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Election brings not just crooks and idiots but a range of UFOs

martin pawley

My father used to say that there were only two kinds of politicians - crooks and idiots. To his mind all Tories were crooks and all Labour politicians were idiots.

Of course, that was during the 13 years of Tory misrule. Things are more complicated now. There are still crooks and idiots but now we have UFOs - Unspoken Familiar Outcomes. These are robots that walk, talk and look like politicians but, unlike the real thing, won't lay down the law on issues they don't understand. Whenever a politician tries to duck an issue, they fall under grave suspicion of being a UFO, whose silence speaks volumes.

Whatever the RIBA might think, there are no uniquely architectural issues in this election. The nearest to a slogan the profession could have cooked up would have been 'Business means buildings and buildings mean architecture'- but now it is a bit too late.

However, I took the opportunity of confronting local candidates with business-related issues and unmasked 26 UFOs.

Here is a selection of my more successful challenges.

Q: 'Where do you stand on the prospect of a return to nuclear power and the building of new nuclear power stations?' A:

'Nuclear power has a place in a balanced energy policy with other energy sources.'

Q: 'Yes, but do you agree that nuclear power is the only unpolluting energy source?'A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'What are you going to do about the spread of 10 per cent system down time from the railways to the postal service, the national grid, the telephone system and other vital networks?'A: 'I am not aware of any such spread of down time.'

Q: 'Have you not been reading the newspapers?'

A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'What are you going to do about the government's appalling record of intervention in healthcare, education and transport?' A: 'Our record in all these areas is second to none.We have potentially the finest healthcare system in the world.'

Q: 'But don't we spend less on healthcare than any other country in the EU?' A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'Do you not agree that a £50 million project for the restoration of the canal network for tourists is a total waste of time and money?' A: 'The inland waterways system has a place in a thriving tourist industry.'

Q: 'Even though the balance of tourist spending is always in deficit?' A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'Are you concerned that protracted public inquiries are imposing intolerable delays on urgent infrastructure projects?'

A: 'The democratic process must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair.'

Q: 'Aren't inquiries just grandstanding opportunities for local residents and special interest groups? A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'Whose idea was it to dig huge car tunnels to reduce traffic congestion in central London?'

A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'Why are police strategists studying chaos theory?' A: Bleak smile followed by: 'Next question please.'

Q: 'What will be the effect of digital signature compliance on small businesses?' A: Furrowed brow followed by: 'Next question quickly please.'

Q: 'Now that museums have dropped their entry charges, do you think it is fair that shopping malls are going to introduce them?'A: 'Retail policy is not a government responsibility.'

Q: 'Where is the £3 billion needed to raise the Thames barrier to compensate for global warming going to come from then?'A: 'I am sorry sir but I am afraid I must ask you to leave.'

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