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In the first month of '98 New Labour sends a Party Whip up a Gum Tree.

In the second month the government and backbenchers are once more Two Turtle Doves.

In the third month Three French Hens scuttle back on to their Sally Line Ferry because the farmers won't let them in.

In the fourth month Four Calling Birds call out the names of cabinet ministers currently receiving their favours.

In the fifth month Five Gold Rings enter the currency markets in an attempt to stave off rampant inflation.

In the sixth month Six Geese a-Laying start another salmonella epidemic.

In the seventh month the Queen asserts her rights over Seven Swans a- Swimming to preserve the salmonella-free Royal Breakfast Egg.

In the eighth month Eight Maids a-Milking are arrested under ec legislation.

In the ninth month Old Spice (Norman Foster), Queer Spice (Nigel Coates), Sugar 'n' Spice (muf) and Peculiar Spice (Quinlan Terry) remodel the flagging Spice Girls as Nine Ladies Dancing.

In the tenth month Ten Pipers Piping lead an unprovoked nato incursion into Northern Iraq.

In the eleventh month things begin to look tricky for 1999 as Eleven Domes are Drooping.

And in the twelfth month Twelve Labour Lords a-Creeping prevent rebellion against a government bill proposing compulsory eviction for jobless families who occupy council houses for periods of over 18 months.

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