Johnson reluctantly took the call. Why did everyone expect answers from the PM? | John


Boris Johnson: (picking up phone) Who’s that?

Steve Barclay: It’s me. Steve.

Johnson: Steve who?

Barclay: Steve Barclay.

Johnson: That’s not helping.

Barclay: Minister for the Cabinet Office.

Johnson: Seriously? I hadn’t realised things had got that bad. Anyway, Simon, how can I help?

Barclay: I’ve been asked to do the morning TV and radio shows and I could do with a bit of help trying to work out what the government’s current position on most issues is.

Johnson: You and me both, pal.

Barclay: Anyway, I don’t want to crash and burn like the Raabster, so let’s start with the parties. Are we still holding to the bullshit line that people were actually doing some work at these gatherings?

Johnson: I like the use of the word gathering. Be sure to use it. And yes absolutely. The parties were all bona fide non-parties. The amount of work that was done there was staggering. It was just a shame that everyone had been too pissed to remember any of it.

Barclay: Right. Well do remember to invite me along the next time you’re planning an after-work work session. They look like a lot of fun. And how shall I explain Carrie’s presence in the photo?

Johnson: I dunno. She just wanted to take the piss out of Matt Hancock.

Barclay: Don’t we all?

Johnson: Anyway, just stall. People are getting bored of hearing about all the mega dos we had while the little people were dumb enough to follow the rules. Just say “it was a work event, where people only talked about work” over and over again and the interviewer will soon change the subject.

Barclay: So what’s the government line on bringing in new restrictions to deal with the worsening pandemic?

Johnson: We haven’t got one…

Barclay: What?

Johnson: Only kidding!

Barclay: Really?

Johnson: Er… What I really meant is that we continue to follow the science at all times…

Barclay: But we don’t. Because if we did we’d be imposing more restrictions right now…

Johnson: You’re focusing on the wrong scientists. Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and all the gloomsters at Sage just don’t understand Christmas. What people really want to hear is that everything’s going to be just fine even if it means most of their relatives dying before the end of January.

Barclay: So…

Johnson: So we’re following the collected wisdom of the CRG.

Barclay: The Coronavirus Recovery Group?

Johnson: The very same!

Barclay: But Mark Harper and Steve Baker are complete morons.

Johnson: I know, I know. But I’m toast if I don’t do as they say. So the plan is to nothing before Wednesday at the earliest. Then we have a press conference to say more restrictions are probably coming after Christmas and hope to God the CRG don’t kick off too loudly.

Barclay: I think I get it. Can I say if you’ll be going to any Cobra meetings in the meantime?

Johnson: Sure. They’re in my diary as something to miss. By the way, I did just want to say thank you for every member of the cabinet standing up when I entered the room yesterday.

Barclay: Oh, that? That was Rishi’s idea. He had got us all singing “Stand up if you hate Boris” while we were waiting for you. It was the most fun any of us had had in weeks.

Rishi Sunak: Did someone mention my name?

Johnson: Sadly yes… You do realise I’m planning on remaining as prime minister for the foreseeable future…

Sunak: Whatevs… I can wait.

Liz Truss: I can’t…

Sunak: I suppose you want me to sort out a bailout package for all those businesses affected by our new restrictions? Though I can’t for the life of me see why everyone doesn’t use the free time like me to chill out on a mini-break in California.

Johnson: But the whole point is that we haven’t imposed any new restrictions…

Sunak: I know. But people are acting as if we have because they don’t trust us to make the right judgment calls on public health. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll stump up £1bn – not from my own personal bank account, of course, though sometimes I think it would be a whole lot easier if I did – and offer a few businesses £6,000.

Johnson: Why £6,000?

Sunak: Why not? It’s roughly what you spent on every Downing St party this time last year.

Johnson: Fair enough.

Sunak: It won’t be enough and people are bound to moan, mind. But don’t come running to me if loads more businesses go broke if we need to impose a circuit breaker after Xmas.

Truss: Er… excuse me. Isn’t it about time I had some attention? The trouble with that Lord Frost was that he was just too soft. Imagine only triggering article 16. I’m going to trigger articles 1 to 15 as well…

Johnson: What have I done?

Everyone: Nothing. That’s the whole point.

Johnson: “Dear UK. I am planning to do nothing. Some of you will find it hard to tell the difference. Have a great Christmas and I hope you don’t die.”

  • A Farewell to Calm by John Crace (Guardian Faber, £9.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.



Read More: Johnson reluctantly took the call. Why did everyone expect answers from the PM? | John

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