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Charlie Catchpole's TV Column: Joker Fred Streets ahead.

DESPITE the best efforts of Marks and Gran, the funniest political joke of the past week was cracked by Fred Elliott in last night's Coronation Street.

Audrey Roberts had ripped into Spider for pitching his tent on the Red Rec, telling him he was in blatant contravention of Byelaw 38, section 13, sub-section 2...

Spider reeled under the onslaught and Fred's eyes widened in admiration.

"By 'eck, Councillor Roberts! You're a force to be reckoned with!" he cried.

"There hasn't been a woman with your natural air of authority since Margaret Thatcher scared the pants off everybody!

"In fact, when they dump the bald one, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the call goes out for Audrey Roberts!"

Audrey pointed out that she was actually an independent, but Fred brushed her aside.

"You never know!" he bellowed. "That gang might want another Iron Lady!"

Inevitably, Thatch got another name-check when Ben Elton appeared on Clive Anderson All Talk (Thursday, BBC1).

Ben graciously announced that, although he obviously preferred Blair's government a zillion times to Thatcher's, he wouldn't hesitate to attack The Blessed Tony if he felt like it.

Clive's other guest, Pakistan's cricket legend-turned-politician Imran Khan, praised the Iron Lady for her vision and single-mindedness.

And Blair? "He knows how to sell a vision," said Imran. "He really is a great salesman for what he believes in." Clive shot back: "Yeah. What's that?"

Imran ducked gracefully under the bouncer, murmuring that he'd been spending too much time on his own political career to take much notice of British politics.

Ben was there to plug his new novel Inconceivable and to talk about the birth of his own twins after IVF treatment for infertility.

He had more in common with Imran than you'd think.

Well, didn't they both know a lot about ball-tampering?
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Catchpole, Charlie
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 5, 1999
Words:303
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