The new labours of Hercules - 12 ways to restore the voters' faith

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The Independent Online
When you go to see a Disney film you don't just see clean-cut heroes and fast action, you see a story which is noticeably different from the original as well. Interestingly, the same is true of our new Labour government, where there is a lot of clean-cutness and where the truth changes subtly the whole time ...

So why not combine the two? And that's exactly what we have done today in a great new story called: HERCULES: NEW LABOURS!

Once upon a time there was a hero called Hercules who was clean-cut and young and strong and, above all, squeaky clean, and he went to the Oracle and said, "Oracle, I have come for your help, because I want to make this land prosperous, and fair and equal, and I wish to root out disparity and unfairness, and I want to make the whole of Europe fair and equal, and prosperous, and I pledge that I shall not rest until ..."

And the Oracle said: "Yes, yes, yes, you don't have to tell me all this, I can read minds you know. I wouldn't have got this far if I couldn't read minds, it saves a lot of time, especially with politicians. So what can I do for you?"

"Well," said Hercules, "it's a long story, but I accepted some money from someone and it has got me in trouble."

"Give back the money," said the Oracle.

"I have done that, and I am still in trouble."

"Then you must do 12 great tasks and then people will forgive you."

"Gladly," said Hercules, smiling, for he always smiled even when unhappy. "I will gladly do these tasks for I must do all that is in my power to make this land happy and wealthy and above all fair-minded and must drive out sleaze ..."

"Give us a break and knock it off," said the Oracle, handing him a parchment. "Now, here is a list of the 12 great tasks and when you have done them you can come and see me again, but if you want my advice, you will go easy on the smiling and the clean-cut speeches, not that it's any of my business!

The Oracle vanished and Hercules found himself in the middle of a great empty plain on his first quest, to slay the Nemean lion. And as he walked along, he found the Nemean lion lying dead, where it had been run over, and his faithful companion Mandeles said: "Well, that was a stroke of luck, because now we can put it out that you killed him," and that was the first new labour.

Then he came upon a monster called the NHS or National Hydra Scare, a hideously expensive monster which swallowed up everyone's money and which, as soon as you cut off one head of management, grew another nine regional heads more expensive than the first. And Hercules stared straight at it and said in a loud voice: "I pledge myself to do something about this." And the Hydra was so surprised it died laughing, and that was the second new labour.

Then he came to the problem of the hunting of the Cerynean hind, but he said there was no time to debate hunting this time round, and that was the third new labour. And then he came to the Erymanthian bore, and he said to it, "Yes, yes, yes, Robin, we all know you've been to Erymanthia to do some trouble-shooting, just don't go on about it - I'll do the boring round here!" and that was the fourth new labour.

Now he came to the racing stables of King Augeias, whose Grand Prix horses were famous throughout the world, but where the stables were filthy with pollution not just from droppings but also from tobacco. "No problem," said Hercules, and people nodded wisely and said, yes, there was no problem, and that was the fifth new labour. Then Hercules came to the singing birds of Stymphalia, some of which sang opera in foreign languages and some in their own language, and they made a frightful noise day and night, and ate up money by the million, and Hercules forced them to go and live in one opera house and clear up their own act, and that was the sixth new labour.

The he came to the Cretan Bull, which he had culled, saying it was mad because of the previous government, and then he came to lots of other problems such as the Millennium Dome, which Atlas usually carried on his shoulders and which Hercules bore for a second just for a photo-opportunity, and then he pledged himself to introduce the Single Girdle of Hippolyte, and he cleared up lots of other problems, or at least it was announced by his faithful servant Mandeles that he had.

And finally he went back to the Oracle, and said: "I have done all these 12 tasks. Are my ratings now back to the previous high level which I enjoyed for so long?"

And the Oracle said, "No, they are not."

But Hercules ignored this and behaved as if they were.