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The last great comedy goldmine has closed down

SHARES IN comedy writers will plummet today. (But fortunately him, Jeffrey Archer sold all his on Friday).

First the Tories closed the steelworks. Then they closed the pits. Yesterday, British satirists were mourning their closure of the last great comedy goldmine in Britain. Jeffrey Archer is quitting politics. Angry scenes were witnessed in Soho as gag writers declared an all-out strike in protest. Now pensioners may face the festive season without jokes in their Christmas crackers. The army will have to be called in to write the gags for Rory Bremner. It is, quite literally, a very serious situation.

Jeffrey Archer's candidacy for the Mayor of London had promised to keep us entertained all the way to May. At the offices of Have I Got News For You, researchers had built up a huge collection of wonderful snippets, which were going to be detonated at intervals.

They say that every politician has a skeleton in his closet. Archer has a walk-in wardrobe full of them. The campaign was a period that the Conservatives were dreading. I imagine that the weekend's conversation between William Hague and Lord Archer went something like this:

"Anyway William, I don't think it's a resigning issue."

"Okay Jeffrey - I accept your resignation."

"No, I was saying, I think we can ride this one out."

"So will you announce your resignation or shall I?"

What is incredible is that the Tories ever thought that Archer was fit to run the capital. This man was their number one choice. Would you trust Jeffrey Archer? There are lies, damned lies and Jeffrey Archer's life story. Archer is now in the impossible position that no one will ever believe anything he says again. "So Jeffrey, were you the mystery second gunman in the Kennedy assassination?"


`"Oh well - he obviously was then."

Over the years, the Archer cocktail of naff showmanship and casual disregard for the truth have provided meat and drink for hungry satirists in an age when our politicians have becoming disappointingly bland and sanitised.

When I worked on Spitting Image, Jeffrey Archer's little puppet could be brought into any sagging sketch to tell a few outrageous lies. Ian Hislop and Nick Newman once wrote a splendid Mastermind sketch in which Jeffrey Archer answered questions on the life of Jeffrey Archer. He got every answer wrong, so Magnus Magnusson got to put him straight on all the porkie pies that Archer had told about himself down through the years.

Soon afterwards, Archer was foolhardy enough to come on Clive Anderson Talks Back. "There's no beginning to your talents," said Clive as he probed the great storyteller about his duplicitous past. After the show we were treated to the real Archer, ranting and raving in the studio car park, threatening to sue if the programme was broadcast.

With this memory, I am comforted that this spectacular downfall could not have happened to a more horrible man. Don't take my word for it; go into any branch of Waterstones and ask the booksellers there if Jeffrey Archer has ever been in to sign. Ask whether he behaved with politeness and humility.

This is the sort of politician that British satirists want. The Americans have a philanderer as a president; the Russians have a drunkard. What do we get? A church-goer with a new baby on the way. So we must turn to the Conservatives to step in and rescue the British comedy industry. Immediate steps should be taken to make Jonathan Aitken the Tory candidate for Mayor of London with Neil Hamilton as his deputy. Otherwise British entertainment may never recover.

First they take away our favourite target. And now Jeffrey Archer has time to write another novel. Haven't we suffered enough?