When May met Paxman – What should have happened but didn’t (a playlet)
This playlet is set an almost parallel universe except that in this universe the Home Secretary’s record in office is just about to be examined by a certain Mr. Paxman.
The scene is the Home Secretary’s office. She is tripping around the room singing and doesn’t notice the door open. Long suffering but still youthful civil servant Jeremy walks through the door.
Home Secretary: (singing). I’m the leader, I’m the leader, I ‘m the leader of the gang I am.
Jeremy: (coughs politely)
Home Sec: Ah Jeremy. What a glorious spring morning. It’s so wonderful to be alive.
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary, but as its raining cats and dogs out there and the elections too close to call, I’m a little surprised you’re so full of…
Home Sec: The joys of spring. Well Jeremy, if David remains our glorious leader even it means going in government with those ghastly Lib Dems, I’ll probably be jetting off all over the world as the United Kingdom’s new Foreign Secretary.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy, word is that the PM wants a tough nut to travel the world and sort out its troubles. As I sorted out the police and their power crazed Federation I’m regarded as just the person to sort out that commie bloke. You know the short arsed one that rides horses bare- chested and does a bit of judo.
Jeremy: You mean Vladimir Putin, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Always the font of knowledge and wisdom, Jeremy. And if David happens not to be the next Prime Minister, our marvellous party will look for a strong new leader (breaks into song again) I’m a leader, I’m the leader , I’m the…
Jeremy: Errr. Home Secretary, that song you’re singing.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy?
Jeremy; The song was sung and written by Gary Glitter, a paedophile, perhaps not the best choice.
Home Sec: (sits down) Good god Jeremy, is he one of ours? Have we made sure we’ve lost his file? What post did he hold? Was he House of Lords or Commons?
Jeremy: No need to panic Home Secretary. He’s a pop singer and he’s in prison for a second time. He’s not (sighs) one of ours.
Home Sec: (stands up) Thank goodness Jeremy. Now what was it you wanted?
Jeremy: It’s a request Home Secretary, from the BBC to do a one-to-one interview with Jeremy Paxman on your record as Home Secretary.
Home Sec: (sits back down, colour draining from her face). Paxman.
Jeremy; Yes Home Secretary (brightly) Another Jeremy in your life?
Home Sec: (ignores comment; whispers) Oh bugger. Paxman.
Home Sec: (brightly) We’ll just say I’ve already done the BBC interview with Andrew Neil and all the other party Home Affairs people and I’m now booked up for the rest of the election period.
Jeremy; Yes Home Secretary.
Phone on Home Secretary’s desk rings.
Jeremy: (picks up phone, listens and hands phone to the Home Secretary) It’s the Prime Minister.
Home Secretary takes the phone.
Home Sec: Yes Prime Minister. Of course Prime Minister. Delighted to Prime Minister
Puts phone down and collapses in her chair behind her desk.
Home Sec: The bastard, the absolute bastard.
Jeremy: Who, Home Secretary, Paxman?
Home Sec: No Jeremy. That cunning bastard Cameron insists I do the interview.
Jeremy: Well it’s the general election Home Secretary. All hands to the pumps and all that.
Home Sec: He knows I’m his natural successor. He’s just waiting for me to fall flat on my face.
Jeremy: I’m afraid half an hour with Paxman will be a bit more intense than your appearances before Keith Vaz and co or your exchanges with Yvette.
Home Sec: It was like being savaged by gumless, paraplegic sheep, but Paxman! Jeremy, you have friends in the BBC haven’t you?
Jeremy: Yes Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Put them to good use Jeremy. See you here tomorrow.
Scene: The Home Secretary’s office the next morning. The Home Secretary is sitting at her desk looking pale and tired. There’s a knock at the door and Jeremy enters.
Jeremy: You look a little off colour, Home Secretary. Not having those dreams about Margaret Thatcher berating you about your treatment of ‘her police’ are you?
Home Sec: Worse Jeremy, Mrs T sitting on one side and Paxman on the other. My husband’s had enough and gone for some peace and quiet in Mogadishu, wherever that is.
Jeremy: Well I have some information about the Paxman interview.
Home Sec: Go on.
Jeremy: It seems as if he has speaking to some retired cops.
Home Secretary: Don’t tell me. That lot who blog and tweet the whole time and on whom we have all those thick files.
Jeremy: That’s them Home Secretary.
Home Sec: I thought I asked you to deal with that mutinous shower months ago.
Jeremy: Well the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards are rather reluctant. Recent cases have left them rather licking their wounds and have been rather expensive and humiliating.
Home Sec: (pauses for thought) Tell me Jeremy, am I not responsible for MI5?
Jeremy: You are Home Secretary.
Home Sec: And haven’t my predecessors used MI5 to silence people if they become, shall we say a little awkward?
Jeremy: (coughs with embarrassment) Well that’s to be determined by the enquiry but certainly there seems some evidence of it. Cyril Smith is the most obvious example.
Home Sec: Well, we need to order them to silence those retired fuzz.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy. Silence them. Do I have to spell it out? Good god man, I’ve watched nearly every episode of Spooks. People disappear and get shot every week courtesy of MI5.
Jeremy: Yes but it’s a fictional TV series. MI5 don’t actually carry g… (sighs) Yes Home Secretary, leave it with me.
Home Sec: Now based on your information, imagine you are Paxman and throw some questions at me.
Jeremy; Yes Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Shout Jeremy, like Paxman.
Jeremy (shouting): Is it true that police morale is at an all time low?
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down.
Jeremy: Is it true that community policing is being destroyed by your policies?
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down.
Jeremy: Why have you ruled that there can be no money saving merger of police forces?
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down.
Jeremy: Is it true that huge cuts in police dogs, horses and potential huge cuts in police helicopters are beginning to damage policing?
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down. Piece of cake this, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Do you think your criticism of stop and search is leading to an increase in stabbings on the streets?
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down.
Jeremy: The canteen overcooked my egg this morning.
Home Sec: Crime is 20% down. (pauses) Jeremy, do you think my stance on stop and search might win over some of those Labour BEM voters?
Jeremy: BEM, Home Secretary? BEM? Oh you mean BME, black and minority ethnic voters. Perhaps now isn’t the time Home Secretary. It wouldn’t do to get a little confused with the terminology would it?
Home Sec: (muses) Could have sworn it was BEM. Where have I heard BEM before?
Jeremy: (looking heavenwards in despair) Home Secretary, perhaps we should look as some of the topics in more detail.
Home Sec: Yes Jeremy.
Jeremy: Jihadists, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: Good grief, Jeremy. Where? Get my protection team out of the canteen. Call in extra officers, get every ARV in London surrounding the Home Office, hang the expense. The country can’t afford to lose its most precious asset.
Jeremy: No, Home Secretary. Questions as to how jihadists, some 2,000 of them, were able to pass through out border controls to fight in Somalis, Syria and Iraq.
Home Sec: (breathes sigh of relief) Look, we’ve said that any jihadists attempting to leave will have their passports confiscated by police or border force officers.
Jeremy: But they’re not actually there to confiscate the passports, Home Secretary. There are no staffed controls. That means that jihadists, people smugglers, child abductors, paedophiles, those taking children out of the country for forced marriages, bail jumpers, individuals travelling on false passports (pauses for breath). Every summer hundreds of British gang members leave the UK to supply drugs in European holiday resorts like Faliraki, Ayia Napa, Ibiza, Majorca, Malia.
Home Sec: Jeremy, Jeremy. These are mainly bad people are they not?
Jeremy: Unless they are victims, Home Secretary, yes.
Home Sec: Exactly Jeremy. We have hundreds of bad people going in the right direction, out of the country, which means that they’ll be committing their crime abroad not here so our marvellous achievement in reducing crime will continue. Next point, Jeremy.
Jeremy: (shaking his head in disbelief) Paxman will ask about truly independent inspectors of our law enforcement functions.
Home Sec: Oh absolutely crucial in a democracy, Jeremy. Truly independent inspectors free from government control and what better example could you have than Tom Winsor or should I say Sir Tom Winsor? Wonderful write up you gave him for his knighthood, Jeremy, and don’t forget to send him that draft we did for his next report.
Jeremy: So many drafts, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: (looks at notes on her desk) Ah yes, the one entitled ‘How efficiency savings have benefited policing.’
Jeremy: (writes down details and then says sharply) What about John Vine, Home Secretary?
Home Sec: (face darkens). Oh him. The recently resigned independent Chief Inspector of Immigration and Borders. How dare he write so many reports criticising my Home Office, my Border Force and my Border Agency. He became the darling of Vaz’s lot. Honestly, Jeremy, does truly independent mean rampant criticism?
Jeremy: Well, Paxman will probably say it does and he’s going to criticise you for redacting and holding back his reports, only releasing them at times that favour the Government. Burying bad news I’m told is the phrase he’s going to use.
Home Sec: (pauses for thought) I’ll simply say that his reports were politically motivated, unbalanced and that I suspected were distorted by a degree of personal animosity.
Jeremy: A bit strong, Home Secretary.
Home Sec: So much sh*t flying around before a general election no-one will notice, Jeremy.
Jeremy: Paxman is going to state that a 10 year-old googling the names of Dame Butler-Sloss and Fiona Woolf as heads of the abuse enquiry would have found flaws in respect of their appointments within minutes.
Home Sec: (interrupts and in her best soothing Margaret Thatcher voice) Jeremy, Jeremy. Of course we knew the flaws. The delays that mean none of our skeletons have popped out of the cupboard before the election are of course purely coincidental. A little bit of a delay and we have found someone everyone seems happy with.
Jeremy; And Janner
Home Sec: (smirks) Oh yes, Jeremy. Priceless. The decision not to prosecute couldn’t have been better timed. The fan has been hit but it’s splattered over a Labour establishment figure.
Jeremy: This question is a cert, Home Secretary. How will already struggling police forces cope with the extra millions of pounds worth of cuts given that crime is starting to rise again?
Home Sec: (takes deep breath) I’ve every confidence they will cope in the future and of course it will be up to Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables how they deploy their resources. I’m confident crime will continue to fall. (pauses for thought) And of course while crime figures may seem to be rising, crime is actually falling, it’s just that more people are reporting it and there’s more accurate recording. (smiles) We can use that last sentence for the next five years, Jeremy. I surprise myself sometimes.
Jeremy: And (shouts like Paxman) you have said you have protected the police front line and you claim figures show that offences such as burglary and robbery are down yet police burglary and robbery squads that will have contributed to this reduction are being disbanded due to cuts. What have you to say about this?
Home Sec: Ah…erm…good question as ever Jeremy…erm…very good question…eerm. Can I phone a friend?
Jeremy: (shaking his head) He won’t you get away with that, Home Secretary. You got away with it with dodging questions posed by Andrew Neil but Paxman!!!
Home Sec: This is where you come in, Jeremy. I’ll leave my phone on, you ring, I’ll answer and say there’s a security emergency and leave. That’ll show what a hands on Home Secretary I am; just the person to lead the country.
Jeremy: But what emergency?
Home Sec: It’ll be a sort of truth, Jeremy. Jihadists are in and out all the time so there’s bound to be at least one travelling on the day. And if asked I’ll just say I can’t discuss national security matters.
Jeremy: And finally a very important question will be asked about the rising rates of stress related sickness amongst front line police officers across the country due the extra pressures caused by cutbacks.
Home Secretary: Easiest answer of the lot Jeremy. I’ll tell those officers to get a grip.
(Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)
Courtesy of Chris Hobbs