“I can’t do it, Seumas,” came the jarring, reedy whine that had come to haunt almost every waking hour of the Labour Party’s strategy and communications director for two long years. “It’s been tampered with by Zionists.”
Seumas Milne sighed but did not look up from the mountain of paperwork haphazardly strewn across his desk in the corner of the Leader of the Opposition’s sprawling office within the Palace of Westminster.
“Try starting with the corners, like we discussed, Jeremy” he said, dismissively.
A pregnant pause filled the cavernous, wood paneled office. Milne continued to thumb wearily through a thick pile of correspondence and briefing notes, awaiting the inevitable.
The inevitable happened within half a minute.
“Which bits are the corners again, Seumas?,” came the forlorn, helpless voice once again.
Milne slammed down his paperwork, leaned back in his chair and placed the palms of his hands over his eyes. His boss was hunched pathetically in his wheelchair over a small, plastic foldaway table, a look of piteous dejection in his eyes.
“The bits, Jeremy,” hissed Milne, “That look like corners. Those are the corners.”
The puzzle had been a bad idea. It had been a monumentally bad idea from its very inception.
“Specially commission an eight piece jigsaw puzzle of Yasser Arafat’s face,” they said. “It’ll keep him quiet for hours,” they said.
Milne cursed himself for listening to even a solitary word Burgon and Lammy had had to utter on the subject of keeping Jeremy occupied during office hours. They probably just wanted the jigsaw for themselves. Then they’d fight over who got to have it over the weekend. Another potential schism within the party that he’d have to deal with.
Milne rose from his chair and approached the Labour leader, whose bottom lip was now quivering in abject frustration.
“Would you perhaps like to play with something else?,” cooed Milne, patiently. “Perhaps your Viewmaster with the special ‘Architecture of the DDR’ reel? Or your Teddy Ruxpin that speaks with the voice of Enver Hoxha?”
Jeremy looked sadly down at the eight scattered pieces of his jigsaw with tears in his eyes.
“The Enver bear,” he mumbled, not looking up.
Milne breathed a sigh of relief and swept the puzzle pieces back into their box. He grabbed the bear from a toy box behind his boss and placed it in front of him on the plastic table.
“Hello Enver,” said Corbyn, his eyes immediately lighting up with childlike wonder. “How are you today, comrade?”
“The Albanian people will throw themselves in to the flames for their true friends, and the Soviet Union is such a friend of the Albanian people,” came the stern, tinny reply from within the soft toy.
Milne smiled with relief and started walking slowly back towards his desk. The bear was always guaranteed to keep Jeremy engaged in deep conversation for at least 45 minutes.
He stopped with a jolt as the office door swung violently open behind him.
“Oh wow ace a talking teddy bear!,” came an excitable yelp from behind him. “Awesome!”
It was David Lammy, the Member of Parliament for Tottenham. Barreling in enthusiastically behind him came Richard Burgon, the shadow Lord Chancellor.
“I told you Jezza had a ton of wicked stuff in his office,” gasped Lammy, his eyes darting between the teddy bear and the toy box behind Corbyn.
“‘Owd ya meck it tork Jezzuh? Go on, show us ow it torks, like,” bellowed Burgon, jigging up and down on the spot. “Duh yuh ‘ave tuh press a buttun or sumfin?”
Corbyn held the bear triumphantly above his head and grinned at the pair maniacally.
“The entire Party and country should wake up, throw into the ﬂames and twist the neck of any one who tramples underfoot the sacred law of the Party in defense of the rights of women and girls,” came the distorted, metallic voice from within the bear.
Lammy and Burgon stared at each other with widening eyes for a few moments.
“That. Is. Amazing,” cried Lammy.
“Meck it tork again, Jezza,” erupted Burgon. “That were reet good.”
“Erm, excuse me gentlemen,” came the stern voice of Milne from across the room. “Can I help you?”
