“Seriously Gidders, you should have seen the bloody state of it,” brayed Lord David Cameron, swinging his JM Weston brogues up onto the desk. “An absolute bloody farce. I was half expecting that Jeremy Beagle chap to waltz in. I was genuinely scanning the room at one point for a waiter with a thalidomide hand.”
It was the first time George Osborne had set foot in the Foreign Secretary’s office since the days of Philip Hammond’s Tuesday morning rebirthing-breathwork therapy club.
“Sounds bloody hilarious though,” he chortled. “I don’t know how you managed to keep a straight face.”
“I didn’t. I was openly laughing in their faces. We all were.” replied Cameron. “And by their I mean the British public.”
“Quite right. Bloody flag waving, Coronation Street-watching Brexit peasants.”
Cameron face darkened. He began idly tossing pencils across the room at a portrait of James Cleverly posing proudly in full Royal Artillery uniform. The subject of the ungrateful, disobedient lower orders of the United Kingdom had raised its head once more. The genial banter would have to be put on hold momentarily until the black clouds evaporated.
For a minute or so, Osborne watched his friend’s idle pursuit with growing fascination. A gradual sense of frustration arose at the sight of the pencils failing to cause any significant damage as they bounced off the likeness. He slowly rose, wandered over to the Foreign Secretary’s desk and picked up a heavy glass paperweight. He tossed it thoughtfully between his hands for a few moments before hurling it with sudden ferocity at the painting, destroying the subject’s face and part of the wall behind it. The dust and debris took a few seconds to settle. Osborne silently returned to his seat. Cameron felt invigorated enough by this spectacle to continue.
“So anyway Gidders, I arrived at this dinner in the full expectation that it was going to be another one of those quid-quo-pro things where I would sit and smile for a couple of hours and waltz out of it with another six hundred grand a year non-executive directorship that involves sitting in on two Zoom calls a year about modern apprenticeships for gay amputees in Mozambique.”
The perpetually restless Osborne had risen once more from his chair and was now engaged in the act of wrestling the mortally wounded painting down from the wall.
“I’m listening David. Go on.”
“So imagine my surprise when I walked in and there was a tiny little Amakhula type sitting at the head of the table. I swear to God it put me in mind of that bit in that Indiana Jones film where he sits down with the boy Maharaja and they serve him up monkey brains and beetles.”
“So what was it? I assume they’d got the waiter over so they could have a jolly good giggle at him doing that wobbly head thing and offering the white man ten thousand apologies and free brandies all round for the strand of black hair he found in the bhuna?,” said Osborne, struggling as he carried the heavy portrait over to face Cameron.
“That’s exactly what I thought was going on. But Dowders and Hunt said ‘no, David old chap, that’s Ricky Nanook, he’s the Prime Minister now’. I almost fell off my chair, Gidders. ”
“Heeeeeeeere’s Jimmy!,” yelled Osborne, thrusting his gurning face through the hole in the portrait.
“Gidders please. I’m trying to relate a yarn,” said Cameron, waving his hand irritably. “Now, I’m too busy to keep up with the politics these days because most of my time is given over to sitting in my Davos-funded deluxe Cotswolds shepherd’s hut with bluetooth-controlled sleazy mood lighting and built-in diamante-studded sex swing, listening to the ‘teach yourself Mandarin’ tapes on the walkman and watching Peppa Pig videos on the laptop. The last time I bothered to check, that fat priapic oaf Johnson was running the show, so all this came as a bit of a surprise to me.”
Osborne tried to pull his head out of the portrait but found himself stuck. Panicking, he began thrashing around wildly.
“But they gave me their sincere assurance that this Nanook character is the real deal, so I decided to play along with it for a while.”
He watched patiently as Osborne frenziedly punched his way out of the portrait, dusted himself down and slumped back into his chair, perspiring and breathing heavily.
“It turned out that he speaks rather good English for a cow worshipper and pulls the whole act off rather well. He told me he thinks he’s toast at the next election and that he just wants to spend his last months in office mercilessly trolling the public.”
“I’m beginning to like the sound of this chap,” said Osborne. “He seems to have formed a refreshingly disdainful view of the groveling serfs.”
“Well he’s not some leprosy-riddled bud-bud beggar they’ve dragged out from under a tarpaulin sheet in Calcutta, Gidders, that much is clear. It turns out Nanook is one of us. He has some serious moolah behind him and, like you and I, he could not give a monkey’s toss about what happens to this country because he can afford to leave in a heartbeat and retreat behind the walls of a fortified compound in America if things get too hot.”
