Vote for us and mind your own business

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The Independent Online
One of the reasons that election talk is so baffling and so dreary is that it has fallen into the hands of journalists (who see it as a kind of confrontational soap opera), psephologists (who see it as a once-in- five-years chance to get vastly over-excited) and politicians (who see it as another chance to lie their heads off). So today I have summoned one of our top business experts, Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald, to give a businessman's slant and answer your questions in a refreshingly businesslike manner.

All yours, Sir James!

I am seriously thinking of investing my vote in one of the parties at the next election, but I do not want to enter into any agreement that I might later regret. Do you have any advice on what sort of contract I should look for?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Oddly enough, there is no contract to be signed. It is all done by verbal agreement. When you have voted, you have given the winning party your full approval to do whatever they like with your money for the next five years and there is nothing you can do about it. They do not have to consult you thereafter and they do not have to get your approval. They can buy or sell anything of yours they like ...

What do you mean by anything?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: I mean anything they can get their hands on. Water, railway systems, arms to Iraq ...

They have been selling railways to Iraq?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: No, just weapons.

Should they have been doing that?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: No. But then they said they weren't.

Why did they say that?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: They were lying.

Oh dear. How did they justify that?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: They didn't. They just said afterwards that they hadn't been lying.

So they lied about having lied?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Yes. So you can see that there wouldn't be much point in entering into a contract with them because you couldn't trust them anyway.

Oh. Well, don't they put anything in writing at all?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Oh, yes. Every party issues a prospectus of undertakings before an election.

Ah! This sounds more like it! Can I get hold of it?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Certainly. It is called a manifesto, and it sets out the party's promises and commitments.

And if the party I give my vote to gets into power, it will carry out this programme of promises?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Not usually. It would be considered quite odd, not to say suspicious, for a political party to carry out its election programme.

Why?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Because an election manifesto is exactly what it says it is - a manifesto which enables it to win an election. When the election is good and won, they can put other ideas into practice.

But surely if a party fails to abide by its own manifesto, it is guilty of fraudulent practice or uttering false promises or something, isn't it?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Yes.

So you could sue them or take them to court?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: No.

Why not?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Even if you take a government to court, and even if you win, the government refuses to admit it. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, is always being told by the law lords and the courts that he is wrong, but he never takes any notice.

Why not?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Science has not yet come up with a satisfactory explanation. Current thinking suggests that Mr Howard's DNA contains a smugness gene of such strength that it debars him from ever admitting he is wrong about anything.

My goodness! Poor chap!

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Precisely. That is why we must all feel sorry for him. Even the Labour Party feels sorry for him.

Does the Labour Party refrain from attacking him, then?

Sir James Lee Harvey-Oswald writes: Yes. Well, they have given Jack Straw the job of criticising him, which comes to the same thing.

More of this enlightening interview tomorrow, I hope.

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