Columns - 5th column

Do as we do, ply them with portfolios!

By Rypvanwinkle

My dear David Cameron,

Most Sri Lankans may not have even heard of you, David, but I thought I must write to you, first to congratulate you on your party emerging as the major winner in the British general elections and then also to offer you some much needed advice.

I am told that your party, the Conservatives, have emerged as the single largest party at the election. But, I am also told that you don’t have a working majority in Parliament because the Liberal Democrats, the ‘third party’ in the race, have got some fifty-odd seats.

Apparently that has resulted in what they call a ‘hung’ Parliament for the first time in your country in nearly forty years. Because of that David, I also heard you are talking to these Liberal Democrats to try and form a coalition with them and that is why I thought my advice might come in handy.

Believe me David, I think you are making a mistake. You should not be talking to political parties. When you do that, they make impossible demands on you and at the first hint of a disagreement, they will walk out on you-and your coalition government will collapse!

What you should do instead David, is to talk to individual MPs. And, they need not be only from the Liberal Democrats either-you can talk to MPs from the Opposition Labour Party MPs too. And, believe me, since there are more than three hundred MPs in the Opposition, it won’t be difficult to find the twenty MPs that you need to obtain a working majority.

Well, what you have to do to win them over is quite simple: offer them ministries. Now, don’t tell me that you have only twenty ministries and you cannot offer them all to the Opposition. We know that. But you don’t have a rule saying that the Cabinet has to be limited to twenty ministers, do you?

And don’t worry about what ministries to offer them. Just make up some names as you go along. If you wish I can give you some ideas. You know subjects such as ‘Ministry of Public Management and Reforms’, the ‘Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage’ or even ‘Ministry of State Resources and Enterprise Development’ are some titles that come readily to mind.

Very often David, just the offer of a portfolio is enough to make their mouths water and they will accept your offer because they know that the alternative is to sit in the Opposition benches for another six years or more. But just in case they don’t, you must dig deep into their records and find some blemish. Then, you can tell them if they don’t join, you will go ahead with charging them for some offence or the other-and believe me, that usually does the trick!

Also, just check David, whether Gordon Brown’s deputy can be won over. You can offer him some top post-like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for instance. Then if he crosses over with a group of his MPs, believe me, not only have you got yourself a working majority, you may have also ensured your re-election as well because the Opposition will be crippled for a long time to come!

Now, don’t ask me why you should appoint someone from the Opposition as the Chancellor of the Exchequer-you don’t. Remember, politics is all about making promises and then breaking them, not keeping them!

Now, if they want a reason to cross-over to your side, so that the public who voted for them are not incensed, they can tell the masses that they are joining you to ‘strengthen your hands’ to fight some imminent threat and save the nation. Well, that threat can be the recession, Osama Bin Laden, or even the volcanic cloud from Iceland -believe me, it doesn’t really matter!

Remember, once they are on your side, their goose is cooked. They can never return to their old party because they will be rejected or even if they are not, they will never achieve the status that they once had for they will always be perceived as traitors. Then, you can do what you want with them: demote them, give them portfolios such as ‘Deputy Minister of Finance’ when a Deputy Minister of Finance has already been appointed!

Then, David, once you get your working majority you need to keep tabs on every one in Parliament so that you know what exactly is happening there. I will leave that to you to sort out, but it does help if you come from a large family with several siblings to help you out!

So, David, don’t worry too much about obtaining a working majority in a ‘hung’ Parliament. If you still think you will have trouble doing this, let us know and we will send you a couple of experts who could set you up in next to no time!

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha

PS-Of course, the one thing that you must make certain for your own survival is to ensure that Gordon Brown continues as Leader of the Labour Party. I am sure that Brown is a decent man and may want to step down, but don’t let that happen. Don’t for instance ever allow internal elections in that party to choose their next leader. If you can have Brown leading the Labour Party for, say, the next fifteen years or so, then you can be certain that you will win election after election with hardly a contest!

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