Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stephen Pound is the New Tony Banks

Labour MP Stephen Pound has taken over Tony Bank's mantle as the House of Commons resident court jester. Many of his colleagues intensely dislike him but I beg to differ. I've done a few radio programmes with him and you can't help but like the guy. Simon Hoggart has written a sketch in The Guardian today (actually, yesterday now!) telling of his speech in Tuesday's Smoking debate. here's an extract...

Then up sprang Mr Pound, who has been Labour MP for Ealing since 1997. We might wish, he said, to be "seagreen incorruptibles, standing on snow-capped peaks, saying 'let there be no tobacco! Let a thousand children breathe uncluttered air!' - unless of course they live in a city, or a town, or a village or anywhere there is a motorcar ..." Purely in the interests of research, he had found himself questing for licensed premises in Dublin, where it is illegal to smoke in pubs. He had discovered that there were two types of tavern to be found there. Those rimmed with patio heaters and benches outside "so you had to fight your way through a fug to get into the damn place". "My advice is 'buy patio heater shares now!'" he told cheering MPs, and even the prune-mouthed, whey-faced prescriptivists joined the laughter. He was interrupted by Lynne Jones MP. "Hang on a second," he told her. "I'm a little short of breath, so what little I have I want to make the most of." He described his younger days. "Every morning I would rise and have a reflective cigarette, and then I would have breakfast and a cigarette. I would say my prayers, but I would remember what my Jesuit confessor told me: you must never, ever smoke while you're praying. But you can pray while you're smoking." By this time MPs were in tucks of merry laughter. It is rare that anyone makes a rollicking, comical speech in a parliament that seems to be occupied mostly by harshness and pomposity."I would then get on the bus and leap like a live gazelle to the upper deck where I would have a couple of Players Weights, jump off the bus, and by the time I got to my primary school ..." As MPs roared (this was such a treat for them) they hardly noticed that he turned to Ms Jones and said, "on the subject of dog-ends, I will certainly give way to my honourable friend," a remark which, if it was as meant to mean what it sounded like it was meant to mean, was not perhaps as graceful as the rest of the speech. Mr Pound did not actually tell us how he intended to vote. But that was irrelevant; he had cheered us all up.

Parliament could do with more characters like Steve Pound.

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