The Third Leader: Forget not the jester

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A load of clowns have pitched up at the seaside for their annual conference featuring the usual risible agenda, amusing pretensions and lurking banana skins. Sorry? However could you have got that idea? No, this isn't Blackpool: it's the International Clown Festival at Weston-super-Mare.

Even so, there are the same positive messages coming out of both these bracing jewels of our western shores: after periods of marginalisation and drifting popularity, the future is bright for both clowns and Lib Dems. But that's enough of this slightly strained conceit, particularly as the Lib Dem leader's hair is not of so vivid a hue, nor as wild.

Clowns, though: who would have thought that a sophisticated society such as ours would still be entranced by revolving bow ties and big feet? It must either be a retreat to the simplicities of the pre-ironic age, or a knowing piece of social commentary. Whichever, more power to the klaxon and squirting carnation.

It would be good to see an even wider role for the clown, especially in the continuing and vital fight against pompousness and self-importance. Recent flingings of a meringue and porridge at Jeremy Clarkson and Lord Archer, respectively, show willing, but are too cruel, and misdirected.

Our leaders were long accustomed to clowns and jesters; Oliver Cromwell was the first not to bother, and look where that got him, and us. What a splendid aide modestie it would be if at all these gatherings of world leaders, there were clowns in the big group photograph. Recruitment hint for Mr Blair: the last English jester, from northern parts, was called Muckle John.

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