Clowns across the country yesterday demanded a pay rise of up to 15% to ensure they would 'continue to haunt the sleep of our nation's youths forever'.
Up to now, under strict government regulation, clowns who appeared in children's nightmares did so on an unpaid basis. But after three years of intense lobbying on behalf of the clowns' unions failed last week, the white-faced circus monsters are now prepared to strike for what they called their 'indisputable right' for more money.
'I work about nine hours a day for what is, essentially, pittance,' said Pepe, a 32-year-old clown employed by the Majik Majestyk's Circus. 'And any work I do terrifying children across the country as they drift off to sleep every night is on a voluntary basis only - I do it only because I love it.'
Captain Blinky, chief activist with the Clown Representatives' Entertainment And Management Private Industry Establishment (CREAMPIE) said: 'Our clowns are the best in the business. When you need someone to scare the living daylights out of your child, aged between three and 12, and ensure they are left with trauma for their entire adult lives, they can do it.
'Just the other day, someone I represent spent four hours of his night stalking an 11-year-old Norfolk boy called Adrian through his dreams. This isn't a charity: he could, and should, have made at least £150 for that night's work. Everyone in this government needs to wake up or we'll haunt them, too.'
Mr Chippy, a freelance Swindon-based clown, said: 'I'll spend around three hours every night scaring children. I take pride in knowing that the image of me standing above those children half-naked, sometimes waving a trident, will stay with them for the rest of their lives. But a man's got to eat, and times are harsh. I just can't carry on doing this for fun any more - the money has to come from somewhere.'
Prime Minister David Cameron, who believes he once encountered an Italian clown while wandering through the woods of Eton College as a teenager, has so far refused to buckle to a pay increase, insisting before parliament last week: 'We can't be held to ransom by these clowns.' Privately, however, he is known to favour improvements to clowns' working conditions, having reportedly admitted to deputy PM Nick Clegg last week: 'If I don't do this, I know Pagliacci will kill me in my sleep one day.'