9 May 2015

9:00 AM

9 May 2015

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 2896 you were invited to take Kipling’s ‘If’ and recast it on behalf of a politician on the campaign trail.

In an interview with the New Republic in 1985, Mario Cuomo said that politicians campaign in poetry and govern in prose. And Hugo Rifkind, in conversation on Radio 4 with the poet Ian McMillan about the relationship between politicians and poetry, noted that ‘If’ is often cited by politicians as moral inspiration. So it seemed like a good idea to give you the chance to put a twist on Kipling’s rousing poem, on behalf of one of the contenders in the current campaign as they neared the finishing post.

G.M. Davis, Nick Grace and R.M. Goddard earn commendations. The winners, printed below, are rewarded with £25 each, except Brian Murdoch, who snaffles the bonus fiver.

If you can lose a referendum and still act
As if you’d won it, time and time again;
If you can claim you’re going to make a pact
But never make your real conditions plain;
If you can try to split from the UK
Then six months later make it clear to see
That now you want to rule the lot your way,
Yet still play down illogicality;
If you can woo the English viewers too
In fierce debates on national TV,
So they don’t notice they can’t vote for you,
And you’re not even standing as MP,
If you can do well in a vox-pop poll,
And gain the maximum publicity,
Yours is the whole election rigmarole,
And, which is more, you’ll keep the SNP!
Brian Murdoch
If you can look on Deficit and Debt
And treat those paper tigers with disdain;
Say those most taxed should pay more taxes yet
Since having wealth should mean deserving pain.
If you believe that coal and oil should stay
Where Gaia formed them deep beneath the ground
So they as fuel should have no part to play
When clean replacements have long since been found.
If you feel sure that British Rail was great
Till Beeching axed a path for privateers;
That fine, uncrowded trains were rarely late,
With fares kept low and fixed that way for years.
If carbon capture is your favourite scheme
To be pursued no matter what we’d spend,
For you can hear the planet’s silent scream —
Then have no doubt you are a Green, my friend!
W.J. Webster
If you can keep the British public fearful
Of foreign devils streaming through Calais,
If you can stay unflappable and cheerful
At all the ghastly things your members say,
And offer soothing climate-change denial
Despite the mess we’re making of the planet,
It’s likely you’ll be able to beguile
The swivel-eyed electors of South Thanet.
If you can make the Tories do the conga
To any horrid tune you care to play,
And keep us thinking all our hard-earned wonga
Is sent to Eurocrats and pissed away,
And tell us that our borders are too porous
Despite the fact you’ve got a German spouse,
Another crypto-fascist brontosaurus
Is heading for Westminster’s Lower House.
Rob Stuart
If you can make a case that those in yellow
Will moderate the blues, when sharing beds,
And also that the self-same limoncello
Will put the frighteners on the greens and reds;
If you can cut a cake, but very slightly,
And taste success’s fruit, but not too much;
If you can manage budgets (not too tightly),
Or think of changing gear, but fear the clutch;
If you regard the middle of the highway
As safer than the pavements any time;
If you are frightened by Sid Vicious’ ‘My Way’,
But think Brook Benton’s version is sublime;
If you like Euro-nosh, say garlic croutons;
If you possess a nerdy way with stats,
Come over here and join us on these futons:
My friend, you’re with the Liberal Democrats
Bill Greenwell
If you can grin when voting goes against you
And count defeat a glorious success;
If you can say that Fate has recompensed you
When you predicted more and end with less;
If you can call the land whose constitution
Accorded you the lifestyle of a king
A tyranny of chains whose dissolution
Would give you cause to dance a Highland fling;
If you can rise from polling day disaster
And see yourself more popular than God;
If you can make yourself a perfect master
Of carving up sincerity from fraud;
If you can stir disruption and division
And count them as the cost of breaking free —
You have the power to curb your foe’s derision
And be a leader of the SNP.
Frank McDonald
If you perceive in nature only kindness
And feel a glow of goodness in the thug;
If you can find forgiveness for the mindless
And hope to conquer terror with a hug;
If you can make a pile of your possessions
And blow it all on one endangered flower;
If you can sympathise with wild obsessions
And see them as the stepping stones to power;
If you can make a mess of what you’re saying
And still believe that you are talking sense;
If you can think when dogs of war are baying
That buttercups provide a strong defence;
If in the midst of storm and desolation
You tiptoe on, untroubled and serene,
Assured you have the nous to lead a nation,
Then you, my friend, are gloriously Green.
Max Ross


No. 2899: occasional verse

The poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy penned a poem about the bedroom tax but has declined to write one for the new royal baby. You are invited to step into the breach and provide verse of up to 16 lines befitting the occasion. Please email entries to by midday on 20 May.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

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