Banks' Notes 05.05.06

THIS IS a week of ‘firsts' for your columnist. Let me explain: firstly, it's not very often that I am minded to take a leaf from the book of that young whippersnapper Piers Morgan, but there's a first time for everything.

During a peppery little radio interview this week, the formerly troublesome national newspaper editor-turned TV star/proprietor was asked how his latest venture — First News, a newspaper for youngsters — would headline the current Cabinet crises.

"Sack the Lot of Them!" roared a mischievous Morgan. "Clarke the Oaf, Prescott the Imbecile, Hewitt the Deluded and Blair-the-Boss- Who-Can't-Fire-Anyone!"

Which got me thinking: why NOT operate Government according to the Piers Morgan/Alan Sugar rules of engagement? It would run something like this: On 1 January each year, the Prime Minister would appoint 52 Cabinet ministers with specific portfolios. Thereafter, each weekend (in time for the Sunday papers) one minister a week would be fired and replaced. No pussy-footing, no waiting for resignations, no lame excuses or appeals to the Press Complaints Commission.

Gone. Finito. Auf Wiedersehen!

What a programme! It would, of course, be televised and the Prime Minister would have at his elbow at all times the meanest man any of us have ever met, Sir Alan Sugar to guide him through the not-so-subtle business of laying waste to Britain's best and brightest.

And who would decide who gets the chop?

Why, you the viewer, of course! You text your votes to Downing Street, including in the first line of your message PMT (Prime Ministerial Tension) and the name of that week's Westminster Wally.

In the event of a tie, demotion would be decided by the losers summoning their Campbells and Balls for a no-lies-barred spin-off.

A name for the show? Never mind The Apprentice, what about ‘The RegPrentice'? Named, of course, in honour of the Labour Minister who in 1977 famously crossed the floor and joined the Tory Party.

I SAID this was a week of ‘firsts', so here's the second: I've been ghostwritten! "Why should this be, Banksy?" I hear you ask. "You're a former editor, not some illiterate sports star who is prone to spell ‘goal' as ‘gaol', however appropriate such an error might be."

True enough. Fact is, I've been laid low — or as low as a man with a stomach my size CAN be laid — by a horrid bug that has seen me emitting the sort of guff at the bottom end that I normally spout from the top! So, My Daughter The Actress has stepped into the breach during one of her many ‘resting' periods to make my delirious ramblings shine. [Tash writes: Hmmm… not really working, is it Dad? And by the way, I'm an actor! The term ‘actress' is gender-specific and demeaning.] You see what a trying week it's been? I've even had to pay her for her non-sequiturial services… SORRY TO see a pal of mine push off leaving journalism the poorer for her retirement: Olwen Vasey who worked with me 35 years ago in The Journal/Evening Chronicle office in South Shields, has called it a day at her most recent job with Bradford's Telegraph & Argus.

She was a wonderful colleague who turned a blind eye to my wild ways and even to the fact that after a heavy night in one of the local pubs — which meant that I missed my last bus home — I would sleep wrapped in piles of newspapers under the front office counter and heat my morning cuppa in a soup can on the office's single gas ring.

Thanks for everything, Olwen — you're one of the best!

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