Offside, 10 May
Stuart Drummond, Hartlepool's monkey mayor, has broken the golden rule of mascots - never step out of costume.
It started off as a pretty good week for the monkey community, but then it all started to go a bit King Kong.
The people of Hartlepool who, legend has it, once hanged a monkey on suspicion of being a French spy, last week elected a man in a monkey costume as their mayor. In the same week it also emerged that the sum total of ITV Digital’s saleable assets was a woollen monkey. To cap it all, Arsenal’s baboon-headed defender Martin Keown collected a Cup winner’s medal at the weekend (albeit as a substitute, who spent the match sitting on the bench twiddling his opposable thumbs).
However, primate celebrations were cut short when Hartlepool Football Club mascot H’Angus the Monkey severed his simian ties. ‘I am Stuart Drummond, I am the Mayor of Hartlepool, not the monkey’, he announced, discarding his monkey costume like a cartoon villain to reveal a 28-year-old nobody who works in a call-centre and still lives with his mum. Despite having campaigned on a ticket of free bananas for schoolchildren, Drummond added insult to injury by refusing to accept a gift of bananas from a tabloid reporter in a gorilla suit.
Stuart Drummond insists that Hartlepool’s voters ‘don’t want a big, furry seven-foot monkey’ as a mayor. Signs are that the electoral support for H’Angus was an expression of disaffection with conventional party politics. ‘It’s a kick in the pants for the politicians who promise to deliver and then don’t’, said 57-year-old fireman Peter Kloed.
But some of Drummond’s supporters were none too pleased when he renounced his monkey past. ‘He made a monkey out of us. People voted for a monkey and they want to see a monkey as mayor’, said 28-year-old Anthony Leck. ‘This is democracy. Stuart Drummond should not be ashamed of being the monkey mayor’, said design student Emma Forrester.
Although H’Angus represented a lower league football team, he was a superstar among mascots. He hit the headlines with lewd antics, such as simulating sex with a female steward at Scunthorpe and cavorting with an inflatable doll at Blackpool. But though he made his name by, er, monkeying around, he has now undergone a rapid evolution into a dreary local politician. ‘I’ve resigned as H’Angus now. I want to be taken seriously’, said Drummond. ‘People have gone and voted to show they are taking an interest in local politics.’ (In fact, the election of this apeish character shows the opposite.)
After his election, Drummond told a press conference that he would tackle local issues such as…(yawn)…drugs, crime, and youth unemployment. It’s only a matter of time before Drummond discovers to his cost that without his monkey suit he is nothing.
Indeed, he has broken the golden rule of mascots – never step out of costume. Bungle the bear from the 1970s children’s TV programme Rainbow is an icon to a generation of sad thirtysomething nostalgists. But who remembers John Leeson, the actor who played the original Bungle? When Leeson hung up his bear costume to further his acting career, he invariably sank into obscurity and now earns his crust from TV voiceovers.
Most football mascots are inoffensive and frankly dull creatures, who do little more than trot around, and wave to the crowd. They were introduced, along with loud piped music, in the drive to turn football matches into family entertainment. H’Angus the Monkey became a cult figure in Hartlepool precisely because his indecent antics didn’t conform to the family-friendly norms.
Stuart Drummond has made a fatal error by ditching the cheeky monkey antics and opting instead to play by the rules of municipal politics. Drummond can now look forward to becoming embroiled in issues like the council’s projected budget deficit of £1.8million pounds. When that happens, the people of Hartlepool won’t be laughing and Drummond won’t have a monkey suit in which to hide.
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