The Cabinet and other cases of brain rot

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The Independent Online
The Government has finally come out and said it, then. Elections in Northern Ireland are safe.

"Yes," says chief witch doctor to the Government, "Doctor" Brian Mawhinney, "the latest scientific advice shows beyond all fairly reasonable doubt that elections in Northern Ireland can take place."

Without damaging anyone's health?

"You can never be totally sure of anything," says Doctor Brian "Mawhinney", "but insofar as you can be tolerably sure of anything, then yes, with luck, fingers crossed, touch wood, we can go ahead and have elections in Northern Ireland."

Scientists are not so sure about this privately, however. They think that BSE (short for the Bogside/Stormont Exercise) may actually cause brain damage.

"The reasons for this are quite clear," says a scientist who does not want to be named, only paid in cash. "The election arrangements proposed by the Government are so complicated that it causes severe brain damage even trying to work them out.

"It has always been said that anyone who claims to understand the Irish situation does not, by definition, know what he is talking about, and I think we can say that the same goes for these Northern Ireland election arrangements.

"An election on the mainland is straightforward by comparison. Several candidates stand for election and the one that gets the most votes goes to Parliament and does exactly what his party leader tells him to. However, under these Northern Ireland arrangements ..."

The scientist falls silent. "Yes?"

There is no answer. Under the strain of trying to figure out what the Government means, the scientist has actually suffered major brain aversion, a condition that causes people to go silent when a certain subject is raised, and which scientists now think is actually caused by elections in Northern Ireland, or BSE (Bombing and Semtex Elimination).

This is not peculiar to elections in Northern Ireland, of course. Scientists have isolated other topics of conversation which are suspected of causing major brain rotting, of which the major ones are:


The Booker Prize

Tony Parsons

The total predictability of panellists' responses on Any Questions and Question Time

The Newbury bypass


The Scott report

The Internet

The extreme difficulty of getting cellophane wrappers off the outside of brand new blank VHS tapes, etc.

It has been noticed that the introduction of any of these topics into the average conversation can lead within minutes to distressing symptoms such as staring into space, looking at watches, getting on coats, and leaving the house for periods up to several weeks without phoning home. But it is now believed that the introduction of BSE (jocularly supposed to stand for Bloody Silly Elections) might lead to displacement symptoms on a scale not known before.

"Yes, there is a link," says a politician who prefers to stand down at the next election. "There is definitely a link between the intractability of a subject and the mental health of the person who is discussing it. Now, I have been in Parliament for 10 years, and my doctor has seriously warned me that if I don't get out now, I could become certifiable during the next Parliament. And I am sure he's right. Most of the Cabinet is stark staring bonkers already.

"Have you seen all those staring eyes? I mean, have you really looked hard at the Cabinet recently?"

"Which ones?"

"Well, I don't want to run the risk of libel, but if you look at the ones called Michael you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about."

Back to Doctor "Brian" Mawhinney for a last comment.

"I believe that the electoral arrangements in Northern Ireland will work because you can't trust a party where someone like Harriet Harman sends her child to a grammar school, and even if we get it wrong, I think you will find that the Scott report says we had the best of intentions.

"I am totally confident that the way forward has now been focused and targeted in such a way that we can formulate the appropriate responses.

"I am sorry. What was the question?"

BSE is believed to stand for Bullshit Explanation.