UK Politics

Milligan's week: Stick to what you know

I began the week not thinking about MPs' expenses, only to have it forced upon me by Tuesday.

Will it never go away? Will it never stop?

I trudged up to north London to find former MP Tom Levitt in a dusty rehearsal room, with posters of butterflies on the wall.

He's written and will perform his one man play about - oh dear, hold onto your hair, suppress screams of pain - expenses.

I watched him rehearse one scene, taking on the role of both angry constituent (with broad accent) and then swapping (by stepping to the right) to the role of baffled MP.

But who will turn up to watch his show? We have a number of former MPs his producer tells me. I should book my ticket now.

I ring up another former MP struck down by the expenses saga, to get his gen on the play.

Tragic

Would he consider putting on an expenses Christmas panto? Could be great fun.

"Oh God, I am not in need of that kind of therapy," he said aghast.

"I haven't spoken to Tom since the election," he added a little too hastily.

Everyone else in the World at One office was tied up in the economy, and strings of numbers and stats which cause people to involuntarily upchuck in the office.

Was there good news, or bad? What the hell was going on?

Shadow chancellor Alan Johnson, who's grappling with his new brief, threw a word at me over his shoulder after a cup of tea, beginning with letter D, an economic term I assumed, and was suitably impressed.

Apparently though, things are easing - good news for Lazlo, a carpet man in Leicester, who I interviewed not so long ago.

Perhaps a revisit was due.

His business was going under, and it was tragic. His face, wax-like, revealed no emotion.

At one point in the interview he told me that one industry was doing very well, thank you.

"Ah and that is?"

"Porn."

"Oh."

Stunned for only a millisecond I thought perhaps he wanted to get something off his chest, confess how he was getting through the bad times.

Solace and empathy

We were sitting in the middle of his warehouse and the carpet men (there were no women) stopped their hard labour to listen in.

"Its ok, porn can help people. I mean, perhaps it can be a bit of a distraction," I ventured. I didn't want to judge.

Lazlo remained wax-like.

I went on and on offering words of solace and empathy. Still no response.

Oh crikey, is he going to explode?

"I mean as long as it doesn't harm people you have nothing to be ashamed of."

At this his eyebrows shot up. He opened his mouth and said slowly and clearly the letters:

"P. A. W. N."

My attempts to backtrack about my own habits (which I only said to be kind) were drowned out by the cackles from the burly carpet cutters. At least I made them laugh when there was little to laugh about.

I think sticking to expenses was probably the better deal for this week.

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