Wallace Youthful Bonhomie Arnold - there I go again, cracking jokes like a 12-year-old! My impish sense of fun has come to the fore quite recently, in my deliciously parodic The Road to Ruin, written for and on behalf of my old friend and quipping partner, Dr Brian Mawhinney. Incidentally, the good doctor (or Dr Brian Malosey as we call him behind his back - I jest!) is something of a merry jester himself: I once saw him roar with good-natured merriment at a severe pile-up just a few yards from Conservative Central Office.
Brian telephoned me a month or two ago: "We need your impish sense of humour, Wallace, to help win us the election." He then outlined his plan: to draft a "spoof" Labour manifesto, thus destroying Mr Tony Blair's designs upon Downing Street with a few well-placed tickles to the ribs.
I set about the project with gusto, dispatching some of my finest anti- Blair jokes post-haste to Dr Mawhinney's in-tray. One of my favourites was this: "Knock knock!" "Who's there?" "Blair." "Go away, Blair - you'll destroy this government's hard-won economic achievements in no time at all!" This is the sort of catchy joke that ordinary, decent folk will enjoy quoting to one another over a pint of ale and a corned beef "sarnie". Of course, not all of my finest teases found their way into the finished document. Some of the more powerfully comical jests, like the immortal "Knock Knock" above are being reserved for a full-frontal humour assault on a date closer to the General Election. Needless to say, their effect should be devastating.
Before entering politics, Dr Mawhinney was, of course, well-known on the Northern Circuit as a stand-up comedian of considerable verve. Indeed, he still employs a shortened version of his familiar catchphrase "If you would kindly allow me to finish, mother..." to devastating effect on his frequent television appearances to this very day. Supporting Roy "Chubby" Brown for a summer season at the Nuneaton Rialto in 1981, as "Doctor Brrrrr Mawhinney, The Frosty Medic", he performed a delicious routine in which patient after patient would simply keel over and die while Dr Brrrrr would genially repeat, "Why, you've never looked better"!
But it was as the genial host of the ill-fated Tyne Tees television game-show Gag with Brian! that Dr Brian demonstrated those particular qualities that would make him the ideal Chairman of the Conservative Party as it prepared itself for a period in the wilderness. The format was simple. Ordinary members of the public were invited to see how long they could stay looking at a grinning Mawhinney without flinching or blinking. Alas, the show was cancelled after tragedy struck; the winner of the semi-final, a Mr P James of Huddersfield, achieved over 30 seconds, but was immediately rushed to hospital suffering from post-traumatic stress and severe facial burns.
My fellow "gurus" (dread word!) at Central Office - Messrs Bell, Saatchi, Finkelstein, et cetera - are cock-a-hoop at the success of my delicious spoof Labour manifesto.
They conservatively estimate that it may well have influenced something over 20 floating voters, though in exactly what direction it is still too early to say. Printing costs together with the relevant yachting, dining, motoring and allied expenses were kept down to a very reasonable pounds 1m plus VAT, which means that there is still plenty left in the kitty for many more satiric stabs at Mr Blair and his Barmy Army prior to the next election.
Send for Arnold! Sadly, the finer details of my plans for a humorous assault on New Labour must be kept under wraps, but I am prepared to reveal the broader outlines. Come Christmas, Dr Mawhinney will be dressing up as our humorous New Labour Father Christmas, and mugging old ladies in Oxford Street of their lifetime savings. At Easter, Michael Heseltine will launch a humorous attack on Mr Blair, accusing him of a cover-up concerning his frequent bed-wetting. Finally, in late April/early May, just prior to the election, John Major himself will launch a brand new anti-Labour one-liner, composed over a number of months by a team of experts. Steel yourself, Mr B - my impish sense of fun may yet prove your undoing!