Can you honestly imagine Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks submitting to the discipline of the Whips?
That was the Right Honourable MP for Ealing North, Stephen Pound, on this evening’s PM programme on Radio 4, once again justifying his status as one of the only contemporary British politicians I’d happily buy a pint for. Following the news that US satirist Al Franken had been elected as Minnesota Senator, Pound and comedy writer John O’Farrell were discussing whether its possible for a comedian or satirist to become a politician and remain funny. Pound felt that it was unlikely, partly because a true satirist like Bruce or Hicks could never slavishly tow the party line. He thought it was a shame, because “most MPs are so buttoned-down, they’re so tight, they’re so butt-clenchingly anxious not to give offense or do anything but pitch to the middle vote.”
In February 2004 he initiated an early day motion mourning the 10th anniversary of the death of comedian Bill Hicks, calling him “unflinching and painfully honest” and his words “a bullet in the heart of consumerism, capitalism and the American Dream”.
I first heard of Stephen Pound during Christmas 2003, when Radio 4’s Today Programme asked listeners to suggest laws that they’d like to see added to the statute books. A shortlist was reached, listeners were invited to vote for their favourite and the Right Honourable MP for Ealing North agreed to provide political support to the winning law. With the toe-curling predictability of an episode of Baywatch, the Great British public backed the most bloody-minded, vindictive, just-to-the-right-of-Genghis Khan option available. Pound’s on-air reaction was priceless: “Well, the people have spoken – the bastards.”
I’ve owed him a pint ever since.