Competition - Win vouchers to spend at any Tesco store

Competition No 3695

Set by Chief Bottle Washer on 20 August

Following the Australian Department of Transport's decision to put out its, and its minister's, speech-writing service to tender, we asked you to come up with a winning pitch from a PR agency to a UK government minister of your choice.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Not the massive postbag usually occasioned by a request for, say, poetry, but enough fun items notwithstanding. Some of you were a little too serious for my liking - for instance, advocating subsidising intercity rail fares or saying that education matters. Good grief! What kind of competition do you think we run here? Hon menshes to Chas F Garvey, Peter Norman, Barbara Daniels, El Basilio and Frank Murray. £20 to the winners and the vouchers go to Will Bellenger.

For too long, the Ministry of Defence has been depicted as the respectable custodian of the country's freedom. This image is too celibate, too prim, too sheepish. We will bring you stylishly into the new century with some hard-edged iconography - violence, dealing in weapons, sudden death, the smell of brimstone overseas. Defence is indefensible. It is a distraction from the kind of blood-and-intestinal affairs in which you deal.

Cutting Edges Inc will bring you a hard nose instead of a toffee nose. It will add glamour to your military enterprise. It will make love to war. It will purge insurgency with a ruthless zeal unknown outside the National Executive Committee. Speeches will be bullish, bristling, energetic. We will bring Action and Emergency Zones into the national vocabulary. We will assault the media. Our core corps of advisers will start work with civil servants immediately, and inflict maximum damage upon any adversaries. In this way, the department's credibility will be lifted.

Nomenclature is central to the survival of the modern fighting machine. We propose that the department be retitled the Ministry of Arms and Fierce Fighting (Maff). This is new Labour straight talk. Straight from the hip. Straight from the holster.

Will Bellenger

Dear Mr Blunkett,

The Brass Eye PR Company offers its services in writing speeches for the Home Office. One of your junior ministers is aware of our work, though she may not have studied it closely. Our texts have been read out with full confidence and to great effect by numerous public figures, including Phil Collins and Noel Edmunds.

Our talented speech-writing team has a strong sense of postmodern paradox, wholly in tune with a department that aims to beat the far right by banning anti-Nazi carnivals. On drugs, we share your view that this issue is linked to social exclusion; we totally reject the approach of "Let them eat cake".

We can also contribute to thinking on law reform. Among ideas we would be interested in exploring is the replacement of juries by panels of celebrities, guaranteed to come up with the right verdict. We could also prepare statements for police witnesses that could be read out without doubt or hesitation.

Given the Home Office's public reputation, our intervention could lead only to improvement. By accepting our invitation, you will be following in the footsteps of many well-known figures. Your positive response will ensure rapid and widespread public exposure.

Ian Birchall

Our submission for the speech-writing contract to the Prime Minister's Office emerges from a comprehensive study employing state-of-the-art techniques of psychological profiling and lexical analysis. Fully detailed proposals are set out later in this document, but our findings and recommendations can be summarised under three main heads:

1) Complete Control. Though the Prime Minister currently has a round-the-clock speech-writing team under an able leader, there are still occasions when he voices extemporised thoughts. This can lead to the "Gosh, you know" factor, which makes him seem unappealingly boyish; 100 per cent pre-scripted comments will avoid this.

2) Sanctimony. This can show itself as heart-tugging ("people's princess") or lofty moralising ("travelling circus of anarchists") and lend an unctuous tone to otherwise reasonable statements. We propose a harder, more dynamic "iron gentleman" rhetoric, emphasising that governments - not people - govern.

3) Inscrutability. At the same time, forthrightness must be tempered with nebulous oratory to maintain the mystique of the leader. Clear announcements of policy can lead to disappointed expectations and electoral jeopardy. Too many of the Prime Minister's speeches still argue cases, and a Being There element of cryptic or arcane parable will help maintain an impression of benign secrecy.

G M Davis

No 3698 Set by John Crick

Though great fun, Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children don't seem to relate to the world of the modern child. We would like you to write your own updated versions, warning of the dangers arising from computer games, mountain bikes, chatrooms, and so on.

Max 24 lines, to be in by 20 September (to appear in issue dated 1 October). E-mail:

This article first appeared in the 10 September 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The love of a robot