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No Place for Poetic Humour in Parliament

GEORGE HOWARTH MP, Chair of the European Capital of Culture 2008 All-Party Group urged Westminster authorities to lift a ban on an Early Day Motion that was drafted in support of the City of Liverpool and Capital of Culture in 2008.

The motion was to be the first of its kind, with Liverpool poet Roger McGough drafted in for creative assistance. However, due to the “out-dated” rules governing Early Day Motions, the artistic input of award-winning McGough has broken House rules.

The MP attempting to table the EDM, George Howarth, said: “It was only going to be difficult and Roger did an excellent job in trying to squeeze an EDM into rhyming couplets. Even at this late stage, I do hope the House authorities will allow it to go forward in the spirit with which it was written.”

Senior figures from Liverpool’s cultural sector backed the MP’s demands for the House authorities to relent and for the ban to be lifted.

The Motion begins: “That this House congratulates the people of Liverpool”, for their role in securing the city’s status as European Capital of Culture in 2008, and calls on Members to support the City as it prepares for 2008.

An audience of 200 guests – including artists, broadcasters, MPs, musicians — assembled at a Parliamentary reception organised by the Liverpool Culture Company and hosted by George Howarth MP to hear the poetic motion. Here, McGough’s pre-recorded recital of the controversial EDM was broadcast to guests.

Roger said: ”I’m very honoured to have been invited to support my city in this way. The beauty of 2008 is that it presents a gilt-edged opportunity for the people of Liverpool to showcase their talents.”

Parliamentary experts today identified one possible reason that the banned motion was vetoed. Strict parliamentary rules prohibit the use of irony in EDMs. “For scousers, as you all know/ Aren’t given to boasting or making a show,” was thought to be too much for House authorities.

Meanwhile, MPs lined up to support the motion. Louise Ellman MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG and other signatories to the EDM, joined Bob Wareing MP and Eddie O’Hara MP in calls for the veto to be lifted.

George Howarth MP was last night refused permission to table the following Early Day Motion, which was drafted with assistance from award-winning poet, author and children’s author Roger McGough.

That this House congratulates the people of Liverpool
For scousers, as you all know
Aren’t given to boasting or making a show
Stiff upper lip, that’s our motto
When we speak it’s voce sotto
But the city has something to celebrate
European Capital of Culture, two thousand and eight.
So it’s off with the trackies and on with the Armanis
Out with the champagne and the caviar sarnies
The chance to invest in what it does best,
Dance, drama, music and the rest.
‘The Town of the Talk’, more sinned against than sinning
If not a new Jerusalem, at least a new beginning.
That this House shares the sense of pride,
Of purpose and spirit, on Merseyside.

House rules are that EDMs must not be over 250 words; must not criticise other members of the Commons or Lords, peers or judges or members of the Royal Family except as the main subject of the motion. They must make no reference to matters before the courts and they must not use unparliamentary language or irony. The title of the EDM must be purely descriptive. They must also start with ‘THAT’ because they are expressed in the form of a resolution, in a single sentence, that may be broken up by brackets, colons or semi colons. In other words, they must be performed in one breath