paul Johnson chose what Carla called ‘my pinkoes’ weekend’ to murder Gordon Brown the rabbit. And he has picked this weekend, when we and other non-pinkoes are staying, to exhume him. Poor rabbit, to be libelled by his name. His situation reminds me of a time when I asked a loader out shooting what it had been like to work for a certain landowner in Scotland. ‘Well,’ said the loader, ‘I would call him a pig, but that would be an insult to those noble creatures.’
Carla is (very) Italian, but is married to Charles, famous favourite former private secretary of Margaret Thatcher and brother to Jonathan, who did a similar service, as chief of staff, for the real Tony Blair. She has created an astonishing villa, looking out on one the ancient signal towers which used to guard the approach to the city. She claims that the tower features in a picture in the Vatican gallery, with the Sabine women being raped in the foreground. Spectator readers may remember that she wrote about the construction of her house in this magazine. Her way of living with her husband, she said, is like her vision of the European Union — co-operation, but not integration.