With a General Election on the horizon, speeches in the House are being focussed on the audience in the constituency rather than the one in Parliament. So much so, that I have begun to award points for the best constituency speech.
With the approach of the footballing season, I award five points to any MP who mentions the team with the most followers in his constituency (in my case, Southampton). You can get a bonus of five points if you can say, truthfully, that you have recently watched them – but you lose ten points if you did so from the Directors’ Box. You can get two extra points if you mention the name of the striker with the most goals, a further five for wearing the club tie while you speak.
I award ten points to any MP who mentions his local paper, with a bonus of double points if he mentions the editor by name. (MP’s do this on the basis that, if they mention the Editor in their speech, he will mention the MP in his paper.) I award five points for mentioning the local radio station, and ten for the name of the political reporter on either the BBC or ITV regional news programme. MP’s find this guarantees favourable coverage in the appropriate medium, particularly if prefaced by the adjective “campaigning”.
Members also try to show that they are committed to good works; I award 20 points for mentioning in a speech that an MP has worked as a night-porter in the local hospital, with a bonus of 5 points for wheeling any local dignitaries into the operating theatre; and a further bonus for wheeling them out alive afterwards. Ten points for going out on patrol with the local police, with double points if you do so after 11pm on a Friday or Saturday. But the bonus is halved if it is raining.
To show that they are normal human beings, MP’s like to refer to their leisure habits. 5 points for having seen 9/11, and five for mentioning the group that is top of the charts, with a bonus of ten if the MP knows the lead singer. No points for mentioning Cliff Richard, and minus 50 for going to Glastonbury by helicopter.
This column launches a competition for the most promising opening sentence of a constituency speech. The prize? The winner will be mentioned in a speech in the House of Commons.