Redwood: a leader with street cred to tie-dye for

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
It's looking good. I am referring, of course, to my campaign to elect the redoubtable Mr John Redwood leader of the Conservative Party.

As his campaign co-ordinator, I have been forced to guide John - or Johnny, as he now is - through the dirty-tricks campaigns operated by the other contenders. Word has been put about that he is in some way "stiff" and "starchy" and "humourless". What arrant nonsense! Johnny Redwood is one of the most casual young men it has ever been my pleasure to put my feet up, take off my shoes, roll up my sleeves, get out the party four-pack and have a jolly good chuckle with.

I note with alarm that the spin-doctors for Mr Kenneth Clarke are busily positioning stories in the newspapers that their candidate is "the bloke's bloke". Well, those of us in the Redwood camp can trump that claim good and proper. Johnny Redwood is not only the bloke's bloke, but the bloke's bloke's bloke and even, in some quarters, the bloke's bloke's bloke's bloke. May I take the opportunity to offer you a unique insight into the real tough guy who is Redwood from the neck up?

I have often swung through the doors of lounge-bars with Redwood, and, let me tell you, he has proved himself more than a man. He swaggers up to the counter, takes less than 10 minutes to catch the barmaid's attention, bangs his fist on the bar, looks her straight in the eye and orders "half of lager in a straight glass - and heavy on the lime".

His conversation with the "real people" who seem to monopolise these public houses is easy and relaxed. He is capable of talking sport with his fellow ordinary blokes for seconds, even minutes at a time. "I love that game soccer" he said to a group of fellow ordinary blokes in my presence only last week. "It's played with a circular ball, and there are two sides, each with 11 players. It's the business of each team to get that little ball into their opponent's hole and that way they score a scrum-half. Yup - it's a great game, played by great blokes!"

Yet still the public perception remains that Johnny somehow lacks the all-round ruggedness of Clarke. It has been my job over these past few weeks to correct this grievous misapprehension. For this, we in the Redwood team have developed a five-point strategy:

to correct the impression that, in contrast to Clarke, Redwood was too skinny, at the beginning of each day we have strapped a small scatter- cushion beneath his shirt. Little by little, we have increased its weight, so that by the time of Tuesday's first ballot he will be wearing a full- sized goose-down pillow plus single duvet;

to answer criticism that Redwood is insufficiently casual, we have hired professionals to treat his shirts and suits with the necessary number of beer stains. At tomorrow's final press conference before the first ballot we will be unveiling his new pair of truly casual shoes, one shoe a black lace-up, the other a brown slip-on, both in need of a good polish. He will also be making his first public appearance in a tie-dye T-shirt and reversed baseball cap inscribed with the logo "Johnny Cool";

we have hired a voice coach to teach him some choice "street cred" (dread phrase!) slang with which to pepper his speeches, thus making them more user-friendly. "Fiscal interventionalism" he declared in a speech last night, "is a policy that - gor blimey - we should not pursue. It has been discredited in the past - any old iron, any old iron, any any any old iron - and it will be discredited in the future, lor' luvaduck, me ol' mate";

we have encouraged Johnny to break out from narrow party lines to seek endorsements for his leadership challenge. At Monday's press conference, I can confidently predict that three figures of world stature will be on show to put their full weight behind his candidature, among them top vocalist and leading Eurosceptic Robbie Williams, lifelong Conservative and petite chanteuse Lynsey de Paul and the late quizmaster and TV personality Mr Hughie Greene.

We are now supremely confident our candidate can walk it. Between these four walls, a certain amount of the mud we have thrown at the Clarke candidature appears to have stuck. Ever since we began to spread rumours that Kenneth Clarke had been spotted with a slim volume of poetry, a diamante posing-pouch and a set of curling tongs, it has become common currency that Kenneth Clarke is in fact the namby-pamby candidate - the namby-pamby's namby-pamby, you might say. But Redwood is all bloke. Only yesterday, he finished a very creditable second in an arm-wrestling competition with a Spice Girl. Take it from me, in five years' time Johnny Redwood will be kicking down that door of No 10. And this time, he's angry.

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