Friday, June 09, 2006

"My wife comes from Shropshire"

This is today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. Bob Russell's complaint about my Essex MP jokes can be found here. The jokes themselves were in the House Points column for 9 April 2004.

The Shropshire joke was inadvertently invented by Lord Bonkers in his diary for July 2002. There you will find another example:

"My wife comes from Shropshire."

"Long Mynd?"

"That's rather personal, isn't it?"

Oral traditions

Bob Russell once objected to my invention of the Essex MP joke. (‘Why do Essex MPs support VAT? Because they can spell it.’ You know the kind of thing.) Ever since then I have hesitated to write about him.

But his call for more support for English folk dance and song deserves to be celebrated. Madeleine Moon went further, suggesting these art forms could help the environment by encouraging more of us to take our holidays in Britain.

There are those who would say there is nothing like the prospect of folk dancing to make them head for the airport, but I am not one of them.

How much it would help the department of culture, media and sport’s attempt to make us all fitter is less clear. Years ago, when I won a district council by-election, my Labour opponent was a member of the Rutland Morris Men. We became friendly after the contest and I once spent a Saturday afternoon going around village fetes with them all. I have never drunk so much beer in my life.

Not that supporting folk dance would be the department’s only counterproductive action. On Monday we heard the new licensing laws had landed three-quarters of amateur sports clubs with higher costs. And it is clearer than ever that the 2012 Olympics are going to eat deep into the funding for every other activity. Meanwhile, the Northern Echo is no longer allowed to call its fundraising appeal for youth sport the ‘Olympic Dream’ campaign.

Some optimistic provincial MPs still urge the claims of their constituencies as Olympic venues. This time they were batting for Chorley and Much Wenlock.

Wenlock has a better claim than most towns, as the home of the nineteenth century games that inspired Baron de Coubertin to found the modern Olympic movement. But security considerations, and the way London has sold itself as being a place apart from the rest of Britain, mean that it will not see an event either.

But perhaps the town can inspire a new variety of joke that won’t upset Bob Russell. The Shropshire joke.

“I say, I say, I say. My wife comes from Shropshire.”

“Much Wenlock?”

“I get my share."

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