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West: Crowd-pulling politician
Will Glennon
The Politics Show West

Rik Mayall
Alan B'Stard is back and as obnoxious as ever

Political comedy draws huge audiences so why is no one interested in taking part in the real stuff, like this week's local elections?

Will Glennon met a New Statesman as he tried to find out.

Hundreds of people flocked to hear a politician speak in Bristol this week, every night from Monday to Saturday, and some afternoons too.

The trouble is, he wasn't a real one. It was Alan B'Stard MP, the odious, sleazy parliamentarian character played by comedian Rik Mayall.

He has defected from the Tories to New Labour for this latest run of stage shows touring around Britain. The humour is as cutting as ever.

Rik Mayall himself tells me that Alan B'Stard is a character he loves playing and with good reason.

"I am really enjoying being him again. Alan is good for me.

"The characters I love best are the ones that contain all the characteristics that I try to suppress in order to live a normal life," he says.

"Alan used to be a nasty Yuppie but now he is completely right-wing, he is a really bad man, and he is just great fun."

I ask Rik why he thinks it is that his shows are selling out across Britain but no-one is voting in the local elections.

"That is a very good question. I do not know."

The show-goers do not know either.

They know their current affairs, understand the political jokes and most of them say they vote.

But they come to the show for the humour or Rik Mayall.

"He is the reason I came to the show", says a 20-year-old girl, "and if I learn something about politics or it makes me more switched on to it then that can only be a good thing."

Maybe. But as I look in on a few official polling stations on Election Day Thursday, they are pretty much deserted.

The staff smile broadly when I walk through the door each time, hugely grateful for a slice of human contact!

It is a sunny day so perhaps the voters are having a relaxing afternoon before popping along to the polls?

At College Green in Bristol, in the shadow of the Council House itself, there are more than 100 above-voting-age individuals.

Have any of them voted? No. Are they going to? No. Did they even know the elections were on? Mostly not.

But when I tell them a political joke, they all get it and they laugh. Well, some of them do.

Perhaps the main point is that while people do understand politics - many actually have quite a in-depth knowledge of the issues that matter - they are just apathetic about going to actually vote because the options just are not that distinct or attractive.

I meet up with Rik Mayall after one of his shows.

It was gone 10pm and he was leaving the stage door round the back of the theatre and there was still a decent crowd of fans waiting to get autographs and have their photos taken with him ...

... And one or two of the ladies managed to sneak a little peck on the cheek too.

You do not need to be a genius to know that when the local councillors leave work, it is a very different picture.

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11 Sep 05 |  Politics Show


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