Scots wha hae seen top Tory put to the knife

HIS Government famously championed the short, sharp shock, but Kenneth Baker never expected he would be on the receiving end of one.

Lord Baker, one of Margaret Thatcher's most prominent cabinet ministers, suffered the indignity of having a knife pressed against his throat during a Burns Supper.

Ex-miner turned award-winning poet Rab Wilson decided to administer some summary "poetic justice" when he discovered the top Tory, whom he blamed for throwing him out of work in the 1980s, was sitting just two seats away from him.

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The holder of the Robert Burns Fellowship seized his chance for revenge while delivering the address to the Haggis at the prestigious Wordsworth Trust Book Festival in Cumbria.

The Ayrshire bard claimed the class war skirmish, where he jokingly "threatened" the former MP with decapitation, was a light-hearted attempt to make a serious point.

He said: "It is traditional to brandish the big knife when you come to the end of the poem. But instead I grabbed the bold Lord Kenneth by the neck, put the knife to his throat and threatened to cut his head off.

"A big gasp went around the room as I said: 'I've waited almost 30 years to do this'. But then I let go of his collar, threw down the knife and gave him the last stanza. It brought the house down and I got a huge round of applause."

The winner of the 2008 McCash Scots poetry competition, who worked at the Barony Pit in Ayrshire until the strike of 1985, was unrepentant about his dramatic gesture.

"Most Scots who lived through the Thatcher years would have wanted to do what I did – and I'm sure Burns himself would have approved.

"It was just a spur of the moment thing.

The gods must have a sense of humour to have given me a knife and seat Lord Kenneth within 'sword's length'."

The poet lamented that Scotland's Justice Secretary, who has championed a crackdown on knife crime, missed the incident. "It's just a pity that Kenny MacAskill was at the wrong Burns' supper or else he could have intervened and saved the good Lord."

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In the spirit of Auld Lang Syne, Wilson revealed the pair mended fences over a dram after the meal. "To his credit Baker was fine about it and saw the funny side of it. We had a chat afterwards and I was quite pleasantly surprised to find he is actually a very well-read, witty and insightful guy."

Baker, a former Home Secretary, laughed off the incident.

The politician-turned-author said: "It was a bit of a surprise but I found it all quite amusing. I got on extremely well with Rab, who is an excellent poet, and I even ended up buying a copy of his book."

Andrew Forster who organised the literary event said the Scot would be invited back with one condition:

"Next time we'll maybe put a clause in his contract that he won't attack our speakers."