Saturday, December 10, 2005



In 1996 Virginia Bottomley, in her position as Secretary of state for national heritage, asked me to form a think-tank in order to improve tourism figures in Great Britain. I was given carte blanche to choose from the very best that the United Kingdom had to offer in order to devise a series of strategies to attract wealthy tourists to this green and pleasant land. The plan was to jump-start the ailing economy and dig us out of the nasty little fiscal hole that Her Majesty's Government had found itself in by pumping Britain full of dollars, yen and sheckels. I honestly could not be bothered to go to all that trouble and so spent the money on a holiday to the South of France and some exorbitantly-priced meals. It was whilst I was enjoying this jolly at the taxpayers expense that I hit upon the devastatingly brilliant idea that would, I believed, make the UK a haven for fat Americans with more money than sense and more dollars than cents (do you see what I did there? That expensive education wasn't for nothing, you know).

My incredible idea? Quite straightforward really. Rather than taking celcius, doubling it and adding thirty as usual, we would take it, add thirty and THEN double it. Clever, eh? Ten degrees celcius would ordinarily become fifty degrees fahrenheit; no longer! Under the new system we would take your ten degrees and turn it into EIGHTY degrees 'Goodballoon' (the new classification deserved a new name and, quite frankly, could you think of a better one?). If the yanks could be convinced to buy London Bridge and that Reagan was a hero then the idea of London as a tropical paradise would have them swarming. The Goodballoon index was a goer! Millions would flock to our land to lap up the St Tropez sunshine during the day and spend the balmy evenings in the piazzas of Barnet, Peckham and Hammersmith.

Major and his cabinet loved the idea. Come 1997 all lights were on green and we merely had the trifling matter of a General Election to get through before the system came into being. A few opinion polls were twitching towards Labour but they'd done that four years before and we'd scraped through. History was on our side, surely. Alas it was not to be and within twelve hours of his election to the highest office, Mr Blair threw the whole idea out on the scrapheap. No matter, him and George are still sticking to my Iraq plan exactly as designed. Well done boys.

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