SIR Charles ‘Chatty’ Chatterton is the raffish, six-times-married, long-serving Member of Parliament who has recently stepped down as Assistant Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. In his role he was able to witness the intense discussions that have taken place during the past year of lockdown.
The Conservative Woman has gained an exclusive access to extracts from his diary and his revealing comments about the individuals shaping the Government’s response during the crisis.
February 2020: There is a rumour circulating about some sort of flu bug that can cause nasty headaches and suchlike. At an emergency Cobra meeting, Raab told us that the Chinese ambassador has been round to the FO several times explaining that any new virus had nothing to do with them, but that we must close our economy and shut schools indefinitely to stop the spread. Everyone agreed that this was farcical scaremongering, and we would carry on as we did during previous bad flu seasons. It seems like the sort of thing I once picked up in Honkers which was soon dealt with by a dose of penicillin and a couple of paracetamol.
April 2020: For the past couple of months, all sorts of nerdy, pasty, weirdo types have been in and out of Number Ten. They are from some operation called Sage. None of them smiles, and there isn’t one I wouldn’t blackball at my club. It seems that after his near-death experience the PM is even more obsessed with prolonging the fatuous lockdown. There is a suggestion that some of these bounders are bankrolled by the Chinese. That can’t be right, surely?
May 2020: Keir Starmer was let in through the back door for a secret meeting about the bad flu. Although the virus seems to be on the way out, he wants to lock down even harder and said he would support the Government in any way possible until the thing disappears completely. Starmer did not impress; with his ‘speak your weight’ voice and dead eyes, he has all the charisma of a bag of cat litter.
June 2020: A tense meeting with Home Office bods about the number of illegals floating over the Channel wanting to stay in decent hotels in Kent. I could tell the atmosphere was frosty when one of their senior civil servants told Priti why he thought it unwise to leave some outdated UN Convention. She gave him that Medusa stare that I used to get from my fourth or fifth wife when she smelt the perfume of my fifth or sixth wife on my blazer. After the meeting I could see the poor chap was in distress so I took him into a committee room and gave him a snifter from my hip flask. After five minutes of sobbing the old boy calmed down and explained that no Home Secretary had ever asked him to implement Government policy before, and he thought it all terribly unfair.
September 2020: My third wife Suki, who is now my secretary, tells me that she is inundated with letters and messages from my constituents about cancelled hospital/dental appointments. I have drafted a sympathetic note giving the official line that no matter how ill they are, they are to avoid the NHS, which must be protected at all costs. I tell her to end the reply with ‘Stay Safe’, or whatever is the mantra ‘du jour’.
November 2020: As there was no one else available, I took a video call from the Élysée Palace. An elderly lady told me that President Macron wished to speak with the PM about the Northern Ireland Protocol. Although he was upstairs trying to feed Wilfred, I gave the stock reply to this inquiry, that ‘he was involved in an important meeting with Her Majesty and could not be disturbed’. The woman, whom I took to be the President’s mother, spluttered something unpleasant in French and abruptly ended the call.
November 2020: The PM seemed quite elated when the news of the Biden victory came through. He asked me to pester the US embassy for him to be the first to receive a call from the President elect. I had always thought that the Anglophile Trump was more our sort, but what do I know?
November 2020: BoJo received the call he had been waiting for from Biden. There was some initial confusion when the President tried to order a pepperoni pizza, but after intervention from his aides they had a useful discussion about their preferred face masks.
December 2020: BoJo can’t contain his delight at the arrival of the vaccines. I am asked to compile a list of MPs who will be publicly vaccinated ‘pour encourager les autres’. I notice that the list already contains the names Brady, Walker, Swayne and Harper. It is suggested that I add the names of older members with the largest majorities rather than new intake of zombies.