Procol Harum

the Pale

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Oh, Dave, it's the way you tell 'em

Armando Iannucci in The Observer • 19 November 2006

Some people have been arguing recently that comedians have no place on the likes of Question Time. Sometimes, I can understand why a viewer would be more interested in hearing Margaret Beckett's views on Darfur than, say, Peter Kay's (if it's of any interest, Peter favours a concerted five-point UN action plan granting autonomous status to rebel-controlled areas but only after a verifiable ceasefire is in place along disputed border regions).

Maybe we comics are asked on to the likes of Question Time to provide unpredictable, non-partisan opinion, in contrast to the politicians all towing their agreed party lines. Although when I was on Question Time recently, my views were texted to me from a centrally controlled national comedy headquarters run by Jo Brand.

However, I think comedians can only be removed from political shows when politicians stop trying to do stand-up comedy. More and more of them are employing joke-writers to pepper up their speeches, hence David Cameron's bizarre effort in last week's debate on the Queen's Speech, when he tried comparing Blair's government to a recent court case involving the organist playing on Procul [sic] Harum's classic hit, A Whiter Shade of Pale.

I can't remember what point Cameron was trying to make, but it climaxed in the extraordinary joke that the government was not so much a whiter shade of pale than a whiter shade of fail.

With this in mind, I've decided to write a whole stand-up routine for David Cameron for his next intervention in the Queen's Speech debate:

Thank you very much.

The Prime Minister says the Chancellor has a clunking fist, but I think he'll be knocked over in any fight because, though he looks like a heavyweight, he's actually as easy to knock over as a snowman. He's not so much A Whiter Shade of Pale as A Fighter Made of Hail. I thank you.

Now here's a thing. Have you ever noticed how Peter Gabriel's album Passion, featuring music from the film The Last Temptation of Christ, contains the track It Is Accomplished? The only thing the Prime Minister has accomplished with this, his last Queen's Speech, is a climate of fear and complaints about the decline of public services. It's not so much Bread and Wine (another track off the Gabriel album) as Dread and Whine.

I thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here all week.

You know, I chose Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees to be one of my Desert Island Discs. The trouble with the Prime Minister is he's so fake that if he was a woodpecker, he'd only be a plastic one pecking at fake plastic trees. He'd have not so much a radiohead as a Formica head and his bones would be plastic, too. Bones is also the title of another Radiohead track of their album The Bends. Thank you very much, you're too kind.

Moving on now. The Chancellor claims the economy is in the black, but he's no Frank Black, the singer whose album Teenager of the Year featured the track Ole Mulholland, but with Holland's economy growing faster than the UK's, I wonder if the Chancellor has ever listened to the Fun Lovin' Criminals track Korean Bodega and asked Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, if our diplomatic negotiations with North Korea over their nuclear ambitions has met with any progress or is it, like the economy, a bit of a dog's dinner at the moment, Koreans being partial to having dog as dinner and Oasis having a track called Digsy's Dinner on their album Definitely Maybe. Settle down, now. There's more, there's more.

The Prime Minister claims to be pushing through legislation on improving climate change and the environment, but rather than employing these half-hearted measures, wouldn't it be better to divert investment into funding home-grown farms for the production of organic seaweed, so that it's not so much A Whiter Shade of Pale as A Brighter Glade of Crail?


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