In an astonishing u-turn from his recent "I'm a nice bloke really" re-branding, Michael Howard, the new leader of the Tories, has announced a bizarre onslaught against the unemployed that harkens back to his darker, Thatcherite, days. Today, he announced "Claim for a Laugh", a new scheme where unemployed claimants will have to collect the signatures of people that they've made laugh by telling them government-approved jokes. Claimants must collect 100 signatures per week in order to receive their benefit allowances.
Claim for a Laugh will be the Conservatives flag-ship policy to tackle what Howard describes as "The lazy, unambitious, beer-swilling, benefit cheating, gambling masses whose slothdom has been encouraged by Labour anti-labour busy bodies."
"People are miserable under Labour so Claim for a Laugh will not only give the idle unemployed something to do to earn their benefit, they'll also be helping to cheer up the nation.", said Howard with an evil grin forming on his lips.
Though it's early days, a scramble to pen the first batch of "funnies" has already ensued. Leading contenders for the role include veterans Ken Dodd and Jimmy Tarbuck. However, in what some seasoned MPs believe to be the main flaw in the proposal, it's being rumoured that Iain Duncan Smith has been offered the job as he's also tipped to head up the new Ministry of Fun that will co-ordinate the scheme.
Commenting on the proposed scheme, Rob Dole, chair of newly formed pressure group YUPPIE (Young Unemployed People Previously in Employment) said, "Mr Howard must be joking if he honestly thinks this is a good idea. There's definitely 'something of the night' about him. Next thing you know, he'll be asking the unemployed to give blood before their claims are processed. We mustn't let this policy see the light of day!"
Presuming a snap-election strategy by Tony Blair, the Tories expect to be in power at the beginning of the New Year and plan an official launch of Claim for A Laugh on April 1st 2004.