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Wednesday, 22 June 2011


You can do your own dog joke...Why is it that funny news stories are never actually funny? Like the humour section of a bookshop - not the comic novels, but the Schitts Miscellany of books going after the money of that absurd man Schott. Actually, I've never read Schott's Miscellany and it may be very good, but I couldn't get that last line to scan without changing "that man Schott" to "that absurd man Schott". These things really don't write themselves, you know (perhaps I should try WordPress). Anyway, in yet more evidence that I should never leave the house (metaphorically speaking, as I actually live in a flat), I this evening bumped into a local Lib Dem who asked me if I'd seen the Mail's story about Matthew Offord and a dog. Oh, it's almost tempting just to leave it there, isn't it? You know you should run now while you still can, but like a cop with a torch investigating a dark shed in the opening scene of a horror movie, you just can't resist creeping in a little further.

As some of you may know, Matthew Offord is the Conservative MP for Hendon. People want politicians to tell the truth, so I shall do so: I got on quite well with Matthew when I stood against him in Hendon last year. I'm not going to pretend that I don't like him just because he's a Tory. He was always very courteous and friendly on the campaign trail. "The campaign trail" - where do politicians get off with this tortured, twee jargon? We spoke locally at some public meetings together, with the Labour candidate, in some church, synagogue and mosque halls. And this now apparently amounts in my mind to "the campaign trail". "The campaign trail". I ask you. 

Anyway, I need to stop starting sentences with "Anyway", and there's now this stupid story about Matthew being told by the Parliamentary authorities that he can't take his dog in to the Palace of Westminster. Some of you may still be containing your hilarity, so this is the bit where the comedy comes in. Matthew said that - wait for it - he'd invoke the Human Rights Act if not allowed to take the dog into Parliament. Reader(s) are doubtless now honking on the floor and disturbing the neighbours, but it gets better. Matthew now says that he didn't really mean it, but was making a joke - presumably the sort of joke that Edward Heath used to make before heaving his shoulders and braying at his own hilarity - about how much taxpayers' money is being wasted on the Human Rights Act. 

A Bolivian man apparently used the Act to stay in Britain because his girlfriend owned a - oh, stop it. No, I very much doubt that a Bolivian man really did say that he couldn't be deported because his girlfriend owned a British cat. Show me the court report and I'll believe it. Anyway, what's that got to do with taking a dog to work in Parliament?

Matthew's claim that it was all a joke - and not just any joke, but a satirical joke about the Human Rights Act - appears to have been an attempt to scoop up the smelly poop (oh God, even I'm doing it now - making dog jokes, that is, not pooping) of negative media coverage of this silly little hoo-hah (I'm not sure it amounts to a brouhaha, and these things are strictly graded). Worst of all (or presumably best of all, from Matthew's point of view) was an appearance on The Daily Politics on which every last drop of humour failed to drip from this utterly arid story. Programmes like Daily Politics use humour to sweeten the pill of dull Parliamentary coverage, but there are times when they take it so far as to become dangerous to diabetics, and this was an instance of that. I have, in my time, written teletext pages that were funnier than is this story about Matthew Offord and the dog.

I know that I'm giving Matthew Offord what any politician wants by further publicising this story - as if writing here counts as publicising anything - but really, this is too much of too little. Enough with the unfunny stories about funny things happening to MPs; since Esther Rantzen didn't get in, let's check the amusingly shaped vegetables at the door. There is actually a serious ongoing debate about the Human Rights Act and how it might be reformed by the Coalition Government; that debate has little to do with Matthew Offord's dog or a Bolivian man's cat. 

And now here's Kenneth with a song about the weather.

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