Theresa May returns to her flat at Number 10. She had a hard day flying around Europe. Trying to get at least one Euro leader to offer some words of encouragement for her Chequers deal. or, as Macron calls it “Le Seau de merde, pour les Anglaise.”
She found no words of comfort there. But she had survived a vote of no confidence from her own party. With only a tiny 33% voting for her to go. So that was good. And Corbyn hadn’t tabled his own no confidence in the government motion. Too afraid he would have to say where he stands on Brexit. She immediately fled the country after the party vote. To look like she was a woman of action and steel. Determined and brave. Putting the nation first. But by the time she got to the EU after her evening vote, all the great statesmen of Europe were in bed. So she hung around the duty free for a bit and then went to a hotel.
Returning now she is keen to chat about her recent triumphs with her husband Philip.
As she enters her apartment her husband looks up from his newspaper crossword and greets her cheerily.
“Hello dear. Did you have a good day at the office? Anything exciting happen or just the usual daily drudge. The dull, grey suit, shuffle?”
Theresa looks crossly at her spouse. “Oh Philip, really! I’ve been at the House! For the confidence vote Which I won. And then to the EU talks! Where did you think I’d been?”
“Oh..I thought you’d been out doing some shopping. Christmas gifts and all that tinsel stuff…Which reminds me..It was a leather trouser suit you wanted, wasn’t it? I do hope so. I rang Merkel to see where she gets hers. ..So, you’ve had a vote of no confidence against you, have you?”
“Yes I have” said Theresa angrily. It must have been on the news. It was a huge media event.
“Really?” said Phil. He looked mildly puzzled. “There was no mention of it on the wireless. There was a play for today on Radio 4. About a slum Tory MP landlord expelling Eastern European slave workers from his buy-to-let. And then they all perished at Grenfell. …Or was that yesterday? Or the day before? ….Come to think of it..it was everyday this week. Or a version of that theme..Did you catch any of it, dear?”
“What ?” Asks an incredulous May. “No mention of my commons speeches. And the vote? And me going to the EU?”
Philip thinks she looks completely bewildered. Even more so than usual.
“But..I had…A press conference..and ..made a speech..”
“Did you?” he lifts up his paper again to peer at the crossword clues..”Was it live…the main event..not just a ‘Governouncement.’ No one covers those anymore. Not even the C4 bothers..”
“No! It was the proper thing. A live vote. With the whip. I stood at that freezing, outside podium and everything..I just can’t..believe..it..”
Philip drops his paper to the sofa and hops up to hug her.
“Only teasing, old fruit. I saw it all on Sky Snooze. And jolly good it all was, too. You especially.”
“Oh, thank goodness.” Says Theresa, mightily soothed. “Oh Philip, don’t prank me so.”
But she is too relieved to be angry with him for his joke. It would be just like the media to have made a huge splash about the early week disasters, the letters going in, and then not cover the result of her win.
“Sorry dear..Just my way..here, I’ll fetch you a drink..The press office summary is on the coffee table. They seem ..pleased…ish.”
Mrs May picks up the press releases and nods approvingly. They WERE good. Success For May this. get behind her, that. Very good news. very satisfying indeed.
Philip handed her a sherry and sat back down on the sofa.
“The media said you had a pretty good day today. Even the newspapers said you did a good job, seeing off the ERGs.”
“Well, it’s about time the UKIP-Brexit red tops gave me a little credit! I’m the one ensuring that the UK leaves the EU, aren’t I?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean them, old stick. I meant the Remainer media. BBC very supportive. Guardian loved it, too. Full editorial and feature pages. Lapping it all up..in their whingey-wailey, doom averted way.”
“Oh.” She said. And sat down onto her favourite chair. “Well…All publicity is good publicity, isn’t it?”
“Indeed it is, old sport. A triumph! A personal triumph for you! And it shows just what a great negotiator you must be. To get MPs who loathe you beyond measure, to vote for you, eh?”
“Erm..well..yes. I suppose it does. And I have made some progress with the EU. Why, just today, I got the Dutch to agree to changing ‘The UK will be locked into a customs union forever’ to ‘ ‘the UK COULD be locked into a customs union forever.’
“Oh that’s very good” agrees Philip May. “What did that cost?”
“Only a quarter billion pounds.”
“Oh super. Excellent negotiations, dear. Excellent..” He sipped his own G&T and added, “..Speaking of which… and not trying to steal your thunder in any way… but..I did have a bit of a triumph in the hard-nosed, not for turning sort of negotiations department myself, today,” said Philip, waggling his eyebrows over the top of his glasses and looking particularly pleased with himself.
“Really?” Asked Tess. Wondering what he could have done that would be the equivalent to tough, no compromise, begging on knees at the European union.
“Yes, indeed I did.” He leans forward and winks conspiratorially at her as he begins his tale.
“I went to that new Pound-U-Like-land-Direct. The one off the Horseferry road. And while I was in there I saw a sign.
‘Three, Mörök Háború for the price of one!’ How about that, eh?” And he nods and smiles and leans back in his chair.
“What? What on earth are you talking about, Philip? ..I mean..what is ..Murdock Harbour..?”
