The Plastic Hippo

March 9, 2014

Educating Archie

Filed under: Politics,Wolverhampton — theplastichippo @ 9:15 pm
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The notion of featuring a ventriloquist act on a radio show might at first seem preposterous but producers at the BBC way back in the 1950s realised that comedy works because of content rather than presentation.

In these dark days of wars and rumours of wars, thank goodness we have entertainers still offering some light relief from the gloom and doom with their jolly japes and funny stories. This week we have been treated with the Prime Minister`s hilarious phone skit exposed on social media and Lord Biro of the Bus Pass Elvis Party beating the Liberal Democrats in a local authority by election. If deciding to put a ventriloquist act on the radio wasn`t funny enough, this week we also had perhaps the most amusing comic caper of all involving the antics of the MP for Wolverhampton South West on some dreadful local radio show.

Proving himself to be just as funny as Peter Brough and Archie Andrews, Paul Uppal MP had his audience in stitches with his faux outrage routine slamming the reckless spending and financial incompetence of Wolverhampton council. Stopping just short of foaming at the mouth and drinking a glass of water as he spoke, Mr Uppal raged at the council for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on alcohol and the shameful scandal of a civic trade mission to India running up a £70,000 hotel bill and splashing out 1400 quid on a meal. It turns out that the booze was bought to sell on at a profit at council venues and although his parents originate from East Africa, as a Sikh one might expect the honourable member to know the difference between a rupee and a pound. We do not know how many people were in the Indian delegation but 14 quid for pizza seems quite reasonable and 700 quid for a room in a hotel is less than an average cabinet minister claims when he is “too tired” to go home.

It would be easy to dismiss this knockabout fun as being merely a crude pantomime but Mr Uppal is a magician of consummate skill. With local and European elections imminent, any chance to have a pop at a Labour controlled council is an opportunity not to be missed and anything that can distract attention from the causes of the crisis in local government is worth the risk of appearing to be incredibly stupid. The elected Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South West would like his constituents to believe that £123million worth of cuts to services and the loss of 2,000 jobs is due to a deep pan with extra pepperoni and not his government`s removal of local authority funding.

Mr Uppal has a history of conjuring tricks based on distraction and sleight of hand. Shortly before becoming PPS to David Willets at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in September 2012, he blamed the decline of High Street retailing on the “plague” of charity collectors frightening people away from town centres and not the result of the madness of George Osborne. With such expertise in business, prestidigitation, innovation and skills and his complete inability to correctly read a statement of council expenditure, the British economy and the interests of the good people of Penn and Tettenhall are safely in a pair of clever hands.

By publishing such detailed financial accounts, Wolverhampton council are being unusual in their candour and what politically opposed MP could resist seizing on something that looks a bit iffy. Defending a majority 691, about a third of the number of people being made redundant, Mr Uppal is quite right to demand to know the justification for every single rupee spent in a marginal parliamentary seat. I am sure we can look forward to this formidable representative of the people turning his razor-sharp scrutiny to the transparency and accountability of his own government`s spending and how it impacts his constituents.

Perhaps he will demand the publication of the suppressed NHS Risk Register which reports the consequences of selling off health provision to the highest bidder. He may wish to enquire of his masters why they have stopped recording the number of food banks being opened and the number of people being referred to them due to poverty and hunger. Maybe he could ask about the money being spent on Free Schools and dodgy Academies and why their performance is not regulated, assessed or scrutinised. Perchance he could use his electoral mandate to investigate how employment statistics are being manipulated to prove that the dead are fit for work after sanctions are imposed and so are no longer unemployed. As a democratic representative he might even be a little bit worried that evidence of state criminality is being put through the shredder and the true intent of government is only discovered through the long lens of paparazzi photographers.

With electioneering both local and national already rampantly negative, voters in Wolverhampton South West might care to cast an eye over the They Work For You website which lists the voting and attendance records of MPs, their expenses claims as well as donations they receive and details of overseas visits. It seems that Mr Uppal visited India during September 2011 at the invitation of the India High Commission in London and the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi. As part of the Conservative Friends of India delegation he received £8,000 for transport, accommodation and meals. In November 2012 he received £1,925 from the Conservative Friends of Israel for a fact-finding mission to Israel and the West Bank. Since being elected to serve Wolverhampton South West in 2010, in the three years for which figures are available, he has claimed £377,543 in expenses including £33,110 for accommodation and £11,711 for travel and subsistence. This is in addition to his annual basic salary of £65,738 and donations from companies and individuals. That`s a lot of pizza.

All the above declared income is, under current legislation, perfectly legal and it is a matter for the electorate of Wolverhampton South West including those made unemployed or referred to food banks, to decide if this represents value for money. Back in 1950 when Educating Archie first went to air and a ventriloquist`s dummy became a radio star, another ambitious Conservative politician entered parliament by winning the marginal seat of Wolverhampton South West with, spookily enough, a majority of 691.

His name was Enoch Powell.


  1. […] Educating Archie – The Plastic Hippo, 9 March […]

    Pingback by “Pizzagate”, one week on: the reaction | Penn Now — March 12, 2014 @ 5:05 am | Reply

  2. Enjoyed the article immensely.

    Comment by Phil Bateman — March 12, 2014 @ 9:25 am | Reply

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