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When Mark Thomas invaded Jersey

Steve Saul | 17:25 UK time, Thursday, 6 January 2011

Mark Thomas: The Manifesto


A new series of Mark Thomas: The Manifesto is back.  You can download Episode 1 on Radio 4's new Comedy of the Week podcast.

Before the new series began, Mark had some unfinished business to attend to.

Mark Thomas writes...

Ah Jersey, the Kent of the Channel Islands! Not quite British, not quite right and the proper noun that precedes cows, potatoes and tax avoiders

In the last series of the Manifesto, the audience voted for me to invade Jersey, however this was not the mere whim of a particularly malicious historical re-enactment society. No. The aim was to bring the Private Finance Initiative projects that had gone offshore back onshore.

Let me explain: Under the Labour government public building projects had been outsourced to private consortiums who promptly took the ownership offshore, for example the Home Office building in London is owned by a company now based in Guernsey. Amongst the studio audience this practice proved to be as popular as a broken thermostat in a care home.

In December 2010 I went to Jersey to recce the island in preparation for an invasion when the weather picked up.

Arriving at the airport I was reminded of another winning policy from the last series, namely that anyone who takes a short haul flight should walk the return journey. Fortunately it would be blasphemy to even contemplate such a feat.

Greeting myself and the shows producer Colin Anderson at the airport was a large sign with the words "Welcome to Jersey" sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland (who invested their sense of irony in the sub prime market and lost it completely).

Our visit had been timed with a demonstration in the capital, St Helier, protesting the unfair tax laws brought in by the island's Senate. These would see non Jersey based companies paying 0% tax (high street brands for example), banks in Jersey paying 10% tax on their profits, but island owned businesses would have a tax rate of 20%.

Speakers at the protest bravely struggled through the squall that had enveloped the city square shouting above the storm to address a crowd of about 100 bedraggled people sheltering under umbrellas. It was in truth a slightly pitiful sight and my natural reaction was to laugh cruelly at all and sundry. Then the organisers asked me to say a few words.

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The EU declared elements of this policy "harmful" and a further ruling is expected later this year. So our timing had been impeccable unfortunately so had the torrential downpour that descended upon us.

And that, officer, is how I came to be screaming at strangers from a park bench in the rain.

Mark Thomas: The Manifesto is on Thursday nights at 18.30pm on Radio 4

Find out more about Radio 4's new Comedy of the Week podcast.


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