Wow. This carpet is incredible.
I can feel it through my shoes.
And these are bloody good shoes.
Pacing the floor of what used to be the director’s boardroom is Lucy Wastell, the accidental Prime Minister of East Anglia. Election by lottery was an unusual and unexpected Government-forming method following the reformation of the United Kingdom, but seeing as those tasked with devising the method were Cambridge scholars, it perhaps isn’t so surprising.
When her name was pulled out of the hat (a top hat, so somewhat formal), Lucy decided that this really was her opportunity to make a difference. She had always nursed a small fantasy of becoming Prime Minister, but had never got any further than the reception desk of her local County Council offices. But now here she was, Prime Minister of East Anglia. Probably best she didn’t get the whole country, actually, because that might have been a bit of a stretch.
Still, Cambridge has a Downing Street and number ten happens to be rather swish. It was slightly inconvenient that that particular address housed the city’s flagship John Lewis store, although it did make furnishing the place a lot easier. The clothing department, too, was of great service to the eternally grateful Government, who now had a leader who at least looked the part. Well, mostly. She didn’t have much time for Home Office approved shoplifting before things started to go wrong fairly badly.
A knock at the door halts the pacing. It is followed by the whisper of oak on dense woollen pile.
“Good morning, Prime Minister,”
“Good morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer! Come in!”
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was Lucy’s next-door neighbour before her abrupt occupation of Downing Street, so it seemed only sensible that he got the job. Ian Risk had been running a successful agricultural business from the family holding, but was throwing himself into his new role with gusto. He was certainly making the most of the opportunity to flaunt his flamboyant wardrobe – each new day saw a fresh ensemble of kaleidoscopic jackets, trousers and shoes that always managed to cling artfully to the edge of good taste.
“I do hope you’re okay,” says Ian, sweeping into the room. “What with – you know – everything.”
“I’m not too bad at all,” Lucy replies with a smile. “Have you seen this carpet? It’s amazing.”
“It’s… yes, actually, that is a nice carpet isn’t it. Look – you’ve got a busy day. I thought we could go through one or two things before the Home Secretary arrives.”
“Brilliant! I love the Home Secretary!” Lucy claps her hands with glee.
A kingdom the size of East Anglia probably didn’t really require the services of a Home Secretary, but someone was going to have to keep an eye on the Cambridge Militia – a hastily assembled regional police force – and Lucy decided that the best person to do that would be her fellow receptionist and great friend, Vicky.
“She wants to talk to you about the Militia, more specifically, your ideas around the concept of ‘reasonable force’.” Ian sits himself in an opportune chair and motions for Lucy to do the same.
She obliges, wriggling briefly to warm her spot.
“We’ve already talked about that,” Lucy waves a hand “And we actually have a policy on reasonable force.”
Ian wrinkles his nose “Which consists of what?”
“It is the result of many hours of consultation, research and discussion in and around the area of prior official guidelines and recommendations, otherwise known as Home Office approved violence,” Lucy pauses for breath, secretly quite impressed with herself. “From which we have been able to devise a more efficient, effective and workable for solution for the law enforcement of today.”
“Which is what?”
“Well, we thought we would wait and see what sort of violence occurs, then get the Home Office to approve it. It will save a lot of time, paperwork-wise.”
Ian invokes a tactical silence in order to give this some consideration. Deciding – for whatever reason – not to dwell on the matter, he continues.
“There is, then, the matter of the Foreign Secretary.”
East Anglia has unquestionably no calling for a Foreign Secretary, but Harry Cobeans had absolutely insisted on filling the position, before disappearing off on a ‘fact finding’ mission to Southern France. As one of the city’s senior County Councillors, he had effectively been Lucy’s boss, so she felt no compunction to altercate and let him get on with it.
“What about the Foreign Secretary?”
“There’s still no word from him. Not unless you count a few salacious posts on his social media.”
“It’s fine,” replies Lucy, unconcerned. “If we want to get him back, we’ll just put on a big dinner or something. Actually, we should do that anyway. Make a note of that.”
Ian dutifully scribes a meticulous missive in his pocketbook, before turning to the Prime Minister.
“Is there any particular reason for the big dinner? Or will you just be indiscriminately ordering big dinners from here on in?”
“I need a big dinner!” Lucy wails “I’ve barely had a decent meal since the kitchen got turned into Colditz. Anyway. I’ve just thought of some urgent business with the Foreign Secretary.”
“Ah, yes” sighs Ian. “The kitchen situation is something else I’ve been meaning to discuss. Is there any movement on that?”
‘The kitchen situation’ is the means by which the second most pressing matter is referred. The first most pressing matter is, of course, the impending war with Oxford. But Oxford is a hundred miles away and the kitchen is only downstairs. Worse, it has Tony Blair in it.
“Not any movement as such,” Lucy huffs. “But my mum’s keeping an eye on him. Once we get some sort of court arranged we can try him.”
Ian nods enthusiastically, tapping his pen on the table’s edge.
“Yes, it’s just it could be seen as wiser to simply give Boris what he wants and hand Blair over to him,” Ian smiles to accentuate his point. “It would avoid the war and remove our burden in one swift maneuverer. Then all we would have to worry about is big dinners and Peterborough.”
Before Lucy can reply, a harassed figure pops her head around the door. It is none other than the aforementioned mother, an unusual lady known to all and sundry as Mumsie. Cheeks flushed and hair awry, she has the look of a woman with a lot on her plate.
“Mumsie, what is it?” Lucy leaves her seat and trots over to her mother.
“You need to come and have a word or something,” she sniffs. “Tony was on about wanting a hair cut. Then the door went and it was Nigel Farage asking if we want to buy any dusters. Or double glazing. So I brought him through to the kitchen and when we walked in, the deputy Prime Minister was doing a poo on Tony’s shoe. Now everyone is shouting.”
Steeling herself for what lie ahead, Lucy couldn’t help thinking that Winston Churchill would never have had to concern himself with such matters. But, all things considered, she was probably far better suited to dealing with poo and door-to-door salesmen. Maybe a duster might come in handy after all.