Tuesday 16 October 2012

The successful Union that really deserved to win a prize

The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee sighed deeply. He had now been spent three solid days stuck in a room with four equally obscure Norwegian politicians, arguing about who should receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Apparently.

They had finally identified the ideal candidate in the shape of indefatigable British charity worker Jimmy Savile, until someone Googled him and discovered that he was inconveniently dead.

The same difficulty that had done for the otherwise promising candidacies of Osama bin Laden, Harold Shipman, Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein.

Bashar al-Assad had been running strongly, until deadlock resulted when one awkward member of the committee insisted on advancing the rival claims of the King of Bahrain.

Then it had started looking good for the relatively uncontroversial retired statesmen Tony Blair, who could clearly use an extra $1.2 million if anyone could. But then they remembered the risk of him bringing his wife to the prize ceremony, so it was back to the drawing board again.

“I know,” said the newest member of the committee. “Why don’t we stop searching for an individual, and award it to some well-intentioned organisation?”

“Like the Papacy, for example?”

There was a sharp intake of breath and some muttering about the Crusades and the law of unintended consequences in regard to priestly celibacy.

Another member remarked that this was where they always ended up when they hadn’t got a clue, which was why the Red Cross and the United Nations kept cropping up on the list of past award winners.

“OK, but how about a Union that has secured a long peace between warring nations, and is a model of successful political and monetary integration? What’s more, it is currently under threat and the prize might just help to hold it together.”

The five members of the committee gave a powerful demonstration of synchronised nodding, and reflected that this could be the breakthrough that would get them out of a room now beginning to smell quite unpleasantly of fermented trout.

“I like it,” said the Chairman. “I like it a lot.”

The newest member of the Committee acknowledged his praise with a modest smile.

“Hang on, though,” said the inevitable troublemaker. “Won’t people take the mickey out of us for awarding the prize to something we as a country have taken such pains to keep out of, jealously guarding our independence at all costs?”

The Chairman shrugged, and reminded him that the whole world took the mickey pretty much every year. And with a list of past recipients including Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Al Gore and Barack Obama, there should be no surprise there.

But a Union that had turned war into peace and brought prosperity in its wake: why, what could possibly go wrong?

“It’s brilliant,” said the Chairman. “I’ll ring the … hang on, who on earth do I ring?”

“David Cameron, obviously,” said the new boy.

“David Cameron? Well, I know he’s done his best by reneging on that promise of a referendum, and has as much chance of ever holding one as he has of closing down Eton College and turning it into a rest home for retired miners. But he’s hardly at the heart of the Union, is he?”

“Of course he is. He’s the …”

“No, no. It will have to be that bloke no one has ever heard of. Or the other one.”

“Nick Clegg?”

“No. Van something or other. Or the one that sounds a bit like an Italian wine.”


“That’s the fellow.”

“No, no hang on,” gulped the newest member. “I think there’s been a horrible misunderstanding. You thought I meant the European Union, didn’t you?”

“Of course. And it’s a great idea. Thank you so much for your inspired thinking.”

“But that’s not what I meant at all.”

“You said a political and monetary Union that had brought peace and prosperity to formerly warring nations. What else could it be?”

“Er, the United Kingdom?”

Edinburgh Castle: keeping up the standard

At which point everyone laughed uproariously, packed up their papers and returned to well-deserved obscurity for another year.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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