The pair shuffled their feet and stared uneasily at the polished wooden floor.
“We’ve come to see Jeremeh,” mumbled Burgon.
“What about?,” snapped Milne, tetchily. “Constituency matters? Policy? Strategy, perhaps? Do you have an appointment?”
Lammy and Burgon continued to stare bashfully at their shoes. They began to nudge each other and whisper until Lammy plucked up the courage to and speak.
“We’re so bored, Mr Milne. There’s nothing for us to do now Momentum is running the party and I’ve done all my BBC interviews about racialism for the day.”
“An’ wih not allowed to run up and down’t corriduhs any more cuz Bercow caught us an shouted at us an threatened to dob us in to Mr McDonnell if wih dun it again,” implored Burgon, his voice cracking slightly.
“We need activities, Mr Milne,” pleaded Lammy. “There’s nothing for us to do here in the Houses of Parnanent.”
Milne pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath.
“And I suppose you’ve no toys from home to play with in your own offices?,” he sighed.
“We ‘ad Battleships set up in Lammy’s office but Diane took it off us for glorifyin’ war,” mewled Burgon.
Milne looked forlornly at the gargantuan pile of paperwork on his desk and then up at the hapless, pathetic looking pair of MPs standing before him.
“Alright. Okay then, ” he said, resignedly. “All three of you can go and play through in the anteroom. But quietly. And with the door closed.”
Both MPs silently shook their fists in barely-contained celebration and charged over to the Labour leader, who was now fast asleep with his head tipped back and his mouth wide open.
Lammy took hold of Corbyn’s wheelchair and sped him toward the anteroom door, sending his tartan travel rug sprawling to the floor, while Burgon gathered up the toybox and sprinted after him.
“Thanks Mr Milne,” they piped up in unison, before disappearing into the anteroom and slamming the door behind them.
The office fell silent.
Peace at last, thought Milne. Peace in which to contemplate the great pile of unread correspondence, policy papers and internal briefings piled high on his desk.
Peace to take the bureaucratic strain off Jeremy’s shoulders while he sat contemplating the great, sweeping socialistic policies which would propel him into government.
He pictured the red flag of communism being flown proudly over Downing Street. The Royal Family being evicted by Momentum activists chanting Jeremy’s name and Buckingham Palace being turned into the Palestinian embassy.
There would be no boredom for the likes of Burgon and Lammy in Jeremy Corbyn’s Britain. Every child would have their own state-provided talking Enver Hoxhe Teddy Ruxpin. It would be paradise. Jeremy’s paradise. And the paperwork was just another step towards this utopia. It no longer felt like a chore. It would be a privilege.
This peaceful reverie was, however, rudely broken as Lammy burst through the anteroom door and sprinted up to his desk.
“Mr Milne, Mr Milne,” he cried, a pronounced sense of panic in his voice. “Jeremy woke up and told us to come through and tell you that it’s happening again and something about needing Mark Kermode.”
He took a moment to catch his breath and continued.
“But you said not to make a noise so we didn’t open your auntie’s room door straight away in case we got into trouble but something started dripping out of Jeremy’s trouser leg and Richard slipped on it and he’s hurt his elbow and thinks it might be broken and now they’re both crying. But I was brave and didn’t start crying and came through to tell you that we need help, Mr Milne.”
With quiet resignation, Seumas Milne silently opened his desk drawer and retrieved a pair of rubber gloves and a packet of baby wipes.
“You and Richard better go back to your offices,” he mumbled, trudging towards the anteroom door.
Lammy watched him disappear through the door with an increasing look of horror on his face.
“Bu…but…Jeremy said we could borrow a one of his toys each…,” he whimpered, breaking down in tears. “I only had one shot with the bear and Richard got to make it talk twice.”
The sobs began shaking him to his core as he sunk to the floor next to Milne’s desk.
“This isn’t what I joined the Labourer Party for,” he burbled, curling up in a ball.
© DH 2017