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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Politics can be a funny old game

If we’re honest we could all do with a bit of a laugh a lot more often. We just don’t generally expect laughter to come from councils... at least not without a tax increase.

Ah but such is the magnanimity of our locally elected members that, even before April Fool’s Day, giggles are dispensed free, gratis and for nothing. As a gift, so to speak. A laugh-out-loud one.

You don’t have to be an Italian to find a comic in the corridors of authority. You don’t even have to be electing a London mayor to get the joke.

Right here in Carlisle there’s a comedy club providing endless entertainment with a performance that has been running for a good two weeks or more. How’s that for value for no money?

You’ll know, of course, that it started when Harraby councillor and would-be Labour MP Lee Sherriff filed an eloquent article in support of her opposition to the so-called bedroom tax (which is a curious name for a benefit cut but it seems to have caught on).

Only, as a reader of the piece pointed out to the News & Star when it was published online, it wasn’t her eloquence at all. It merely had her name on it.

“Can the original author have his article back?” said the complainant, calling himself Andy.

“I suggest people have a read. Not the smartest move. In a six hundred word article, 35 words are her’s (sic) and the rest are copied and pasted.”

And so they were, which would have been less funny had not politicians been arguing fiercely and indignantly that – post-Leveson Inquiry – truth, honesty and decency would be safer in their hands than in those of newspapers. Go on – you have to allow yourself a little smile.

Website fury ensued, along with some excellent (but sadly unpublishable) jokes which ran and ran like a John Bishop gig.

Lots of fun. And more was to come. Another reader pointed out that a certain Conservative councillor for Belah, by name of Gareth Ellis, had managed to buy the rights to a website bearing Ms Sherriff’s name and was diverting visitors to a gallery of pictures of fluffy kittens.

He’d initially directed people to the website of Carlisle’s Conservative MP John Stevenson. But presumably he later decided the kittens were cuter.

Not a dirty trick, more a bit of mischief, reckoned Mr Ellis. The Labour lady though was not amused.

All this might have been enough to pepper light and laughter into austere days, had not Brampton parish councillors been falling out in lumps up the road.

They’d already been warned to behave themselves, cut the back-biting and play nicely. Icing on the council cake came when the latest member to resign went all Clintonesque and cited a desire to spend more time with his family as a reason for slamming the Moot Hall door behind him.

Carlisle Tory councillor James Bainbridge tweeted me (honest, I never felt a thing) when he learned more of Ms Sherriff’s blog-gate story was to appear in the paper.

“Have to be honest I am looking forward to getting home and having a read of this. Though could we ever rival Brampton parish?” he asked.

Hmm... toughie, that.

Where else but in the whacky world of adversarial politics could such large doses of chuckle juice be shared for not so much as the price of a ticket... theoretically.

Endless levity and probably more to come. But comics, councillors, MPs and ministers might like to consider the downside – every comedy club has one. Why do fewer and fewer of us turn out to vote?

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