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  The Tories
Howard appoints Council of Elders, Sheriff of Nottingham
The new Conservative leader, Michael Howard, today announced that he was creating a Council of Elders to advise him on leadership matters. The Council is to be made up of previous leaders that have proven their worth - John Major, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith along with former leadership contender Kenneth Clarke. Mr Howard also intends to draw on talent from outside the party, including a number of "white lighters" from the TV series "Charmed", Cornelius Fudge from Harry Potter's Ministry of Magic and actor Tony Robinson who played the Sheriff of Nottingham in the children's TV series "Maid Marion".

As well as advising Mr Howard, the new Council may also have a role in disciplining the Party, as it is being given the power to dish out punishments including hanging, public flogging and "ritual humiliation". Mr Howard is to appoint an official witchdoctor tomorrow.

Political commentators have expressed surprise at the appointments. "Appointing the Sheriff of Nottingham to an advisory council will not help the party shed its 'nasty' image," said Gregory T Mullet of The Times. "But on the other hand, appointing Robin Hood would give out completely the wrong message redistribution of wealth and all that. So in my view the Tories should just steer clear of Nottingham Forest altogether."

The three former leaders on the Council have been dubbed the three wise men by some commentators. They are not to be confused with Labour's three kings, who brought gold, favours and the Millennium Dome in exchange for passports and a curbed ban on tobacco advertising.

Of most concern, though, is the apparent mystical presence close to the new Tory leader. "Each of the last three leaders has had to cope with the ghostly presence of Margaret Thatcher drifting in and out of Central Office from time to time, but this really takes the biscuit," Bootle University's Douglas Ramsbottom told DeadBrain. "People say that Michael Howard has something of the night about him. Well now we could see him disappearing in a puff of smoke."

The Labour Party is reportedly considering bringing back Peter Mandelson as Minister of the Black Arts, a role he has had some training for, in order to counter the Tories' new threat.

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