22 easy steps to a better Britain

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It has always struck me as unfair that the main political parties put out manifestos at election time and nobody else does. Why should politicians think that what they have to say is more interesting than what the rest of us have to say? There are far more of the rest of us than there are of the politicians, for a start.

So to get the ball rolling and to help reverse this trend, I am today issuing my manifesto for the 1 May 1997 general election. Note, too, that the promises in my manifesto do not depend on my being elected. I shall carry out these pledges whatever happens.

Here goes, then.

I, being of sound mind and fully conscious of what I am doing, do hereby pledge, with the coming general election in mind, that:

1. I shall refuse to watch any so-called television debate between two, three or more party leaders, on the grounds that I have once or twice seen Prime Minister's Question Time and know what the level of debate is already.

2. In any case, I shall not watch John Major again unless he has cured himself of that maddening habit of leaning cockily on one elbow on the dispatch box as if he were the pub bore laying down the law - which, of course, on a national level he is.

3. I shall do my best to avoid all news bulletins about the election on the grounds that they do not contain news.

4. Witness the lead item on Radio 4's news bulletin yesterday morning, which said something like: "And as the election campaign really hots up, all parties are pledging themselves to rise above questions of sleaze and get down to the real issues ..."

5. And if anyone can spot why that is the leading item of news on Mr Birt's supposedly news-conscious BBC on a Tuesday morning, and not just the result of some programme editor saying, "Well, I suppose we had better kick off with something about the election, even though absolutely nothing has happened", I would like to hear from them.

6. Failing which, I shall shudder whenever I hear the promise of the BBC's 24-hour rolling news service, on the grounds that there doesn't seem to be enough news to fill the slots they have got at the moment.

7. Yes, well, getting back to the election, I shall undertake not to use any of the following phrases in casual conversation:

8. "Looks pretty neck and neck, doesn't it?"

9. "One lot is as bad as another, if you ask me."

10. "Yes, but where are they going to get the money from?"

11. "Yes, but what about Europe?"

12. "Yes, but what about proportional representation?"

13. "Yes, but ...

14. "Ye-e-e-s ..."

15. I shall undertake not to buy any party political manifesto, on the grounds that they contain promises which are designed to get people elected, not promises to be carried out, and party manifestos are therefore no higher up the evolutionary scale than advertisements, which one is not normally expected to buy with one's own money, and the only reason I would buy a manifesto is to keep on my person so that when people say, "But does anyone ever actually buy a manifesto? Has anyone ever seen one?" I would stun the company by producing one with a flourish.

16. I undertake not to go along with the BBC's lame pretence that the election campaign is just getting under way (see Pledge No 4), when we all know it has been going on for years and we have all been dying to get the election over and done with for at least a year.

17. I undertake to be very surprised indeed if I get a visit from any canvasser or MP in my constituency, on the grounds that I never got a letter from the PM and I never got a call from the people undertaking to retune my TV set to Channel 5, although I have to admit that the dustbin collection in my area is very good, which will come in useful if I do get any election leaflets or manifestos or letters from the PM.

18. I undertake not to make up my mind which way to vote until I have listened to and ignored the arguments on all sides.

19. I undertake not to make up my mind until I actually go into the polling station.

20. I undertake not to make up my mind even then.

21. I undertake to come out of the polling station saying to the officials, "Quite frankly, I don't like the look of any of them at the moment, so I'll come back later before polling stops."

22. But I undertake not to come back later before polling stops.

This being an election manifesto, I shall feel free to break any of the pledges contained therein at any time.

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