AS this interminable year finally limps to a close, it is a time of reflection and cogitation for many.
Even in the corridors of Westminster — where self-assessment only usually occurs on their tax forms and expenses claims — this year there will be at least a half-hearted attempt by many to examine their conduct of the previous 12 months, if only due to job insecurity and paranoia.
In a back room at No 10 the Prime Minister is gazing into her mirror and muttering to herself.
“Who is the fairest of them all?”
An awkward silence fills the air.
“I asked you a question!”
Disembodied voice: “Oh, sorry, I thought you were being ironic.”
“Have you ever known me to be ironic?”
Sotto voce: “Not intentionally perhaps…”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, you do appear to be speaking to a mirror, like the wicked queen in a fairy story. Mrs T was the same towards the end.”
May squints into the glass, fixing the reflection of her aide with a frosty glare.
“I was talking to you, you idiot.”
“She used to do that as well.”
The civil servant shifts uneasily as the basilisk stare intensifies.
“You still haven’t answered my question…”
“Um, I was rather hoping you’d forgotten that.”
“I never forget anything.”
“You forgot what day of the week it was when you were trying to deport Abu Qatada.”
Volcanically: “THAT is in the past, just…”
“Exactly. Now answer my question or I’ll block your KBE.”
“Sorry, what was the question again?”
“Who is the fairest?”
“Well, there was that unfortunate leak from your time at the Home Office … regarding preventing the children of immigrants getting school places. That didn’t go down too well — apart from with middle England of course.”
“Oh, nonsense. That was a perfectly reasonable and well thought out proposal. I’ve had dozens of letters of support.”
“Mainly in green ink, I couldn’t help noticing. And it would appear that most of your correspondents did not themselves overly bother the portals of our school estate if their missives are anything to go by.”
“Not all of them. I mean look at this (rummages through papers on desk). It’s a fulsome letter of praise from the Majority Labour Party. Even the opposition can’t find fault with it.”
Aide, peering over the PM’s shoulder: “Ah, yes. I’m not sure that is actually from the opposition…”
“What do you mean? Of course it is. It’s signed MLP there in black and white.”
“Indeed it is, PM. That would be Marine Le Pen.”
“Are you sure?”
“The little swastikas dotting the i’s is a bit of a give-away.”
“Ah, yes, I wondered about those. Still, she’s a strong, progressive woman with radical ideas.”
“Like deporting anyone who looks a bit foreign?”
Aide, desperately trying to change the subject: “How was Brussels?”
“Oh, it was all right, I suppose, under the circumstances. I did rather feel like Cinderella leaving the ball before the clock struck 12 though.”
“Well, it was certainly a pantomime but I think you may have got the wrong sister.”
“I do wish you would stop mumbling. I can hardly hear a word you’re saying.”
“If you ever bothered listening to anyone other than yourself and God you might.”
“What I mean is, you’ve been here a long time, haven’t you?”
“And seeming longer by the minute. Er, I mean yes PM.”
“So how do you think it’s going so far?”
“Going? Oh, I didn’t realise anything WAS going. Which from a Civil Service point of view is perfect. Keep up the good work. Or rather, don’t.”
“But what about my bold and daring reshuffle?”
“To be honest, PM, no-one really notices that kind of thing. The public see one bland, grey-suited nonentity depart and another arrive. Nothing really changes in most cases. Which is the way it should be.”
“But I appointed Boris foreign secretary, surely they must have noticed that.”
“Oh yes! Well the Saudi royal family and the Russians definitely have anyway.”
“Oh God, I thought putting the buffoon in the FCO job would get him out of the way where he couldn’t cause any trouble. Instead he’s gallivanting round the globe insulting all and sundry. It was all right when it was just Liverpool, the poor and African children he was insulting. Those are traditional Conservative values but offending our biggest customers most definitely is not.
“It’s as if he was actively seeking to undermine me.”
Aide, with the faintest of smiles: “Yes, it is rather.”
“And it’s making him popular than ever, the conniving bastard. Speaking of which, how are my latest approval ratings?”
“Good. With Labour still tearing each other to pieces, even despite the predicted Brexit backlash, you’re well ahead. The endorsement from Kate Bush helped…”
“Why do I sense a ‘but’ coming…?”
“There was that rather public spat with Nicky Morgan…”
“Oh, Christ, not the bloody trousers again. I’m the bloody Prime Minister and all they can do is go on about how much my wardrobe costs. Cameron never had this problem. But because I’m a woman that’s all they ever talk about. Even Ken Clarke condemned it, saying that it was blatant double standards and that men aren’t subjected to this kind of scrutiny.”
“That is undoubtedly so, PM, and utterly unjust of course. But then Clarke appears to have been wearing the same suit since the LAST EU referendum so he might not be the best example.”
“No-one really cares if I’m wearing £1,000 trousers, not even the Daily Mail. It was just a silly season story.”
“I quite agree, PM. Still it’s rather fortunate that they didn’t find out where they came from. It brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘kid leather’…”