Take your partners

14 Dec 07
DAVID MEILTON | As we plunge headlong towards 2008 with the government and politics in deep disrepute, do not despair. Gordon Brown, as so often, has the answer.

As we plunge headlong towards 2008 with the government and politics in deep disrepute, do not despair. Gordon Brown, as so often, has the answer.

The public sector might be wrestling with mislaid information, political funding scandals, tight budgets and a police pay firestorm. But there is one bright spot.

Public Finance can now reveal the government’s plan for a revolutionary new-style general election that will restore integrity, gravitas and popularity to frontline politics.

We have been given exclusive access to a DVD of the pilot programme for a new Saturday night TV series that is expected to be a sure-fire hit in the New Year. The transcript begins thus:

‘Hello, it’s Brucie here, with tonight’s all-star edition of Strictly Come Governing. The prize: a lovely semi-detached residence in the heart of Westminster, and the opportunity to meet Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace and run the country for anything up to five years.

‘After the candidates hit the floor, our judges will deliver their verdict. But it’s your votes that count. Remember, one of our parties must be voted out tonight.

‘Our first contender this evening, representing the Labour Party, is the prime minister himself, Gordon Brown. He’ll be giving us five minutes on his moral compass in an age of change, then dancing a sprightly quickstep.

‘Later, we’ll have the leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, who will tell us about his education policy and dance the veleta with his lovely partner Georgina.

‘Then we’ll be thrilled by Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, representing the Scottish National Party, offering a few well-chosen words on Scotland’s oil, and — with his partner Morag — dancing the heilan’ fling to the tune of Donald, where’s yer troosers?.’

The Electoral Commission is already working on how the programme can be adapted for local elections. But a Local Government Association spokesman said: ‘Given the age and profile of the average list of candidates, the salsa and samba rounds may be problematic.’

The new system will also end the controversy over party funding. According to the Cabinet Office, Strictly will be totally transparent — 50% of all revenue from the calls will go to the parties pro rata.

Elsewhere in the public sector, change is also the order of the day. After the discovery that chimpanzees are much better at remembering numbers than university students, the Treasury decides to employs six. ‘We’re confident they will give us 110%,’ said a spokeswoman for Chancellor Alistair Darling. ‘There is also the added benefit that we can pay them in bananas rather than buttons.’

Following the news that the Daily Mail is to be invited to sponsor an academy, Schools Secretary Ed Balls announces a new list of school backers to help solve the illiteracy crisis. They include David Abrahams (well, he has to get something for his money); Ant and Dec (I’m a teacher, get me out of here); the Spice Girls (Reunion academy, for those who were rubbish first time round); and Steve McClaren (‘nuff said).

The government reiterates its intention to engage with key stakeholders and face the challenge of change with a renewed concentration on core activities. The Association of Kentish Apple-growers makes a similar pledge.

The Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, announce that they are making good progress in their search for the two discs containing 25 million people’s child benefit details lost by Revenue & Customs.

After their in-depth search of the Deptford Recycling Centre and other rubbish tips, they say they have recovered two CDs of Barry Manilow’s greatest hits, a vintage recording of On the Buses (starring ‘Reg’ Varney), and a DVD of Katie Price’s beauty tips. ‘We’re no nearer pinning down the culprits, but tea-breaks in the canteen are a lot more entertaining these days,’ said a spokesman.

A warm welcome back, by the way, to Geoff ‘Mr Invisible’ Hoon, allowed once more out of the dark cupboard (currently labelled chief whip) in which he is usually kept to firefight the missing discs crisis.

He reveals that he did not know anything about anything, which is why the prime minister had set up an inquiry.

Asked why Brown seems to set up inquiries with the same frequency that other people have snacks, Hoon announced that there would be an immediate inquiry — headed by a High Court judge and a senior bishop — into why there were so many inquiries.

Finally, Gordon Brown, encouraged by his TV success, enters for The X factor, but is turned down. ‘Whatever it is, he hasn’t got it,’ says Simon Cowell. ‘Not everyone can dance to Gordon’s tune.’ That remains to be seen.

Happy New Year.

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