It’s breakfast time and the minister’s mobile rings.  He wants to ignore it but the screen says it’s a call from Boris.  The minister sighs and picks up the phone.

‘Good morning, Prime Minister.  How are you feeling?’

”On the mend, on the mend.  Enjoying the fresh air out here at Chequers.  I’m being looked after very well.’

‘Excellent, good to hear that Prime Minister.  Naturally we all want you back as soon as possible.’

‘Thanks.  I called to ask why I haven’t seen you doing one of the daily press briefings.  Not running scared are you?’

‘Definitely not, Prime Minister.  It’s just that the First Secretary of State  hasn’t invited me to do one.  I’d  volunteer but I don’t want to appear pushy.’

‘Right, I’ll fix that.  Get over to Downing Street immediately and start rehearsing.’

‘Certainly, Prime Minister.  Is there anything in particular you want me to say?’

‘You know the drill.  Avoid making any cast iron promises, keep saying that at every step of the way we are taking advice from our experts, throw in some ‘unprecedenteds’  and  ‘working round the clocks’.  That sort of thing.  And when you read out any figures do so very fast so that no one can write them down. ‘

‘Any new initiatives to announce?’

‘Good lord no!  We don’t want any more initiatives.  They just invite criticism.  That’s why I’m asking you to do the briefing.  No initiatives please.’

‘Ah yes, I see.  What about taking questions from journalists?’

‘A damn nuisance but we have to be open to scrutiny.  You’ll have a list of journalists who are applying for a slot.  Weed out people like Robert Peston  and Laura Kuenssberg.  Better to choose journalists from local papers who are likely to be overawed by the occasion.   Whatever they ask, always thank them profusely and  field as many questions as possible to the advisers.’

‘What shall I say about PPE shortages?’

‘Don’t say anything about PPE until you are asked.  Emphasise that it’s not our problem, but a worldwide problem and we are doing all we can to protect first line NHS workers .  Oh, and care workers −  whatever you do don’t forget to mention them.’

‘What if they ask about that trip I took to my holiday home?’

‘Simple.  Say you were taking medical supplies to your vulnerable parents.’

‘And what if they ask me about you, Prime Minister?’

‘Tell them I’m in good spirits.’


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