“Mörök Háború,” he corrects. “It’s Hungarian brand, Toilet-Duck. But it says its just as good as our SC Johnson stuff is here. And, this is the good bit, I got THREE, for the price of ONE! Good , eh?” he exclaims in jubilation.
Theresa regards him with incomprehension.
What is he talking about? Toilet Duck? TOILET DUCK?
Impatiently and crossly she asks here spouse, “how is three bottles of Mangey Toilet Duck relevant to..to…what I achieved..today?”
And she slips off a shoe and rubs her sore heel. And rolls her fingers over the bunion. Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus had insisted she keep doing her silly dance again. Over and over. Before he would even let her start speaking.
“Well, old skirt,..firstly, its “Mörök Háború.” Details were important to him, if not to her.
“And in and of itself, not so much. Three for one is a good, if not an outstanding deal. But secondly, the clever part was.. I noticed there was no Ce mark on the bottles. Good eh?”
Theresa looks even more confused. She is tired after a very long few days. Fraught with tension and anger and betrayal. And not all of that by her. She was in no mood for riddles.
“Ce Mark?” she finally managed to ask.
“Yes. You know what they are. The approved for sale in the European union, registration symbol. Well, these bottles didn’t have it! Hah!
So I point this out to the deputy assistant supervisor, and she gave me TWO more bottles. For Free! So there! What do you think of that?”
And he sits back again comfortably, evidently very pleased with his feat.
Theresa is now seriously annoyed. She thinks to herself , “Is he just doing this because she is a woman? Deliberately belittling her achievements just because she doesn’t know who Westhampton Rangers beat in the 1976 World Club of footballs?”
“Philip, ” she says through thinning lips, and over the rim of the deep and irritable gulp she takes of her sherry. “I hardly think that getting some bowl cleaner, matches the tightrope diplomacy I have been indulging in..all week..All year..Actually, for two ..bloody.. years!”
“Oh, no Quite..Quite..No..” says Philip raising his hands, palms open to placate her.
“I just meant that ..in essence. We both have got good results. You got some semi-meaningless word amendments to Chequers from the EU. And paid a huge sum for some future possible something or other deal
..While I got, FIVE Toilet Duck equivalent, but only paid the price for one. So..i’m just saying. We are both winners, aren’t we?” He holds up five finger on one hand and one on his other. To emphasise the scale of his success.
Theresa stands up, eyes flashing in true annoyance.
“Philip. I have been transacting with European leaders! I have almost managed to put together a deal that is acceptable to a few…”
“Yes..Yes..Dear..Acceptable. Oh, I so agree. I’m not knocking, really I am not. I’m just pointing out there is a not quite ready to vote on, acceptable to a few, deal.
And there is five for the price of one. Both great deals. No question. I am simply just suggesting one may be a little bit of a better deal than the other, OK? ”
“Oh for heaven’s sake! You really can infuriate me Philip!” she curses at him as she heads angrily off to the bathroom. “They are not the same thing..no comparison of any kind..toilet duck?”
Phil shrugs and picks up his newspaper to resume his crossword. Its a toughie.
But he can still hear her indignant words through the door.
“I’ve been working on this for twenty months. Back and forth. Back and forth. With the most intransigent and pig headed, greedy, stupid men in the world. And those are just our Brexit team. And you say my achievement is just the same as getting four bottles..”
“Five bottles,” he calls over to the closed toilet door to correct her. Tapping his pencil on his lip.”it was five bottles, dear.”
“…four bottles of lavatory cleaner is the equivalent of world-stage statecraft…”
“..not equivalent to..” He thinks to himself..”But better than.” And I keep telling her..”Five bottles. Mörök Háború.”
Theresa is still fuming from the bathroom “I do…Statecraft that takes month and months of patient, painful talks. Which results in give and take on both side..”
“Ahh..both sides,” Philip thinks. “On our side.. and on our other side..”
“..With all warring parties finally brought into alignment! I survive a vote of no confidence by the most treacherous and disloyal people on the planet. Tory MPs, because I NEGOTIATED them round. And you! ..YOU have the nerve to suggest that this delicate finesse was in any way of the same magnitude as your deal about buying household cleaning products from a supermarket?!”
..” No..No..Not the same, old horse” says Phil, loudly enough for her to hear.. “Not the same in any way at all…I’m sure..” And then lowers his voice so only he can hear himself say,
“The deal that I struck, was better than your EU one. Five bottles. FIVE! So I only paid 20% of the RRP. Now that is a good deal. ”
He fills in, then rubs out a failed clue..
“Blast ..no F in Phosphate….”
“PHILIP !” he hears a now very, very, angry yell from the toilet.
“PHILIP!” Bawls out Mrs May again. “This Slovakian… toilet cleaner you supposedly got the agreement of the century on, has only gone and taken the lacquer off the bowl!
Oh my goodness! Its on the floor too..The bottle is leaking..Its like the acid blood that comes out of an alien..Its burning holes into the carpet too!”
“Hmmm” .. thinks Philip May. “That’s perhaps not so good. However, It’s still a better deal than Chequers.”