Political column – November 20

Mr Punch looked at the letter which had dropped on his desk.

"That's the way to-do-it," he said softly, for no reason other than he could not help himself, and with that strange voice sounding as if he had something in his mouth.

And he began to read.

"Dear Mr Punch, we should like to invite you to be our candidate for the North Shropshire by-election. With your track record of giving the public what they want, your experience, and your diplomacy, you would be a welcome addition to the House of Commons at the moment.

"We appreciate your special talents and think you are a perfect fit for Parliament. We are looking for a candidate to rebuild much-needed trust in politics, and believe you would be a fine representative to carry the baton for the North Shropshire electors."

Mr Punch stroked his ample chin before looking at the P.S.

"Your work as an MP would be additional to your current important work in the community. Salary: £82,000 a year plus generous expenses."

"That's the way to-do-it," Mr Punch said under his voice.

Yet he hesitated. It was true that he could do with a second job. His shows had tailed off of late. They were popular with children, who loved them, but it was adults who found them rather frightening.

Yes, being an MP would have its attractions, and £82,000 a year for the gig wasn't bad. But what did he know about politics and politicians?

The only experience he had had was when councillors from the entertainments committee had turned up to watch his show and had left white-faced in shock. Afterwards there had been a letter from the council suspending his licence until he had sought therapy and taken lessons in baby care, and completed a course on how to show respect to law enforcement officers.

It was a matter on which he would need to take advice.

"Judy, my dear," he called gently, in the manner that marriage guidance counsellors had advised. Judy enters the stage.

"Yes, my darling?"

"They want me to be a politician, but I know nothing about politics."

"Neither do I," replied his beloved. "I think it works like this. One bunch says an egg should go in the egg cup pointed side up, but the other lot says the egg should go in the egg cup pointed side down. And they argue about who is right.

"I think you can catch them on the television. Why don't you watch and find out?"

Mr Punch looked in the TV listings and saw that the next political show was called Questions To The Prime Minister. So Mr and Mrs Punch tuned in and sat down to see the show.

THWACK! "Corrupt sleazeball," said one. BOSH! "Moneygrabbing hypocrite," said the other.

Yaah yaah, hear hear, brayed others. "Raise public standards," they cried at each other.

A straightman in the middle in a funny costume tried to keep order.

Mr Punch's eyes grew wider and wider as he drank in the spectacle. What a bunch of clowns, he thought. So these were politicians. On the whole he preferred crocodiles.

He knew he had a decision to make. Was he prepared to stoop this low?

Tears came to his eyes as he realised that this was why traditional Punch & Judy shows were in decline at Britain's great seaside resorts.

And as he watched the knockabout in the Commons, he reflected sadly: "That's the way to-do-it."

.......................

For some reason I had got the impression that the HS2 project was hugely controversial, seen by critics as a Concorde for our times.

However, judging by the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the cancellation of the eastern section I appear to have got the wrong end of the stick. It has become clear to me that there is overwhelming support for a new line built at enormous cost which carves through food-producing agricultural land and provides interest for nearby townsfolk and villagers.

According to one Tory MP a white elephant has now become a white elephant missing one leg.

After such a blow we must look for the bright side, which is that the cancellation will free up cash for a British space mission to Mars.

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