The Plastic Hippo

February 4, 2010

Roll up…roll up…roll over…

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 10:24 pm

At the last count, there were 164 definitions of the word “culture” and there are about as many for the word “leisure”. There is no need to look them all up because in Walsall, leisure and culture can now be defined in one word. No, not art, or heritage, or self-improvement, or sport, or hobbies, or civilisation but…funfairs.

The previous overseer of our time not spent working or sleeping was an accountant. That makes sense in a cabinet desperate to claw back wasted money and the cost of gross inefficiency. Sadly, that hapless bean counter committed the cardinal sin of spilling the beans on real council intentions and has gone back to doing the returns for Fat Bob`s Topless Car Wash and Ye Olde Worlde 99p Shoppe. His successor comes to the post with a cultured and leisurely pedigree that is perfect for Walsall in 2010. He owns a funfair.

Years of separating the easily impressed from their money by using flashing lights, loud music and machines that throw gullible thrill-seekers around until they fell sick gives Councillor Harris unquestioned authority to guide our aesthetic sensibilities. Perhaps he should be given control of school dinners as well. What child would turn down a diet of candy-floss, processed entrails in a bun and lots and lots of sugar? What parent would deny their child a £3-00 e-number fix?

Born into a showman family, the young Anthony first turned a coin by riding a motorbike on the wall of death – a useful skill in local politics. His long experience of roundabouts and dodgems clearly proved to be an asset when, as transport portfolio holder, the ring road completion became so tiresome. He has even met the late Pope John Paul II, so is well used to dealing with people who believe themselves to be infallible. A skill he will need in cabinet.

In the week that his appointment was announced, Walsall Council claimed that 1.6 million people have visited the New Art Gallery since it opened 10 years ago. Maths is not a hippo skill and the absence of an opposable thumb makes operating a calculator rather difficult, but even this two tonne dunce can work out that figure as being an average of 426 visits every day. If those figures are correct, and so many of us are flocking to see the works of Epstein, Van Gogh, Monet, Turner, Renoir and Constable, then the first job of the new member of cabinet should be an adaptation of the Art Gallery marketing plan for use at Willenhall Leisure Centre which, according to council figures, attracts 16 visitors a day. Swimmers there are not making a bigger splash and are clearly not waving, but drowning.

The second tick on Anthony`s to do list should be to reconsider the decision to “lend” the plaster cast model of the blessed Sister Dora to the Manor Hospital. There is money in art as the sale of L`Homme Qui Marche by Alberto Giacometti proves. It just fetched £65million at auction. The council could trouser 30 or 40 quid if they put the potential ash-tray and target of amorous A&E drunks on the open market.

Perhaps his third priority should be to bring some of his white-knuckle machines and set them up outside the Council House prior to cabinet meetings. The ability of portfolio holders to decide our collective future might best be judged after they have had a go on Ninja Dodgems, Chaos Street Fighter, Sizzler Twist or The Scream. The Scream is the closest we get to art as it depicts a tasteful representation of Brittany Spears in her bra. Sadly, Edvard Munch is not in evidence.

Even with all his undoubted qualifications to lead on leisure and culture, Councillor Harris brings to the cabinet table a quality far more important to the future of Walsall. With local elections approaching and a general election bound to coincide, the showman brings the skill of compliance. As the council leader, dressed in Eric Morecambe shorts and pith helmet slashes his way through the jungle of public services, the last thing he needs is someone telling him to stop. Anthony is there to tell us to roll up and look at the pretty lights, then roll over and have his tummy tickled by the machete wielding leader.

There are others, though, that are beginning to see the antics of our leader as an electoral liability and rumours of plots abound. Some of the more cogent and possibly ambitious politicos look darkly down when he speaks and there seems to be an intangible sense that his days are numbered. Perhaps he could get a job leaping from dodgem to dodgem, collecting fares and telling people to keep their hands inside the car.

Pat Collins Funfair is on Stafford Common in March and local elections take place in May. All the fun of the fair.



  1. […] Roll up…roll up…roll over… « The Plastic Hippo. […]

    Pingback by I can’t possibly match this – The Hippo strikes back « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — February 5, 2010 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  2. [snigger]

    Marvellous post.

    *joins Brownhills Bob in metaphorical cap-doffing*

    Comment by stymaster — February 5, 2010 @ 9:35 am | Reply

  3. Excellent post – wish I had written it.

    Comment by fat prophet — February 5, 2010 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  4. A couple of points:
    I thought ‘young Anthony’, as you call him, married into a showman family and got his dodgems that way; I didn’t realise he had his own funfair.
    Second point,it isn’t fair to compare visitor numbers to the New Art Gallery and to Willenhall Leisure Centre. The NAG doesn’t have anything similar nearby and it houses a pretty damn good collection; Willenhall Leisure Centre has the very clean and lovely (and expensive) Wolverhampton Swimming & Fitness Centre just down the road.
    Given the choice, where would you go? a grotty, shabby, neglected dump or a shiny, new clean centre just down the road? No wonder Willenhall only gets a handful of visitors each day.
    Also, Captain Cluless and his cronies surely can’t claim any credit for the happy hundreds who visit the Gallery – the Garman-Ryan Collection is there by historical accident and not due to any good management by our beloved leaders.

    Comment by martin — February 7, 2010 @ 1:56 am | Reply

  5. I see that he failed to attend his first cabinet meeting.

    Comment by Andrew — February 11, 2010 @ 10:35 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: