Christmas spirit pervades the Home Secretary’s Office – A playlet
It’s an almost parallel universe and Christmas is just two days away.
Scene: The Home Secretary’s office in the Home Office. There is a picture on the wall which, on closer inspection, is a group photograph of the G4S Board of Directors. On another wall there is a dartboard and pinned to it are a number of photographs of sullen middle aged men. In one corner of the office, near the dartboard, is a medium sized Christmas tree and at the top of the tree is a doll like figure of a G4S guard.
The Home Secretary is sitting at her desk singing:
Christmas time, mistletoe and wine,
All police are racist swine,
Crime is down by 20%,
Reform is working, I’ll crush all dissent.
There is a knock at the door and long suffering but still youthful looking civil servant Jeremy enters.
Home Sec: Ah Jeremy. Come in, the joys of Christmas.
Jeremy: I believe you wanted to tie up a few loose ends before Christmas, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: You are the duty officer, I believe?
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary, I was the unlucky one pulled out of the hat but my wife and four children will make the best of it. Poor little Tim hasn’t been well…
Home Sec: Yes, yes Jeremy. There’s always Skype. Anyway I want you to get on to my local Chief Superintendent and tell him to make sure there are enough cops on duty over the Christmas period. I don’t want to be kept waiting for half an hour if I have to call them or get complaints from my constituents.
Jeremy: Well, you will have armed officers outside anyway, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Of course Jeremy and make sure they know its outside. Right outside. No sheltering in my doorway if it happens to be raining cats and dogs. And tell plod to bring their own mince pies. (Pauses) Talking of dogs, I want one of those close by as well… No make that two; one that bites and one that sniffs.
Jeremy: A bit tricky that Home Secretary as thanks to the forces merging their dog units, the actual number of dogs has been reduced. The PM’s grabbed the only ones on duty.
Home Sec: What about the TSG Jeremy?
Jeremy: The Territorial Support Group; they’re the Met Home Secretary and you said you don’t like them very much. Rough oinks even more ignorant than the ordinary plod were your exact words I believe.
Home Sec: No no Jeremy, the Tactical Support Group; the private security company whose employees look more like the police than the police.
Jeremy: Ah yes. I’ll make the call.
Home Sec: And Jeremy.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Make some enquiries and see if you can buy shares in them.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary.
Jeremy looks at the large Christmas card occupying a section of the Home Secretary’s desk.
Jeremy: Nice card, Home Secretary
Home Sec: Have a look Jeremy.
Jeremy picks up the car and reads aloud.
Jeremy: To the Home Secretary. Promising you a peaceful and untroubled 2016. From the Police Federation of England and Wales. Do you want to send one back Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Good grief no, Jeremy. Send them an email telling them to reign in their local federations or else. I’ve had enough of this ‘cuts have consequences’ nonsense.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary. I thought the cuts campaign might have stalled given George Osborne’s Spending Review statement.
Home Sec: I remember that awful day, Jeremy. The jubilation of plod; the gloating and the comments about how ISIS saved the British Police Force.
Jeremy: Well I wouldn’t quite put it like that Home Secretary.
Home Sec: (not listening) And then I had my finest hour Jeremy (smiles) – even finer than my 2014 speech at the Federation conference when I listed all their transgressions going back decades. (Pauses – waits for comment).
Jeremy: Your finest hour was when, Home Secretary?
Home Sec: My address to the increasingly rebellious and ungrateful National Police Chiefs Council Jeremy. I will always remember the stunned looks on their faces when I said, “And to those who think the Spending Review gives you breathing space to relax the reforms we started five years ago, you could not be more wrong.” It was a wonderful moment, Jeremy. They looked stunned as if I had said none of them would be getting their knighthoods and peerages.
Jeremy: Oh dear.
Home Sec: And then Jeremy (laughs, laughs some more, and then uncontrollably, pauses, struggles to speak and wipes her eyes), Mike Penning told them they’ll be cutbacks after all. Priceless Jeremy, priceless.
Jeremy: But you are going to give them extra cash Home Secretary for extra armed officers.
Home Sec: Give boys a few more toys Jeremy. We ignored Mumbai, Nairobi, the Ottawa memorial murder, the attempts on the lives of police officers by lone wolf knifeman in New York and Melbourne.
Jeremy: Ah yes; both were shot dead by the armed officers they attacked.
Home Sec: (ignores the interruption) The shooting dead of a police employee in Sydney, the Sydney siege, Charlie Hebdo, the shooting dead of four individuals at the Jewish museum in Belgium, the French train incident, Sousse and plots to kill British police officers and soldiers, but Jeremy, 130 dead just across the channel; if only those ISIS bastards had waited another year, we could have cut far more police, PCSOs, dogs, helicopters and shut even more police stations. But if I or George want that top job, Jeremy, we have to bend with the wind.
Jeremy: (mutters) More like a hurricane (aloud) Very pragmatic Home Secretary.
Home Sec: They’ll still have to find the officers, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Might not be that easy after Wood Green, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Ah yes. I’ve kept quiet about that Jeremy and left all the talking to my friend Lee Jasper; oh talking of Lee, have you sent him our VIP extra large Christmas card?
Jeremy: Ah is that the one with the festive turkey hovering over a human carcass with a policeman’s helmet above the skull?
Home Sec: It’s a vulture actually, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Very symbolic, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy, oh when you go out at lunch time can you get me some Nytol.
Jeremy: Still having trouble sleeping Home Secretary: Is it that same dream?
Home Sec: (face darkens). Yes Jeremy. Every night Margaret Thatcher comes to me, criticises my treatment of plod and shows me the future.
Jeremy: What future Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Same dream, different scenes. One with mobs raging through the streets of every major city; buildings on fire even worse the 2011. Another with jihadists roaming through Spalding shooting people with AK47’s. A third has a bomb on a plane exploding over London causing massive death and destruction.
Jeremy: Must be awful, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: No Jeremy, they don’t bother me: What bothers me is at the end of each dream I’m being tried for misconduct in public office and what’s worse, the public gallery is full of these grinning retired police officers who give me such a hard time.
Jeremy: The ones you have photos of on your dartboard Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Exactly, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Do you know that person in the photo at the centre of the dartboard is standing as Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire?
Home Sec: (loudly) Who will rid me of these turbulent retired cops?
Jeremy: Errr, bit beyond my job description, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Quite, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Home Secretary, we seem not to have sent your Christmas message to the border force.
Home Sec: Ah yes Jeremy. How about: (pauses for thought) in the same way the fact that crime is down by er 40%
Jeremy: 40%, Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy, if the Prime Minister can says there’s an extra 3,800 neighbourhood police thanks to us and the moderate Syrian opposition have 70,000 fighters we can expand a little of our figures. Where was I?
Jeremy: 40%, Home Secretary
Home Sec: In the same way the fact that crime is down by 40% thanks to our great police reform, I am delighted to say that drug seizures at our airports are also dramatically down which reflects great credit upon yourselves…
Jeremy: (interrupts) Er, Home Secretary, the fact that drug seizures at our airports are down is a bad thing. (Repeats) Bad thing. Best leave that to me, oh and talking of the border force, there is a Freedom of Information Act request that suggests we can’t retain our new border force recruits.
Home Sec: And can we?
Jeremy: Well no. They don’t seem to want to stay very long.
Home Sec: Block it, Jeremy. Usual ‘on national security grounds.’
(Home Secretary stands up and wonders across to the dartboard. Picks up the darts and begins throwing them at the photos of retired officers pinned to the dartboard).
Jeremy: How did your meeting go the other day with the other European ministers responsible for national security?
Home Sec: Very well, Jeremy. I was able to tell them that despite Paris, our plan for police reform will continue and we’ll still be closing police stations and cutting police numbers (throws another dart). Excellent; ah just got Pannett between the eyes.
Jeremy: And how did they re-act Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Well it was a little strange, Jeremy. When we broke for coffee they went into a little huddle and spoke in French.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy. I overheard the phrase ‘Les hommes en blouses blanches.’
Jeremy: (mutters) Men in white coats.
Home Sec: And (throws another dart) Ah Got Kirkham between the legs. He’ll be calling me a f***wit in falsetto now.
Jeremy: Good shot Home Secretary
Home Sec: (continues) And then Jeremy I heard the words ‘camisole de force.’
Jeremy: (whispers to himself) Straightjacket.
Home Sec: And then femme folly.
Jeremy: (suppresses a grin-whispers) Crazy woman.
Home Sec: All very odd, Jeremy.
Jeremy: I’m sure they were praising your strong leadership Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Yes I’m sure they were.
Home Secretary walks over to the framed picture of members of the G4S board.
