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MP puts the morris in motion

A House of Commons motion praising morris dancers has prompted The Daily Telegraph to defend "every true-born Englishman's right to strap jingle bells round his knees and make a hanky-waving wally of himself in public."

Under the heading Hell's Bells, the paper's Peterborough column seizes on the timeliness of the motion - tabled by Colchester MP Bob Russell just as Home Secretary Jack Straw was announcing a crisis in English national identity.

Mr Russell urges "that this House pays tribute to Cecil Sharp, notes that it was on Boxing Day 1899 that he commenced saving morris dancing from oblivion and wishes all member clubs of the Morris Ring further success".

Mr Russell is quoted in the January 13 editions as saying: "Cecil Sharp saved a great English tradition. Morris dancing is a peculiar ceremonial dance related to fertility and we should be proud of it."

He doesn't dance himself: "I don't morris dance because I'm too busy at Scouts and Church activities. But as soon as I hear morris music, I'm there in a shot."

Shave The Donkey observes, however, that Mr Russell is also noted in the House as a champion of the remote British island of St Helena. Some might see him as a practitioner of futility rites.

The newspaper concludes with a bitter-sweet comment from Simon Heffer, author of the patriotic Nor Shall My Sword. "Sharp deserves the status of a hero for collecting English folk songs," he says. "When I meet a troupe of morris dancers, I turn my car around and go in the opposite direction, but I respect the right of others to do it."

2000 Simon Pipe, Mark Rogers, The Outside Capering Crew

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