Why General Pinochet's a better bet than Jeremy Clarkson

He'd be the first Poet Laureate to have written about specs; this would appeal to the Queen
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The Independent Culture
THE SPECULATION over the identity of the Poet Laureate has not exactly hotted up, but it has at least passed into that stage which is more interesting to every warm-blooded Britisher - the betting stage; and odds are now being offered on virtually every conceivable candidate. As I am a bit short of readies in the run-up to Christmas, I am going to start a book on the leading candidates, and I invite you all to send huge wagers to me.

The main runners, with a brief description of each one's history and likely appeal, are as follows...

5/1

Benjamin Zephaniah: Traditional Anglo-Rasta-style rant-dub-poet, whose live appearances are always exciting. Poet Laureates, of course, do not make live appearances, so this may be a doubtful advantage.

On the other hand, if Zephaniah were to be nominated Poet Laureate, he might well insist on doing live gigs for all royal occasions, and things could change dramatically. His election would appeal enormously to ethnic minorities, as he is black, though not a woman. It would also appeal to the Jewish community. He is not Jewish, but he has two Jewish names, which helps.

John Hegley: A much-published and much-loved younger poet. He has written much poetry in which members of his family are seen darkly as sources of trouble and aggro, and this might well appeal to the Queen. He would also be the first Poet Laureate to have written extensively about wearing spectacles, and I think this would also appeal to the Queen.

8/1

Wendy Cope, Fiona Pitt-Kethley, Beryl Bainbridge: Many people feel it is time to have a woman as Poet Laureate, in the spirit of positive discrimination, and Cope and Pitt-Kethley are the obvious ones. Beryl Bainbridge is included because people feel so sorry for her after not getting the Booker Prize. The fact that she does not write poetry should not deter you from sending me money to place on her.

10/1

Andrew Motion: The respectable academic choice. He has written a life of Philip Larkin, who everyone thought should have been the last Poet Laureate, which may or may not bode well. Lots of people remember his best-selling pop single, "Poetry in Motion", which, similarly, may or may not bode well.

15/1

`Sir' Roger McGough: Roger has indicated privately that, if he was made Poet Laureate, he could never justify it to fellow Liverpudlians like Brian Patten or, indeed, to ex-members of The Scaffold, and that he would far prefer a simple knighthood. But he is in with a shout.

20/1

Sir Tim Rice: He has privately indicated that he has got a knighthood already but that it would be nice to have a laureateship to go along with it. The money that's involved is so tiny as to be unmeasurable on Sir Tim's bank account. On the other hand, it would make a most unusual tax loss.

25/1

The late Ted Hughes: There is a persistent lobby in favour of Ted Hughes, who many people think cannot be replaced and who would be well honoured by posthumous retention. Those who protest that he is no longer likely to produce poems to mark royal birthdays might usefully remember that this is no bad thing.

30/1

Richard Branson's Virgin Poem Factory: It is widely thought that Tony Blair may wish to have a hand in the selection of the next Poet Laureate. If he opts for a people's poet, it will almost certainly be one of the afore-mentioned, but if he decides to put it out to tender, then Richard Branson's Virgin Poem division will be in with a good chance.

66/1

Liz Lochhead, Irvine Welsh etc: Normally Scottish poets would be in with a good shout, but at a time of imminent semi-independence it would be too dangerous to select someone who would also be in the running for Scotland's very own Poet Laureate.

80/1

General Pinochet: It is a little-known fact that the Poet Laureate cannot be extradited for any offence committed abroad, so Pinochet's supporters are moving heaven and earth to get him elected.

100/1 Clive James, Pam Ayres, Kevin Turvey, Jeremy Clarkson, Dame Edna etc

Please send SAE for full details

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