Beleaguered Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is hoping to regain his political standing with a bold programme of constitutional reform, with the aim of bringing the glamour of show business to the mother of Parliaments. “I want to bring Parliament into the twenty first century and tap into the pulse of popular culture,” he told Fearne Cotton during a recent Radio One interview. “It is vital that increase the appeal of politics the popularity of politicians to the 18-25 year old group. They are our future!” It is widely believed that his first target for his radical reforms will be the increasingly tired-looking Prime Minister’s Question Time. Indeed, Clegg was highly critical of current arrangements during the interview, dismissing them as being far too confrontational. “Where’s the entertainment value in two middle-aged, middle class men shouting abuse at each other,” he asked. “Is it any wonder the youth of today have no respect for politicians. Not only that, but what kind of example is this setting them? Is it any wonder we have so much gang-related violence on our streets when we have this weekly spectacle legitimising the idea that angry confrontation is the most effective form of discourse?”
According to political insiders, the new Question Time will be modelled after the popular BBC TV series Shooting Stars. There will be no set running order for questions, with the House of Commons instead collectively calling down the ‘Dove From Above’, which will have all of that week’s prospective questions attached to it. Both sides of the House will then engage in a series of speciality rounds in order to win the right to choose a specific question from the Dove. It is proposed that these speciality rounds could include an impressions round in which members of each party would be called upon to perform their impersonations of well-known celebrities. If members of the public in the gallery can guess who the impression is of, then the right to choose a question is won. It is thought that the Labour leadership is particularly keen to include this round as Deputy Leader Harriet Harman is known to have frequently entertained her Cabinet colleagues with her amazing repertoire of impersonations – her Noddy Holder is said to be especially convincing. Harman isn’t the only cabinet member with a gift for mimicry. Many senior Labour politicians fondly remember the 1998 Downing Street Christmas party at which Peter Mandelson donned one of Cherie Blair’s dresses, balanced a bowl of fruit on his head and performed a Carmen Miranda number.
According to plans drawn up by top Downing Street advisors, senior members of the main parties will adopt the guises of the popular stars of the TV series. Clegg and David Cameron will obviously be Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, with Labour leader Ed Milliband donning a blonde wig to portray Ulrika Jonsson, whilst Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbornewill be greasy fifties throwback Mark Lamarr. It is believed that Foreign Secretary William Hague will be offered the role of George ‘What Are The Scores’ Daws (he’s a big baby). However, it is believed that Hague has privately been highly critical of Clegg’s plan, arguing that Shooting Stars is already a dated format and its use by the Government would underline just how out of touch with popular culture the Deputy Prime Minister is. Consequently, contingency plans are being drawn up to replace Hague as Dawes with bonkers Education Secretary Michael Gove as Angelos Epithemou, instead.
Not to be outdone, it is believed that opposition leader Ed Miliband is drawing up a set of counter proposals for constitutional reform. These plans – drawn up by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls – are believed to prefer a more contemporary model for Question Time, such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire. It is thought that Balls will propose a scheme under which MPs who have tabled questions will first face a preliminary quiz to establish which can complete his or her expense accounts quickest – the winner will then be quizzed by a smarmy host (possibly Tony Blair). If they get the initial answer right they will be allowed to ask their tabled question – they will then be given the chance to ‘double up’ and ask a supplementary question, provided they get the next answer right. A wrong answer will bring their line of questioning to a halt, and the runner-up from the preliminary round will take their place and the process start again. When the Prime Minister answers the questions posed by the contestants he will be allowed the opportunity to phone a friend or ask the Commons for help with an answer.
Not surprisingly, both sets of proposals have been met with a barrage of criticism, with many political commentators and constitutional reform groups accusing the main parties of trying to trivialise the political process. Whilst many critics suspect that the government’s plans are designed to divert public attention away from their real constitutional reforms, which include boundary changes and ‘reforms’ of the upper house designed to rig the whole system in favour of the Tories, others believe that they represent an attempt by both government and opposition to disguise their own failings. “Clearly the government is desperately hoping that by putting all this glossy showbiz veneer over the political process, it will hide the fact that their actual policies are an abject failure. If the public are kept entertained by madcap antics in the Commons, they might not notice their declining living standards,” opines Professor Judd Pronson, of the London School of Home Economics. “As for the Labour Party, they want to obscure the fact that they haven’t the political courage to propose any radical alternative to the government’s economic policies.” Rival academic Dr Herb Flugelthorpe of the Manchester Institute of Food Technology, suspects the explanation for these bizarre proposals for constitutional reform are even simpler. “All that glitz, noise, bright lights and frenzied activity is designed to do one thing – to give the impression that political debate in parliament actually achieves something, and isn’t just a meaningless sideshow,” he says. “Most specifically, they designed to show that Nick Clegg has some kind of relevance and a significant role to play in the political process, rather than being totally irrelevant, as most people perceive him to be.”