Ban on politicians at lying contest

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CONFIRMATION HAS arrived of what many people in Britain have long suspected - that no one lies more brilliantly than a politician. Such is their skill in the field that they are banned, en masse, from the only event dedicated to the art - the Lake District's historic annual lying competition.

The prohibition has been placed by The Bridge Inn at Santon Bridge in Wasdale, Cumbria, which hosts the competition. "Politicians are often regarded as professional liars, so they cannot compete," a spokeswoman for the event said yesterday.

This may come as a disappointment in Westminster. The competition is, after all, an important, if small, part of Lake District heritage. It has been running since the 1800s when Will Ritson, keeper of the Wasdale Head Inn and a great teller of tall tales, inaugurated the event. Ritson is believed to have been a friend of Wordsworth and De Quincey (assertions should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt) and by the time he died in 1890, at the age of 90, the competition was firmly established.

About a dozen inveterate liars gather at the Bridge once a year. After tucking into a warming "tattie pot" supper, a local delicacy of potatoes and mutton, they stand up and lie for all they are worth.

Last year's winner, James Mason (his real name, honestly) had come second and third in recent years. In his allotted five minutes he told how the Pope went water-skiing off the Royal Yacht Britannia - a far more entertaining tale than the claim about a Cumbrian millennium dome built out of binliners. Mr Mason walked off with pounds 25 prize money and a tie. This year's event is scheduled for 18 November.