Friday, May 12, 2006

Carry on up the Nile

A few weeks ago we noted that David Cameron seemed to have lifted a quip used during questions to the Prime Minister from a Christy Moore song. If 2 makes a trend, then it looks like Cameron has decided to have at least one elaborate joke ready each Wednesday, based on material that he, or a writer, has recently encountered. Consider then his clearly planned joke the other day, which did draw significant laughter even from the Labour side:

Mr. Cameron: The issue of how long the right hon. Gentleman [Blair] stays in office is of key public interest. I remind him of the clearest pledge that he gave about this issue. He said:

“A full term is a full term and that is what it means”.

The right hon. Gentleman said that when he went to Khartoum. Presumably he wanted to see the place where Gordon was murdered—[Laughter.] I am glad that I have put a smile on the face of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Will the Prime Minister unravel a mystery for us? Why does he not trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take over the Government now?

The Prime Minister: No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has been rehearsing those lines all morning. [Interruption.] I think so. I thought that it was a little rehearsed.

At the risk of stating the obvious to some readers, the joke works from the play on Blair's impatient presumptive successor, Gordon Brown, and General Gordon, who met a nasty end at the hands of Sudan's Mahdi Army in 1885. We wonder if Cameron got the idea for the joke from BBC Radio 4's Empire series being up to that specific incident this week; the detailed episode aired last night but it was mentioned earlier in the week as well. Of course the incident -- a general sent to manage a withdrawal from a hotbed of Islamic radicalism but drawn into a disastrous showdown with a resourceful and committed enemy -- has other unfortunate potential parallels. Let's hope it just remains only as good material for the writers.

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