Last week I was driving through the stately village of Woburn, the home of the Duke of Bedford and Woburn Abbey when suddenly Master Ben cried out;
"Look, TV cameras!"
As I had my eyes fixed on the car in front (just for a change) I didn't see the cameras but I supposed that it was nothing unusual as historic Woburn Abbey and its famous safari park have been the subject of many documentaries. However, on our return several hours later, just as we coming through Woburn again, we were listening to the local radio news and the announcer declared something to the effect of;
" David Van Day has been in Woburn today canvassing political opinion. The former 80s popstar is considering standing at the next election."
At which point, I nearly had a fourth car crash.
Let me explain - as I know many of you across the world will have no idea who I am talking about.
My earliest memory of David goes back a lot further than most. Because as a child I think one of my first, but definitely my first truly memorable outing to the theatre, was a trip to see the comedian Freddie Starr. Freddie was then in his heyday producing chaotic, highly comical routines which famously included impressions of Elvis Presley and Adolf Hitler. (This may account for my fetish for comedy jackboots.) Freddie's supporting act was a successful cabaret act called Guys "n" Dolls which featured the young David Van Day.
This was the start of a career that has spanned 30 years in show business, firstly with Guy's "n" Dolls, laterly with Bucks Fizz and a number of reality TV shows including I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Reborn in the USA but principally as one half of the 80s pop duo Dollar where he sang alongside Thereze Bazar his former partner in Guys "n"Dolls.
Dollar had a number of hits between 1978 and 1988 but peaked in the early eighties with a series of songs produced by Trevor Horn of Buggles fame. Here's my favourite from this period Mirror, Mirror
So all in all, David's had a pretty colourful life. There have been acrimonious band departures, court cases, vitriolic reality shows and tabloid headlines and I'm sure he's learnt a hell of a lot along the way.
But do I want him as a Member of Parliament?
Well, it would take a LOT to convince me that David is a suitable candidate. I've have nothing against celebrities standing as MPs. In fact, I'm personally in favour of candidates coming into politics late in life having made their own way in the world and being in a situation to offer their services to causes they feel strongly about. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Glenda Jackson are two good examples of well known personalities who have successfully made this career change. However, there's no way I would want to see numerous celebrities standing for election, diluting the political system for the sake of cheap publicity. I'd like to see more candidates from business, the armed forces and education; people who are used to making serious decisions. I'm fed up seeing MPs who were born into it or recruited straight from university.
I rarely touch upon politics as you know, but for weeks now our newspapers have been dominated by a political scandal that shows no signs of abating. Without a shadow of a doubt it is the final nail in the coffin for the current Labour Government. Currently, 4 serving cabinet ministers have resigned their positions as well as the Speaker of the House of Commons. This is the tip of the iceberg though; I have actually lost count of the number of politicians who are "standing down" at the next election for "personal reasons."
The truth is they have all been fiddling their expenses and have now been ousted. Yep, there have been claims for employing relatives, ice cube trays, horse manure, toilet seats, pornographic videos and even a duck house.
Yes...a duck house! Obviously a vitally important necessity without which Sir Peter Viggers, Tory MP for Gosport, couldn't do his job properly. And what's more it was a floating duck house - boy those were lucky ducks! Maybe I'm being cynical - maybe Sir Peter was planning to sail down the Thames on it to avoid traffic congestion. You know, I've tried a similar tactic with Mr T and requested more pocket money for my chocolate bars but he just said I was just pulling a fast one.
The duck house, manure and pornographic videos are just the silly claims though. Sadly, there are claims far worse. For example, there are claims for second mortgages that didn't even exist!
This whole sorry saga is turning out to be a shameful affair for both the major parties. It will now take an absolute miracle for the public, many who are cash strapped and facing redundancy, to forget this blatant abuse of MPs' privileges. It is time for clearout of these second rate, conceited politicians who have abused the trust that has been placed in them. I am not the only one who hopes that the next election will introduce a new breed of politicians for whom politics is a genuine vocation and not just a meal ticket to power and prosperity.
But how do we go about attracting the right candidates? No simple answer there - but it would surely help if MPs were paid a suitable sum for the responsibilities the job entails. A back bencher is paid £66,00 pa which although significantly above the national average is not sufficient to attract better quality candidates. I'm not excusing the behaviour of the offenders, some of whom are independently wealthy, but it would certainly help to open up the field.
In the meantime, I welcome the interest of sincere people into the political arena. Esther Rantzen, the TV presenter is considering throwing her glove into the arena in Luton South, the constituency of the disgraced Margaret Moran. (Moran claimed £22, 500 for treating dry rot at her and her husband's home in Southampton after already making claims for homes in Luton and London.) We need more informed people to challenge the status quo, more independent candidates who do not conform to the party whips and are not afraid to speak their own minds.
Personally, I'm all in favour of Michael Winner, producer of the Death Wish movies, standing as MP. The whole country knows he's a pompous old goat at times but hell what fun we would have! Michael says he would "purge The House and send the PC idiots to Gulag" Hmm... sounds pretty good to me and if he made Saturday nights compulsory Champers Night (which is highly likely) I'm sure the whole country would be falling over themselves to vote for him!
Joking aside, politics is a serious matter and never more than now when there are so many truly global concerns. We need strong, effective leadership but leadership which commands our respect and demonstrates true integrity. With an election on the horizon next year it is time for the major parties to clear out the dead wood and take a leaf from the Americans and Barack Obama.
It is time for change.