“We ought to sort him out with a membership at the club, David. Strikes me as a sound sort of chap. The kind of sound chap that sound chaps like us could do business with.”
“I’ve already put a word in. But wait until you hear this. He said that in light of consistently poor polling and a general lack of gratitude for his premiership that he wanted to give the British public the ultimate middle finger before his time is up. The sort of middle finger the commies would build a giant concrete statue of in Pyongyang to act as a permanent reminder of precisely who is lord and master. A parting gift so toxic that it will leave an indelible stain on the office of both Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary.”
“So that’s why you’re sitting here in the Foreign Secretary’s chair?”
“Bingo, Gidders, bang on the money. Imagine – a chap like me, humiliated and run out of office because the proles refused to listen to their betters and vote remain, brought back and handed a senior cabinet position despite being viewed with an almost Blair-like antipathy among the proles. It doesn’t stop there either. He also had to go to the palace and twist old Charlie’s arm to set me up with a peerage to drag the whole thing over the line. Bringing the royals into this farce is an absolutely sublime touch, don’t you think?.”
“Gosh, and we thought leaving Theresa in charge of the country was punishment enough when we left.”
“This chap is willing to take it to a whole new level, Gidders. He’s a complete and utter sociopath, it’s glorious. I said to him ‘Ricky – that is all ripping stuff old chap, but we can go a step further’. He was all ears. That’s when I said I’d take the job, but it has to be clear to anyone with eyes in their skull that I am being paid exorbitant amounts of taxpayers’ cash to do absolutely nothing but go on foreign jollies, have my photograph taken with heads of state and dine like a king. All the administrative stuff and meetings and anything that even vaguely resembles work gets openly palmed off onto some dimwit like Andrew Mitchell. We really have to rub their noses in it, I said.”
Osborne lay creased up with laughter across his chair. “This is even more absurd than that time they made me the editor of some newspaper or other,” he howled. “I think I actually still might have that job, come to think of it. The money keeps going in anyway.”
“Well exactly,” purred Cameron. “That’s why I left thinking the whole thing had been a practical joke for one of those ghastly Channel 4 comedy shows. I only found out it was real when they sent a car for me this morning and an hour later I was chewing the cud with little Nanook in my old office in Downing Street.”
“So what next, David?,” said Osborne, leaning forward excitedly. “This sounds like just the beginning.”
“Follow me, my wide-eyed tenderfoot,” boomed Cameron, striding over to a door at the far end of his office “And I shall enlighten you.”
Theatrically, he flung open the door to reveal six canopic jars. Each contained what appeared to be a human brain floating in formaldehyde, wires spidering off in every direction into an elaborate stainless steel machine behind.
“What’s that then David?.”
“Kenneth Clarke, Chris Huhne, Caroline Spelman,” he said, prodding each jar as he moved along. “Justine Greening, Andrew Lansley, Owen Paterson.”
“I don’t quite follow.”
“The most spectacularly mediocre minds of the Cameron era. The pinnacle of beige. The mushiest of on-message BBC centrist opinions ever known to mankind. All feeding into one gloriously depressing artificial intelligence machine. This is the future, Gidders. This is how all government policy will be formulated from now on. This machine will create policies so meaningless they do nothing but create more paperwork for the civil service to shuffle. Policies designed to make Britain become incrementally more depressing by the day.”
“Why David it’s beautiful.” gasped Osborne. “The complete and utter absence of independent or critical thought. It’s beyond any of our wildest dreams.”
“The stultifying blandness of the slogans,” hissed Cameron.
“The chasm-like emptiness of the manifesto promises.”
“The sheer blitheness of the inertia of the government as it watches the country fall apart under the weight of taxes and immigration.”
“Glorious, absolutely glorious. Think of the time this will free up for quality people to get sorted with more and more two day per month consultancies and non-executive directorships.”
“God yes. Fifty grand a pop speaking engagements about courage and leadership at Ivy league universities, all expenses paid.”
“Half a million in lobbying fees for the twenty minutes it takes to persuade some utter nincompoop like Matt Hancock to blow the Department of Health’s entire IT budget on a broken app designed in half an hour by a 14-year-old Chinese boy with crippling autism.”
The pair stood panting, awestruck by the machine.
“What’s this empty one at the end for David?,” said Osborne, curiously fingering the jars.
“Oh, erm, that’s just a spare Gidders,” blustered Cameron. “Oh, by the way, did I show you this rather nifty Fortnum & Mason machete SamCam got me for my birthday? It’s monogrammed. Come closer and I’ll show you.”
© DH 2023