The dubious share-flotation of UK Ltd

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The Independent Culture
Simon Poulter, the suave young director of UK Ltd, hovers dashingly in the foyer of the Norwich Art Gallery. His impeccable appearance denotes a ruthless temperance, and when he approaches me - stares me right in the eye - I am left with little doubt that he is a real go-getter.

"Sir," he begins. "Can I have a moment of your time? You look like a very shrewd man..."

This is the latest stop in Simon's whirlwind British tour, designed to promote the benefits of his company's share offer - the UK Rock Solid Folio - a futile yet enterprising endeavour to privatise huge chunks of England: namely Hull, Stonehenge, and the Norfolk Broads.

"We are a far-right organisation designed to mop up all the difficult outstanding privatisations," he explains. "Our aim is to get the stock floated and sold off as quickly as possible."

The tour has already incorporated last year's Conservative Party Conference as well as the ICA foyer, and the shares will be floated tonight in a big bash at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.

"If the flotation is successful," Simon says, "we will dismantle Stonehenge, and replace it with a wholly synthetic, weatherproof Stonehenge. We also recognise the transport difficulties in reaching this national treasure, so we'll extend the two-lane A303 through Wiltshire into a more user-friendly eight-lane motorway which will extend right into the new Stonehenge Theme Park. Here. Take this."

Simon hands me a glossy poster proclaiming: "Hull - Gateway to Europe". It portrays two weatherbeaten old men sitting on a bench, grinning benignly in the chilly winter breeze. "This," says Simon, "is our gift to you."

UK Ltd and Simon, of course, are art works: and the most remarkable thing about them is their ostensible credibility. Simon's demeanour is chillingly well-observed - denoting an entrepreneurial monster spawned by 16 years of unstoppable privatisation - and his routine is so convincing that he's attracted a great deal of curiosity from the private sector.

"I just got a call from the Midland Bank in Hull," he says, "and three of their customers are very interested in UK Ltd's goals and objectives."

Potential shareholders may be disappointed, however. Simon promises no direct creative input into the supervision of the theme parks, merely cut-price tickets and favourable parking privileges. None the less, tonight's flotation promises to be a lavish do.

"All stockholders will be offered a first-class Rolls-Royce treatment," he says, "and I will be delivering a fascinating keynote address in the style of Michael Portillo."

n Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, 6.30pm; free (01482-593 933)