Editorial: A midsummer daydream at the ministry

Stephen Cook, editor

An office in the Department for Work and Pensions. The duty minister is standing on a chair in shirt sleeves lunging at a bluebottle with a copy of the Daily Mail. There is a Tupperware box on the desk. His private secretary puts her head round the door.

Hermione: Someone to see you, minister.

Minister (irritably, climbing off chair): I thought everyone was in a villa or caravan by now. Who is it?

Hermione: Chap from the... what did he call it?... Office of the Third Sector.

Minister (winces): Third what?

Hermione: Charities and so on, minister. It's how we're saving money these days.

Minister (flops in chair, sighs): Ah, that one. And what's it all about?

Hermione: Lunch expenses, he says. Apparently volunteers can't charge them without losing benefit.

Minister: Well, that's just tough. And talking of lunch, he's not having any of mine. He opens a drawer, drops in the Tupperware box, and slams it. OK, show him in.

The lights dim and the sound of Common People by Pulp fills the air, reaches a crescendo and fades. The lights go up again to reveal the minister flopped on the sofa with his tie askew. Hermione looks anxiously round the door.

Hermione: How did it go, minister?

Minister: What? Oh yes... I told him we make the rules round here.

Hermione: Oh, jolly good show.

Minister: And then I gave in.

Hermione: Oh no! Why?

Minister (waves arm vaguely): This stuff's all the rage these days. Quoted the PM at me... some chap called Bubb on his back... every department's a third sector department, apparently. I even gave him a sandwich.

Hermione: You didn't, did you? Oh dear.

Minister (gets up, joins Hermione at the front of the room): Nice enough bloke. What was his name again? Molly? Milly? Mandy?

Hermione: Definitely not Mandy, minister. He's running trade in Brussels now.

Minister (dreamily): Ah, yes, Mandy. Those were the days, eh? Blair babes... Cool Britannia.

Hermione: John Reid still in his box.

Minister: And now we've just got Iraq.

Hermione: And Prescott. And Lebanon.

Minister: PM's in orbit... No sign of Brown.

Hermione: No... but at least we're a third sector department.

Minister: Yes, there's always that.

They stand staring hopelessly into the distance. The bluebottle is still buzzing. Lights fade. Curtain falls.

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