Man in monkey suit starts revolution?

It's the trivial things that count.

Revolutionary figure?Revolutionary figure?
"Twitter ye not"! A very old and well worn joke that's been around since the day the social networking site of the same name was launched. And I see Richard North on EUReferendum used it the other day too. So there you are, good advice from comedian Frankie Howerd. Except for the fact he had died before social networking in the style we now know had been invented. There is also the important point that Howerd would have said "titter ye not", as this was one of his favourite lines. And another thing, Howerd's idea of social networking was to sit in a favourite pub with friends.

Either way it's worth a quick look at the Twitter war . South Tyneside Council have become upset about allegations of this and that concerning local dignitaries being posted on Twitter. I've talked about this, or tried to, with friends "it's all so trivial", they declared. Yes, and that's the point, hence the whole affair is worthy of a second look. At the root of all this malarkey is something as old as the hills. I first came across this 30 years ago when a friend who worked in local government let me in on one of the office secrets.

Now-and-then a letter would arrive at the office which would bring tears of joy to all. Always in the same form, a rather grubby Basildon Bond envelope with the address typed onto a scrap of paper which was then sellotaped to the envelope. Inside a single page of paper carried lurid details of sexual impropriety by senior council figures. There was also information about bribery and corruption and the letter was typed on a traditional typewriter. Both the typing and the spelling were way off and the letter was unsigned and carried no address. So what did the council workers do?

Well they all gathered around and one person, my informant who was deemed to have the best voice for the occasion, read out the letter. People would rock with laughter as the contents went public. Very often the same old allegations were repeated but the listeners never tired as they were just too ridiculous for words. But very often there was a treat. One such was when it was alleged that a Councillor had stolen a neighbour's dustbin lid. This was, by the anonymous letter writer, thought of as very important as the Councillor was also cricket umpire. The anonymous writer went on to explain how they had written to the Metropolitan Cricket Club with this fact and they expected the council workers to do the same, as this was only right. After ten minutes or so of laughter the letter was tossed aside and office work resumed.

Also when I say this sort of thing is as old as the hills I mean it. They do say that examples of critical comment as graffiti have been found in Roman ruins. Funny again that as Howerd was at his comedic best in 'A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum' and 'Up Pompeii' . But search as you might you will find no suggestion that these comments in the ruins were the reason the Roman Empire foundered. It's all different now. South Tyneside Council have decided that crazy, low level gossip is so important that they have spent a large sum of money on it. They have gone to a US court to get the details of the poster who calls himself Mr Monkey and makes the allegations. Now is there something about the North East and the monkey, something sunk deep within the minds of the good folk from hereabouts, something only they know about and to which the rest of the UK is oblivious? For although we are talking South Tyneside today back in 2002 a man in monkey suit became the Mayor of Hartlepool.

Stuart Drummond dressed as a monkey and going by the name H'Angus was the local football team's mascot. Clearly emboldened by all this Drummond decided to run for Mayor and won. Obviously I'm pushing things a bit here as Hartlepool is a good few miles from South Shields which is the Administrative Centre for South Tyneside Council, but it does make you wonder what is going on up north. For of Drummond we read -

He has been thrown out of two away games, once when he simulated sex with a woman steward in Scunthorpe in 2000 and a year ago for his antics with an inflatable doll at Blackpool.

Not forgetting that whilst all this Mayoral stuff is going on, Peter Mandelson was the MP for Hartlepool.

But seriously, what is it about local government? A bit like the twerp footballer few people had heard of until he decided to go for a super-injunction, few people would have been aware of Mr Monkey and his allegations until the fools in the Town Hall decided they were oh-so-important. For as my friend suggested it's all so trivial As always it's the little people we should feel sorry for, in this case the suckers who foot the bills. But then local residents always get stuffed by the bigwigs. I can remember when local government spent huge amounts of money on other vanity projects like 'preparing for the euro' and declaring themselves 'nuclear free zones'That was in the past, now there are other toys to play with like Sustainability and other things given the lovely name thievery!

I slept through history at school but I do know that historians look for key events along the way that act as beacons for change. Hence the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip is generally thought of as the event that triggered the start of the First World War. In years to come when local government as we know it now is no more, historians will wonder at what point was it obvious the game was up and the crash and burn inevitable. I like to think it was when a man dressed as a monkey became the Mayor of a town in the North East of the UK.

History suggests, but there are no facts here, that during the Napoleonic wars, thinking a monkey was a French soldier who had come ashore to spy, the townspeople hanged it. Hence H'Angus the mascot. Mind you that still leaves a lot to be explained!