Guest post by Gary Baldi, a first-time blogger - I do suspect that's a pseudonym, though - who I think should consider writing more often!
Those of you concentrating really hard may be aware that the Liberal Democrats are currently convening in Glasgow, in an appropriately well-protected shelter that goes by the name of the Armadillo. They appear bullish about their electoral prospects, declaring that it’s up to the voters whether they form the next coalition with Labour or with the Tories. Presumably their manifesto is going to contain two different what-if scenarios, or perhaps they’ll dispense with it altogether and just sell lottery tickets.
Observers of opinion polls take a somewhat less optimistic stance, viewing Lib Dem MPs not as versatile political operators with a gentle hand on the helm of history, but as an endangered species, singing one last sweet but sad refrain before obliteration.
Such an outcome will, of course, be a mere career blip for the party’s high heid yins, such as Messrs Clegg, Cable and Alexander, established as they are on the gilded path to ermine goons, a well-upholstered red bench and a lifelong attendance allowance. But what about departing MPs of more modest talents, whatever colour their rosettes may be? There simply aren’t enough whelk stalls in existence for them to take over and drive out of business, so what’s their route to rejoining polite society?
For the answer, you’re welcome to join me on a visit to my state-of-the-art Political Rehab Clinic, tucked away in a delightful rural setting reminiscent of a People’s Friend calendar. We’ll have to make it a virtual tour, I’m afraid, unless you’d prefer to be blindfolded and drugged by our state-of-the-art taxi drivers. We can’t take the risk of the electorate discovering its location and turning up in force with pitchforks and firebrands.
After an initial sluicing to remove residual oiliness, arriving ex-MPs are ushered into an echo chamber, to be educated out of needing to have the last word. Usually they adjust, if only through fatigue, within a few days. In the case of more persistent motor-mouths, sedatives may be administered. There’s also an emergency procedure known as the “George Galloway option” where the candidate is enclosed in a thick roll of carpet, taken to a nearby empty house and left to knock himself senseless in the inevitable fist fight.
Frequently subjects are unaware that, with the loss of Parliamentary privilege, ordinary laws apply to them once more. In extreme cases they may plummet from upper-storey windows under the misconception that they can still defy gravity. Our next de-programming step, therefore, is to put them through a gauntlet of Metropolitan Police officers, who periodically shove them to the ground, hit them with riot shields and prevent them from leaving the area for several hours. We tend to find that, after a few episodes of that, they know their place pretty sharpish.
Specialised highly expensive treatments are available depending on a candidate’s political history. Opposition politicians, used to simply slagging off the Government no matter what it does, are offered a brain transplant. Government politicians, accustomed to ramming their measures through no matter what the human cost, qualify for a heart transplant. Those eternally stuck in the middle, including the hapless Lib Dems, get an implant of courage to combat their feelings of uselessness and irrelevance. Of course, it’s all a pack of lies and we’re really just fooling everyone with hypnosis, but we should be OK as long as no-one notices we stole the whole idea from The Wizard of Oz.
Finally, and crucially, a team of orthodontists is on hand to wire our patients’ jaws shut. Sorry, but we simply have to stop them smiling at all costs. In fact this will probably happen automatically when they realise the days of 11% annual pay increases are over, but it’s best to err on the safe side.
It would be wonderful to be able to say that alumni of our clinic go on to play useful roles in the community. Though we do perform a valuable service that in my opinion deserves adulation and massive financial rewards, we’re not miracle workers, so that remains a distant aspiration. But all is not lost. In another part of our complex we’ve created the ideal work environment to keep these poor unimaginative drones occupied for the rest of their lives: a production line manufacturing huge numbers of baseball bats.
What do we need all the baseball bats for? Join me soon, and I’ll take you on a tour of our fabulous new treatment centre for bankers.