Home Sec: Make sure all these fine people have had our VIP Christmas card. Disgraceful decision by those three forces not to allow a G4S takeover. How dare that Leicestershire Police and Crime Commissioner say: “We’d prefer to be the masters of our own destiny.” Take him off the peerages list Jeremy.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary.
Home Sec: (sighs) I have a dream, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Not that one with Mrs Thatcher, Home Secretary?
Home Sec: No Jeremy, I have a dream that one day this chairman of G4S board (points to man in G4S photo) will not only sit on the National Police Chiefs Council, he’ll be the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council.
Jeremy: I’ll make sure VIP cards have been sent to all the G4S board Home Secretary. What about policing academics?
Home Sec: Ah yes, Jeremy. Those who have produced graphs with two squiggly lines showing the decline in the number of stop/searches and the increased proportion of successful stop and search arrests can have a our standard Christmas card. I assume there was no problem with the arrangements we made in respect of the design.
Jeremy: Well, we had a problem with the police German Shepherd dog we photographed against the snowy background. The dog section was disbanded and the dog retired. We thought if the press got…
Home Sec: So then?
Jeremy: Well we took a photo of a mounted police horse against a Christmas tree background but the mounted section was disbanded and the horse…
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy.
Jeremy: Well, it’s either retired or being eaten by diners in Belgium and we thought the press might er, make hay.
Home Sec: Very droll Jeremy surely you must have…
Jeremy: We did, Home Secretary. A dramatic police helicopter shot.
Home Sec: But…
Jeremy: NPAS not available Home Secretary.
Home Sec: And next?
Jeremy: Well we thought a nice simple photo of a neighbourhood officer pounding his beat… but we couldn’t find one of those either.
Home Sec: And what pray did we end up with?
Jeremy: The Home Office crest on a white background.
Home Sec: Wonderful. Make sure those go out to the police academics who have produced these nice friendly graphs.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary. What about those who have added a third squiggly line?
Home Sec: What?
Jeremy: Those who added that third squiggly line which shows the reduced number of arrests resulting from stop and search.
Home Sec: Don’t send them any cards, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary. What about those policing academics who add a fourth squiggly line?
Home Sec: (splutters) A fourth?
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary. The proportion of those stopped and searched who have significant criminal records.
Home Sec: My goodness Jeremy. That’s subversion. Add those academics, if they exist, to our surveillance list with those retired cops. And make sure we cut any grants they might be getting.
Jeremy: Any more Christmas card instructions, Home Secretary?
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy. Make sure all Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners get our intermediate Christmas card unless they have had the cheek to speak out against the cuts oops, I mean reform.
Jeremy: Ah. We had a little problem with that card as well.
Home Sec: (groans) should have been simple enough Jeremy. A photo of me chatting cheerfully with smiling uniform police officers.
Jeremy: I’m afraid we looked long and hard in our files and across the internet, Home Secretary and we couldn’t find any. We managed to find one of you posing with an undercover police officer although you may not quite have realised what he was at the time.
Home Sec: I don’t think we’ll use that Jeremy. I think that’s about it. Oh and how was the staff party last night?
Jeremy: (turns to go but turns back) Very good Home Secretary. The DJ was great and we all finished the night singing along to White Christmas.
(Jeremy turns to leave again. Home Secretary’s face drops)
Home Sec: White Christmas Jeremy; the ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas’ white Christmas?
Jeremy: (turns back) Yes, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: (angrily) Good grief Jeremy. Was this a Christmas gathering of festive BNP members? I want a complete list of all who were there and first thing in the New Year you must all attend a racial awareness course. I am shocked Jeremy, shocked.
Jeremy: Yes, Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary returns to her desk and sits down before bursting again into Christmas song to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.”
I hear that plod are moaning,
I know they might rebel,
But unless plod back my police reforms,
I’ll make their lives hell.
Oh! plod better watch out!
Plod better not cry,
Plod better not doubt,
I’m telling you why,
Police reform is coming to town.
After a few minutes the Home Secretary gets up and goes out of the office slamming the door. This dislodges the G4S doll from the top of the tree and it falls to the floor before being followed by a dart that becomes dislodged from the dartboard. The dart pierces the G4S doll and splits it in two. Two minutes later Jeremy returns to pick up a file. He notices that the room is a little colder and the images of the retired officers that are pinned to the dartboard all appear to be grinning.
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)
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