Never in all her centuries as a democratic beacon can the Muthah of Parliaments have known a record-breaker like Daniel Kawczynski. First MP born in Poland, first MP technically classified as a giant (almost 6ft 9in), first MP to out himself as bisexual... With such an array of pioneering achievements, the Conservative member for Shrewsbury would be excused for resting on his laurels.
But not a bit of it. On the evening of 7 October, he added to the roster of pioneering breakthroughs by becoming the first MP overheard telling an illiterate one-legged drug-addicted beggar in a wheelchair to get himself a job. If all Hon Mems shared his gift for exquisitely tailored advice, who could possibly resent their forthcoming 11 per cent pay rise?
Happily, the impromptu summit outside Westminster tube station was witnessed by a representative of the Daily Mail, which belatedly reported the incident yesterday. On noting 47-year-old Mark McGuigan asking passers-by for support, Mr Kawczynski was reported to have bent over the wheelchair to instruct its occupant to “find some work. Yes, I know it is hard,” he continued. “I have struggled too.”
Although the exact nature of that struggle went unexplained, empathy on this scale – as felt by a private school alumnus who earns £3,000 per day as a mining firm consultant for the care home-reared scion of addicts who lost a limb to septicemia – is a rare and beauteous thing. Admittedly, Mr McGuigan claims that the Kawczynski storehouse of compassion was quickly exhausted. He alleges that on being told that he can barely read or write, and reminded of the limb shortfall, the MP became “more and more aggressive... leaning over me saying, ‘Get a job, get a job’. I felt very intimated.” If people are pathologically resilient to tough love, what can you do for them?
Sadly, the interview concluded before Daniel could expand from the general to the specific. We may never know what particular work he had in mind, though in this buoyant jobs market for the illiterate junkie amputee, it might have been anything. Fighter pilot, Commissioner of the Met, test driver for McClaren, Regius professor of English .. the Government might have closed the Remploy factories, but the list of positions for which Mr McGuigan would be a strong candidate is virtually limitless.
It could certainly extend to playing the lead in action-movie remakes. A hunch suggests that a memory of the classic Dudley Moore and Peter Cook sketch “One Leg Too Few” stirred somewhere in the mighty Kawczynski mind as he delivered his lecture. In “One Leg Too Few”, Pete played a director for whom Dud’s hopping, mono-legged Mr Spiggott auditioned for the part of Tarzan. “Well, Mr Spiggott, need I point out to you where your deficiency lies as regards landing the role?” “Yes, I think you ought to.” “Need I say without overmuch emphasis that it is in the leg division that you are deficient.” “The leg division?” “Yes, the leg division, Mr. Spiggott. You are deficient in it to the tune of one.”
In the half-century or so since that sketch, attitudes towards the limitations of disability have improved immeasurably. It is only a few months, for example, since an Atos employee, speaking on the Government’s behalf, told an incontinent Chron’s Disease sufferer to wear a nappy to work. In this heartening light, there is no good reason why Mr McGuigan should not one day swing along jungle vines.
With no Tarzan remake in development, however, what is he to do with himself in the meantime? The only mainstream job that requires no qualifications, competence or ability, mental or physical, is of course that of an MP. Whether the good voters of Shrewsbury would choose him as their representative is unclear. But factoring in any practical barriers to his election, the obvious solution is a reality TV show modelled on Trading Places, the film in which Dan Akroyd’s odiously smug and callous commodities broker swaps lives with Eddy Murphy’s druggy beggar, as first seen in a wheelchair feigning a deficiency in the leg division to the tune of two.
This will probably need emergency legislation, but once enacted I see no cause why, for at least six months, Messrs Kawczynski and McGuigan should not exchange jobs. While cocaine is more freely available within the Palace of Westminster than heroin, the latter would surely be willing to adapt. And although the former will find freezing in a wheelchair outside a tube station while being insulted by eighth-wits more demanding than his present work (his major contribution as an MP being a failed bid to bring a Shropshire cow to Westminster, to highlight bovine TB), that opaque “struggle” must have made a stoic out of him.
Shows of the kind depend on total veracity, and sacrifice will be demanded on both sides. Mr McGuigan will have to put up with his new colleagues’ continual bleating as to why, under that marvellous we’re-all-in-it-together banner, the likes of Daniel deserve even more than that 11 per cent hike. Mr Kawcynski, meanwhile, will be required to jettison a leg. If anyone can lend us a Black & Decker electric chainsaw in decent working order, who knows, perhaps we could offer that job as star prize in the next Independent charity auction. If I had the dough, I’d buy that lot myself, and give it to Mark McGuigan for Christmas.