Tuesday 5 February 2008

Where horror film meets pantomime

Life seems to become ever more like a screening of Alien. You think the thing is dead, and settle back in your seat with a nice Kia-Ora and a bucket of popcorn. And the next minute they’re all over your trousers as the monster comes bursting out of John Hurt.

So it was with Tory sleaze, officially pronounced dead in the late 1990s. Only it proved merely to have mutated, and infected large swathes of the Labour Party instead. Then last week a particularly virulent strain of the original disease came roaring back, carried by the Conway family.

The only good thing to be said for this was that it represented a return to form by the North-East. Having been responsible for every disaster that hit the nation’s front pages in the last half of 2007, I feared we had rather lost our way this year. Despite extensive research, I could identify no meaningful connection between this region and either Peter Hain or rogue trader Jérôme Kerviel.

Derek Conway, however, is definitely one of our own: a working class boy made good, I mean bad, from Gateshead. Politicians of all parties agree that social mobility is desirable, and there could hardly be a more a shining example of it than his rise from Beacon Lough council estate to would-be Speaker and father of Queen Sloane. But mobility is a two-way street, since we can’t all cluster around the pinnacle of society like angels on the head of some mediaeval theologian’s pin. So that distant sound you hear, strongly resembling a sack of flour being hurled from the top of a factory chimney, is Del Boy plummeting back towards his roots.

Still, at least it means that Neil and Christine Hamilton won’t have a clear run when auditioning for the parts of Baron Hardup and his wife in forthcoming panto seasons. With Mickey Rooney pushing 90, I am sure that this influx of new talent will come as a relief to theatre managements everywhere.

Personally, I’m slightly less concerned about the £260,000 siphoned out of taxpayers’ pockets to fund the Conway boys’ bizarre nights on the town than I am about the billions being trousered by the European Union for equally unworthy and usually more damaging purposes. At least Derek’s former Conservative colleagues will honour their commitment to vote for a referendum on the European Constitution, another deceased alien life form now resurrected as the Lisbon Treaty. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who made exactly the same manifesto pledge in 2005, intend to renege on it on the grounds that the Constitution and the Treaty are radically different. This defies both common sense and the verdict of every other European leader.

If this Treaty is ratified (as, without a referendum, it surely will be) we will wake up in 2009 living in a country called Europe. With a better than evens chance that our President will be Tony Blair, ably supported by his First Lady, Cherie. You see what I mean about Alien? If that prospect is not enough to send you running out of the cinema screaming, I don’t know what will.

True, it will be simply delicious to watch Gordon Brown’s agony as he once again has to kowtow to the great ham actor who has done so much to blight his life. But it’s surely not the happy ending any of us were hoping for when we bought our tickets. So now is the ideal time to write to our MPs and remind them of the referendum commitment they made when they were elected.
They may not reply, because they’ve just felt obliged to sack the family member who formerly handled their correspondence. Or they may spin us the above-mentioned pack of lies about the nature of the Treaty. But if they do that, surely at least it must help to nudge them towards the fate they so richly deserve at the next General Election.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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