Column One: Politicians? Some of them are almost human

"DON'T TELL my mother I'm a politician, she thinks I play the piano in a brothel." So runs the old joke. And, given the publicity generated for their trade by the likes of Geoffrey Robinson, Neil Hamilton and, of course, Jeffrey Archer, we might be forgiven for thinking that most of our politicians would, as Mohamed Al Fayed claimed of Mr Hamilton, sell their mother.

Yet there is evidence that most of our MPs are, if not entirely wholesome, then a little less venal and a little more like the rest of us than we might give them credit for.

The revelations come not from the Today programme or select committee grillings but from the Tesco schools website, (www.tesco.schoolnet2000.com). Pupils in trainee Paxman mode have coaxed revealing replies from MPs. For example, the favourite school memory of the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes: "Becoming head boy and telling others what to do - like making them clean the toilets". Or the confession by the Tory Oliver Letwin that blowing up the physics lab has a special place in his memory. The incendiary Mr Letwin also wishes to see "the Millennium Dome blown up".

You may be relieved to learn that many MPs still rate Jesus Christ as "the person in history who has made the most contribution". The Tories like Winston Churchill too, but more original inspirations come from the former secretary of state for education Gillian Shephard who nominates Napoleon, Labour's Ben Bradshaw who rates Elizabeth I and Martin Bell, the Independent MP, who rightly recognises the contribution of the inventor of the flush lavatory, Dr Crapper.

The Welsh First Secretary, Alun Michael, makes an especially audacious suggestion for his person of the millennium: "Phil Dunleavy, a postman who set up community and youth centres in Cardiff. He went on to be a councillor, the Lord Mayor and earned the CBE. People like him are the glue that keeps society together." Well said, Alun.

And in case you thought our law makers had lost sight of those ideals that brought them into politics, examine the responses to the question "What would you like to see changed in the millennium?" These range from the purely frivolous - Stephen Pound's "my underwear" - to the tediously on-message Yvette Cooper's "cut child poverty".

When it comes to the mundanity of life they're up there with the dullest of us. Bob Russell's favourite meal? Sausage, eggs, chips and beans. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown's top car? A Peugeot 406. Sleaze? Graft? Corruption? No. Our MPs are more like us than we care to admit.

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