Young (and old) pretenders

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One noteworthy thing about the Tory leadership contest is that the declared contestants are not half so interesting as the undeclared contestants, so today I am ignoring the two men already with their hats in the ring and bringing you a list of some of those who will be slugging it out in the second ballot.

John Gummer. Mr Gummer believes that anyone called John is in with a very good chance of winning the title, and as he is called John, this would seem a good time for him to stand for the post. Of course, anyone called Michael is also in with a very good chance of winning, so it is quite on the cards that Mr Gummer might change his name to John Michael Gummer. This is not as unlikely as it sounds, as he has already changed his name once, from John Selwyn Gummer to John Gummer. If he became prime minister, he would cut taxes, distance himself from Europe and become very popular.

Prince Charles. For years his mother has been nagging at him to get a proper job and keep out of mischief. Of course, being leader of the Tory party is not what most people would call having a proper job, nor would it keep him out of trouble, but it would be a start. It would be the first job he had applied for that a divorced person can do, for one thing. It would also be within the rules of the contest if he married a Catholic, which he is not allowed to do in his present job. He has a great advantage over John Redwood, the ex-Secretary of State for Wales, in that he is still Prince of Wales and can get by in Welsh.

Gerry Adams. Gerry Adams is not everyone's idea of a perfect Tory leader, but has been elected a Westminster MP in the past and may well be a secret card-carrying member of the Tory party, so there is no reason why he should not be taken seriously as a candidate. He already knows all the world leaders well, certainly better than John Major, and is the one man who could bring peace to Northern Ireland at the stroke of a pen. He believes passionately in the special relationship that exists between the United States and parts of Northern Ireland, and has not been over-exposed on British TV.

Margaret Thatcher. One of the most experienced fighters in Tory party leadership elections, there is no reason why she should not come back to lead the party again, book signings permitting. If she became prime minister again, she would pledge herself to cut taxes, distance herself from Europe, become immensely popular, get Mark out of all his troubles and take Julian Critchley's knighthood away.

Ned Sherrin. Ned Sherrin is virtually a flawless candidate. He knows everyone, does a handy little monologue on the week's news just as if he had written it himself and is never fazed by questions, so would make a perfect PM. If elected, he would pledge himself to pay his taxes, go to Europe whenever possible and get all the best people as guests at Prime Minister's Question TIme.

Hugh Grant. There would be a huge sympathy vote for Hugh Grant, after so many cheap jokes at the expense of the unfortunate star of Four Weddings and a Lewd Act. Jokes like that, for instance. And whenever things went wrong under his premiership, he could always put it down to temporary insanity, which no other PM has ever openly admitted.

Lionel Blair. Sorry, that was a misprint for Tony Blair.

Tony Blair. It is often said that politicians should have jobs outside their parliamentary role to keep them in touch with the the real world, and it is said that Tony Blair is seriously considering an offer from the Stop-Michael-Portillo-At-All-Costs lobby to take on the extra role of Tory leader. Obviously, it would be unusual for one man to run both main parties, but it is totally in line with Tory thinking to have as many jobs as possible and get paid as much as possible for them.

Paul Merton. The popular young comedian is at present reshooting some of the Tony Hancock TV shows, playing the part that Hancock played, in order to bring these great scripts to a younger audience. There seems no reason, runs Tory thinking, why he shouldn't do the same for them. The idea would be to write Major out and write Merton in, but using the same speeches and jokes.

Jonathan Aitken. I have to be very careful here, because this column couldn't take the expense of yet another long and expensive libel case, but I have a piece of paper in my hand which suggests that if Jonathan Aitken were to become prime minister, his first act would be to take the report of the Scott Inquiry and, holding it tightly in both hands and going very red in the face, exert all his strength to ...

The rest of this column is sub judice.

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