Something to Say with Keith Newbery: Alliance kerfuffle over the AV debate is a double bluff

SINCE the untimely passing of writer, John Sullivan, newspapers up and down the land have been quick to list favourite scenes or lines of dialogue from his most sublime creation, Only Fools and Horses.

You only have to mention phrases like ‘chandeliers,’ ‘blow-up dolls’ and ‘leaning on the bar’ to evoke an instant smile or even an instinctive snort of pleasure.

Others will quickly respond with ‘Batman and Robin’ or ‘they’re going to name him Rodney...after Dave’ to set the pleasurable roundabout in motion.

To make people laugh is difficult enough. To make them laugh twice at the same thing is often impossible. To create a set of circumstances so hilarious that an audience will giggle in anticipation and then collapse into a state of gibbering delight at something they’ve seen ten times already is an act of rare genius. I have a friend who can watch any episode of Only Fools and Horses and lip-sync every single line of dialogue along with the characters.

I kid you not because I’ve seen her do it on more than one occasion – and it is the ultimate act of homage.

She has watched every episode so often (converting a niece and nephew into fellow addicts along the way) that she would be disqualified from entering Mastermind for the simple reason that there is nothing she does not know about the show.

Indeed, there would be nobody better qualified to compile the questions should anyone attempt to take part in the quiz citing Only Fools as their specialist subject.

It should be pointed out that this is not some cardy-wearing, sofa bunny we’re talking about. This woman (we’ll call her Sue) holds down a demanding, senior editorial position on an evening newspaper in the north. Like all journalists, she deals with enough mundane narrative in her working life to appreciate the real thing.

John Sullivan created other splendid comedy series (Roger Roger was particularly under-rated) and eventually received some grudging recognition in the form of an OBE six years ago.

One doesn’t wish to appear petty at this sad time – but he deserved more.

After all, have any of the knights from the land of luvviedom, who tread the boards at Stratford, really been responsible for providing more pleasure than this man?

I RECKON all this Alliance kerfuffle over the AV debate is a double bluff.

Nick Clegg is gravely mistrusted by increasing numbers of his Lib-Dem parliamentary party – so what better way to ease their fears than by indulging in a bout of shadow boxing with David Cameron?

Cameron himself is already regarded as a lost leader by the right-wing hawks among his back-benchers – so what better way to re-establish some true blue credentials than by appearing to slap down his deputy prime minister on a matter of relative unimportance? The message both men wish to convey to their respective parties is ‘we’re alliance partners, not political soul-mates.’

But the real truth of their relationship lies beneath all the AV histrionics.