Miles Kington: Bad boy! Tony will make you Pensions Secretary

Imagine if a Labour peer had to be without sin, have performed miracles, and been martyred
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The Independent Online

"If you ask me," said the man with the dog, as he stepped up to the bar for his first pint of the evening, "Tony Blair has done for Labour peers what the late Pope did for saints."

"You don't really mean that, do you?" said the lady with the red hairdo, strangely flecked with green. "Does Tony Blair really keep the bones of Labour peers in his house for good luck?"

"No, no, no," said the man with the dog. "Well, I don't think so. What I meant was that he creates Labour peers about as fast as Pope John Paul II created saints. The late Pope made more new saints in his reign than had been made in the previous 500 years. Tony Blair is doing the same for the Labour peerage."

"Why do you think he does it?"

"Probably because he's got so many MPs to spare," said the man with the dog. "Promotes the surplus up into the House of Lords."

"That's not true," said the resident Welshman. "He doesn't turn real MPs into peers. He turns burnt-out MPs into peers. He turns advisers into peers. He turns anyone who has done him a good turn into a Labour peer."

"You make him sound like a pantomime witch," said the red-haired lady (with flecks of green). "Ah, you have been a bad boy! You have been very naughty! I am going to turn you into a Labour peer!"

"No, that's wrong," said the Welshman. "People who have been naughty don't get turned into peers. They get turned into the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Or Pensions."

"Pensions? Oh, right. We all know that Blunkett has been naughty. But has Peter Hain been naughty?"

"No," said the Welshman, "but he's got an incredibly annoying voice. So he deserves to be sent to Belfast. Where, incidentally, everyone else already has an incredibly annoying voice."

"I think Jack Straw has the most incredibly annoying voice," said the Major. "Or do I mean soporific? Every time he comes on the Today programme, I drift off to sleep. If I'm driving to work, I have to pull over to the side of the road and stop for fear of crashing."

"Driving to work?" said the red-haired lady (plus green). "How can you drive to work? You haven't got a job."

"I know," said the Major. "But for God's sake don't tell the wife."

"People on the radio keep talking about some fellow called Adonis who is being turned into a Labour peer," said the Welshman. "Can he really be called Adonis? If so, he is being demoted, isn't he? Down from a god to a Labour peer."

"What worries me," said the Major, "is that when someone becomes a peer you can never remember who they used to be. One day they are Jack Sprat MP, the next they have chosen to be Lord Vroncysyllte, and you haven't the faintest idea who they really used to be. Which may be their whole aim."

"What worries me," said the resident Welshman, "is that if Tony Blair applied to potential Labour peers anything like the test that the Pope applied to potential saints, we would never have any new Labour peers at all. Imagine if you had to prove that a new Labour peer had been without sin ... and performed miracles ... and been martyred ..."

We all thought about it.

"Clare Short?" said someone.

There was laughter.

"She might possibly have claims to be martyred," said the Major, "but I am afraid she falls down on all other counts, especially the incredibly annoying voice test."

"Robin Cook performed a miracle," said the red/green lady. "He resigned on a point of principle. And he only has an annoying voice when he is being caricatured on Dead Ringers. In real life he has one of the better Scottish accents. In that instance, art does not imitate nature very well."

"Talking about art and nature," said the Welshman, "we know that your hair colour reflects your current tipple, and I see that you have no drink in your hand, so may I buy you a glass of this mysterious red and green drink?"

"Thank you," said the red/green lady. "A Pimm's, please, with lots of cucumber."