Election '97: Saying goodbye to the grey men

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The Independent Online
Martin Bell MP? The possibility that one of Britain's most admired war correspondents will take Neil Hamilton's seat offers a tantalising glimpse of how politics might be enriched if the parties lost their stranglehold over the Commons.

So who elsewould perform well in the chamber, who is not, like Richard Branson, already established on the tired list of the great and the good?

As Olga Maitland, Giles Brandreth and Glenda Jackson have shown, moving from the media into politics can be easy.

Imagine Mrs Merton's Mancunian tones wafting across the despatch box: "So Chancellor, where's all the money gone? Let's have a heated debate."

Angus Deayton could be Speaker and Danny Baker, the shock jock, could take over as chief heckler from the ageing Dennis Skinner. Meanwhile, the aggressive Jarvis Cocker, (Michael Jackson's chief accuser and lead singer with Pulp) would make a better job of rooting out sleaze than Sir Gordon Downey.

And there would be plenty of votes for the heroes of television fiction, for example the smooth reassurance of Dr Dangerfield (Nigel Le Vaillant).

But these figures are fantasy characters, played by individuals who in reality are unimpressive. Finding people of Martin Bell's calibre is difficult. Nevertheless, here are my choices to join Martin Bell at Westminster:

Delia Smith, trusted by hundreds of thousands of voters, mainly women, for advice on a fundamental part of of their lives. She could explain everything in simple steps.

Sheila Kitzinger, author of child care books, would make a good job share.

Richard Dawkins for his incorruptible atheism, vital in this era when politicians like to bear the mantle of priesthood.

Likewise Stephen Hawking, needed for general wisdom about life and the universe.

Lenny Henry and Dawn French (new Heritage Secretary) to replace the Bottomleys, for their humour, work with Comic Relief and the fact that there are not enough very fat women in Parliament.

Indajit Singh, editor of the Sikh Messenger and regular contributor to Radio Four's Thought for the Day, where he always makes more sense than anything said on Yesterday in Parliament.

Stephen Tumim, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, who proved he was prepared to tell the truth about jails, even though honesty cost him his job.

Likewise John Stalker, who investigated allegations of a "shoot-to-kill" policy in Northern Ireland.

Ruud Gullit, manager of Chelsea and one of the most intelligent figures in British sport. He would be easily an equal match for Michael Howard at Home Office questions, provided, of course, he could get himself a British passport.