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Peer pressure? Yes, Minister

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JIM Hacker is at his desk after sensationally taking over from Michael Gove at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Enter Sir Humphrey Appleby.    

‘Ah, Humphrey – just the man.’   

–  ‘Good morning, Minister. I hope you are settling in.’   

‘Yes, thanks, just moving poor old Gove’s stuff to one side.  He took his demotion rather badly, you know. But I’m sure he’ll soon find his niche as Assistant Under-Secretary at HM Inspectorate of Janitorial Supplies and Stationery (Felt Tip Pens and Ink Cartridges Section).  

–  ‘Quite, Minister.’   

‘Now, about Gove’s plan to relocate the House of Lords while the Palace of Westminster is being repaired. Can we find somewhere in the North to dump the old dodderers and stop them clinging to London like limpets?’    

– ‘You mean can alternative acceptable accommodation be sought for their noble and learned lords in another convivial corner of this sceptr’d isle, this blessed plot, this other Eden, demi-paradise, this Earth, this realm, this England?’    

What are you wittering about, Humphrey?’   

– ‘Shakespeare, Minister.’    

‘Shakespeare? But he was from Stratford-upon-Avon. That’s not up north. Sending the peers to Stratford would be a comedy of errors. Comedy of errors – get it?’    

– ‘As you like it, Minister. However, Stoke, Burnley, York, Sunderland and Edinburgh have been mentioned in this relocational context.’    

‘Edinburgh! Bloody hell, can you imagine Krankie’s reaction if 700 superannuated sycophants and freeloading time-servers descended on the People’s Tartan Republic looking for a £305-a-day attendance allowance, plus travel expenses, subsidised restaurant and bar? She’d choke on her clootie dumplings. No, Gove’s plan is much too soft. I want the peers to be sent northwards with extreme prejudice to teach them to stop interfering with our legislation.’    

– ‘Well, Minister, the Norwegian government has offered to lease us part of the island of Utsira, which is in the North Sea, 600 miles from London. That might suit. North Utsira, you will doubtless recall, is one of the Shipping Forecast sea area “boxes”.’    

‘Only 600 miles? Not that far away, is it, Humphrey? Can you look for somewhere else? I’d like you to think outside the box.’    

(Exit Sir Humphrey. He returns ten minutes later)    

– ‘I have now identified the UK Arctic Research Station on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen as a viable location for the House of Lords. It is 1,800 miles from London and only 500 miles from the North Pole. It is pitch dark there for two and a half months of the year, with winter temperatures as low as minus 20C. Is that, how can I put it, north enough for you, Minister?’    

‘You’ve nailed it, Humphrey! Two and a half months of night and freezing cold, eh? Well, most of those dozy ennobled dolts are asleep all the time, so they won’t notice the dark, and they’ve got their ermine robes to keep them warm. Oh, boy, I can see the headlines now: Hacker Pole-Axes Peers, or Lords Get Arctic Roles.’    

– ‘Very droll, Minister.’    

‘Yes, it was pretty good, wasn’t it?’   

– ‘Now, Minister, down to details. The repairs to the House of Lords will take seven years. So you will make at least 28 visits to Spitsbergen, each visit of two weeks duration.’    

‘Visits? What are you talking about, Humphrey?’   

– ‘As Secretary for Levelling Up, you have legal responsibility for the welfare of peers and must visit them four times a year to ensure their rights and privileges are not being impaired. You will be allotted two weeks for each visit because the research station can be snowed in for long stretches.’    

‘Snowed in?’    

– ‘Yes. And hungry polar bears and wolves are a constant threat if you venture outside, as is frostbite, snow blindness and hypothermia. Television, radio and internet reception can often be cut off. But I am told there is a decent selection of books and board games in the communal hut where your bunk bed will be situated. And, of course, you will have ample opportunity to confer with their noble lords as you gather round the paraffin heater during the endless nights …’    

‘Stop! No more, Humphrey!’    

– ‘Minister?’    

‘Humphrey, arrange a fact-finding trip to Stoke for me … now.’    

– ‘Yes, Minister.’    

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Weaver Sheridan
Weaver Sheridan
Weaver Sheridan is a wannabe best-selling novelist, one of his efforts being the Fifties Franny series, available on Amazon Kindle books.

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