Q. I say, I say, I say,what’s the secret of good comedy?
A. I don’t know what is the sec …
Yes, well it loses something when it’s written down and it’s not being delivered by Woody Allen, but you get the gist…I hope.
The secret of good comedy is also to never, ever, not once, let a politician deliver a gag in a speech.
Alright, they might be great at the one-liners in real life – think Winston Churchill and the lady who said she’d poison him is she were his wife, quick as a flash he said if she were his wife he’d drink it.
Or the battleaxe MP who told him he was drunk, to which he replied, yes, and she was ugly, but he would be sober in the morning.
And Denis Healey’s dead sheep jibe will be printed with his own and Geoffrey Howe’s obituary no doubt.
But it’s in conference’s speeches that they collectively administer the coup de grace to anything remotely funny.
You see, they’ve read the speech over and over again and they know they’re going for a laugh at this point, and they don’t want it to fall flat in front of the cameras, so they deliver it with all the subtlety of a brick in the forehead.
If it were not for the serried ranks of party members clapping and laughing loyally they would get the gong and be unceremoniously hoiked of the stage by a large hook.
Think Thatcher and her “every Prime Minister needs a Willie” – she was talking, about Whitelaw and I just don’t want to go any further.
Or Iain Duncan-Smith and his “quiet man turning up the volume” speech, just…dire.
And now Ieuan Wyn Jones has joined the fray with a crack at Peter Hain.
Here it is and be warned, should you be drinking tea, prepare to splutter it across the breakfast table at your nearest and dearest in a display on uncontrollable mirth.
Now the set up for this gag is the fact that Peter Hain’s very positive slogan as we approach the Assembly elections is “Vote Plaid and get Tories”. You also need to know that Hain’s ambition of getting his hands on the deputy leadership of the Labour party has been backed by none other than Richard Wilson, aka, One Foot in the Grave Star.
Now, I don’t know if some bright spark in Plaid party command had this bright idea, or whether it was Ieuan himself.
But quick as a flash, well, several weeks after Hain came up with his slogan, Ieuan shoots back: “Well in the words of his new best friend Victor Meldrew ‘I don’t believe it’ and neither will the people of Wales.”
I wasn’t at the conference – I’m not entirely sure they would let me in even if I asked – but I’m guessing this had the party faithful rolling in the aisles, or rather chortling and politely applauding, while the rest of Wales simply wondered whether they might find a re-run of ‘One Foot..’ on digital somewhere, anything was better than this.
The sad thing is that Ieuan Wyn Jones’s crack was in response to admittedly negative campaigning by Labour, and so they responded with some negativity of their own.
It’s all very well harping on about how negative Labour are, but if you then come up with a little list of just how rubbish Labour have been for the past few years it rings a little hollow.
The problem is that in amongst the party politicking Ieuan had secreted away a few policies which actually look interesting and which to dust off an old political cliché, put clear blue water between them and Labour and the Tories together.
An inflation cap on council tax for pensioners and plans to repay student loans for five years for those who stay to work in Wales.
Pensioners will like the first idea and I really like the second. Time and again I’ve banged on in this column about the drain of young talented people out of Wales and at last Plaid has seen fit to come up with an idea that is just a start to remedying it.
Of course, to resurrect political cliché number two, the devil is in the detail, as many former students do not have to pay off their student loans immediately because their first jobs are relatively low paid and they don’t cross the threshold at which they have to start paying their loans.
So if Plaid are promising to make payments and then they won’t need to make any it’s a bit of an empty promise. F however, they’re promising to start repaying regardless of income then that’s a great idea and if they’ve costed it out and it won’t break the bank then it’s a really creative bit of thin king about how Wales can retain some of its young talent.
Likewise £5,000 match deposits for first-time buyers is another great bit of thinking which might help redress some, just some, of the issues in the housing market in Wales. It’s never going to be the whole answer, but if it helps just a few get onto the housing ladder it’s go to be a good thing – but again, just as long as Plaid’s sums stack up.
The frustrating thing is that when, to complete the hat trick of political clichés, you’re forever asking politicians ‘where’s the beef?’ and along comes Ieuan with rump, ribeye and sirloin in one speech, it needs no dressing up, especially with fourth-rate gags about a BBC series that ended years ago.