Thursday, 19 March 2009

Pubs, Politics, Parliament and Half Measures From Planet Pod

The last working class man in Britain, Doris Karloff and a Liberal Democrat go into a pub… What a perfect example of political harmony.

It might be a joke refashioned from an old Bernard Righton routine, but it also happens to be true. But only if you take a look a look at the names of the MPs who have slapped their monikers on an Early Day Motion designed to protect the British pub.

It’s a trio that naturally go together like oil and water, or the Pope and the 21st century: Parliamentary furniture Dennis Skinner, reactionary-turned-national-treasure Ann Widdecombe and Werther's Originals frontman Ming Campbell.

Under the title of CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE GREAT BRITISH PUB (The all-caps policy must reflect the Parliamentary tendency to bellow), these MPs call “on the Government to adopt the campaign's Last Orders, a five-point plan to save the British pub, as a way forward in safeguarding the future of Britain's traditional public houses.”

But the glittering list of names doesn’t end there (Actually it ends 191 later with Dundee West’s Jim McGovern, but that is just a quirk of chronology) because Kate Hoey, Lembit Opik, Nick Winterton, Derek Conway, Michael Ancram, Frank Field, Bob Marshall-Andrews and Vince Cable are all signed up pub-lovers too.

So hurrah for one and all! Yes, well done chaps. That will teach Darling, Brown and everyone who seeks to ruin this sceptred isle. That will show them that Britain is still a land as pure and chaste and unchanged since a sort of hazy-imaginary-time when King Arthur roamed the hills in an Austin Allegro listening to The Kinks on a mobile gramophone and sending the occasional gunboat to deal with those swarthy foreign types.

Except that Early Day Motion motions are the Parliamentary equivalent of internet polls. If they sound like something that the heavily cushioned Nick Soames gets after his butler wakes him for a hearty breakfast before noon, that is because that is exactly what they are worth. They are a sop, a way for MPs to appear active while actually remaining inactive for longer than Mount Vesuvius. They are never voted on and they rarely reach the floor of the house, but most importantly they can be signed from a chaise longue, bath chair or deck chair.

However with 191 signatures, this EDM does kick some Parliamentary arse easily toping Graham Brady’s EDM supporting Lacrosse and even Martin Caton’s EDM recognising the Year 10 football team from Penyrheol Comprehensive School in Gorseinon. And this mighty pub campaign has even collected 60 more signatures than last year’s calls for an independent Ombudsman for grocers.

So well done to Mr Pinty and the Axe The Tax types for all their hard work but if we are relying on cranks, oddballs, former non-Cabinet ministers and the Liberal Democrats to save the British pub, we might have to find another way.

If you are wondering about the Planet Pod thing, see The Guardian's Simon Hattenstone, after all it was he who said "Ann Widdecombe is from Planet Pod".

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