Mr Jenkins' poodle (1980)
A Short Story from the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
On April 1, 1984, Mr Roy Jenkins, ex-Labour Home Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and failed contender for the Party leadership, finally succeeded in forming the new British political party of the Centre. At the inaugural meeting of the Conmore Party, Jenkins welcomed the audience of 14 (including two dogs and a talking parrot). He said the party was being formed to fill the gap in British political life at the radical centre, a gap created by the failures of both the Labour and Tory parties. The new party which intended to field over 600 candidates in next month’s General Election, when St Margaret of the Cuts finally went to the polls, would propose fundamentally different policies having a wide appeal to all those concerned about the state of Britain.
There was a distinguished panel to address the meeting on this auspicious occasion of the inaugural party gathering. The first was ex-Labour Foreign Secretary, Dr David Showem (superbrat). As spokesman on foreign affairs, Dr Showem said that we needed to build up our foreign defences. To this end the Conmore Party would establish military bases in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Bermuda and the Isle of Mull. He also had a plan to invade the Equatorial Rain Forests of South America by night so as not to be spotted. The exploitation of the huge reserves of fallen leaves would enable the British rate of tax to be cut by 2p in the pound and the dog licence fee to be reduced by half (prolonged bark of approval from the hall). But his main plan for Britain was a secret scheme. Although he was not at liberty to reveal full details, this involved parachuting the Salvation Army into Moscow and overrunning the Soviet capital with brass bands and soup kitchens. This would completely disarm the Soviet nuclear capacity. Thus, said Dr Showem, we would be making a real and meaningful contribution to world peace.
The next distinguished speaker was Reg Apprentice. Mr Apprentice started by remarking that he had left more parties than members of the audience had eaten hot dinners, but that despite this he had never betrayed any principle. As spokesman for Home Affairs, he said he often had affairs at home and in other places too. He did not think it was right to commit the party to detailed policies, but he did say he would strengthen policemen’s truncheons, improve street lighting and clamp down on immigration. He said he would also raise the quarantine period to twelve months. The parrot objected to this, but was ruled out of order. This, said Apprentice, would be a real and meaningful contribution to British life.
The following speaker was Lord Kildore. He was the Rudyard Kipling Professor of Jungle Stories and Economics at Cambridge, and formerly a government adviser. As the Conmore Party’s spokesman on financial matters and the potential Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Kildore argued that the British economy was in serious financial difficulty and that the reason for this was the failure of British politicians to manage the economy. He had, however, worked out a special formula. This was X2 + Y2 = A2 + B2. He said that the application of this formula (taking into account oil prices, the gold standard and the direction of the prevailing wind) would ensure a reduction of general price levels, increase wages and cure the common cold.
The final distinguished speaker was Cyril Bigg, who had suffered from Liberalism for most of his life. He said that as an old Parliamentarian he had supported many policies such as war, peace, inflation, deflation, high taxes, low taxes, high employment, low employment, boom, slump, often all together. He said most of the time his liberal tendencies meant he did not know what he was doing or why. It was most important (he said) that this element in British political life continued, which was why he was throwing his weight behind the formation of the Conmore Party based on these principles. What he disliked most was people with new ideas since he had never had one in his life. (Mr Bigg sat down to a loud and prolonged cheer.)
Mr Jenkins then concluded the formal business of the meeting by urging the British working class to support the Conmore Party, which was the only party with a real and meaningful policy to deal with the current problems of inflation at 73 per cent, mortgage rates at 49 per cent, unemployment of 5 million, three world wars and the Home Rule for Eastbourne movement. He exhorted all members of the audience to work for a Conmore victory to ensure, as he put it, Britain made a real and meaningful contribution.
The unreal and meaningless charade came to an end. As a footnote, the Conmore Party failed to gain any seats at the May 1984 General Election. Capitalism continued unharmed.