Donald: Take a seat, William. I imagine you know why I asked you to call in.
William: No, Donald. I’ve no idea what’s on your mind.
Donald: Really? It’s the same thing that’s giving all of us some sleepless nights. To put it bluntly, we need a change of leader. You know as well as I do that every time the present incumbent makes a speech, we probably lose another few hundred thousand votes. With the election coming up we can’t afford to experience many more of our gaffer’s gaffes, if you’ll pardon the touch of alliteration. It’s been put to me that I should sound out potential replacements. What are your views?
William: I can’t say I’ve given the matter much thought. You know I’m fully occupied with my own brief. Now that you raise the point, I’m not sure what to say.
Donald: Well, what do think of Tom for the job?
William: Oh, no. The man’s an idiot. As far as our game is concerned, he doesn’t know his base from his apex. He’d get us into a dreadful mess.
Donald: That’s unequivocal enough. How about Harold?
William: We can’t have him. The public might learn of his shenanigans with those three women – all at the same time, if what I heard is true.
Donald: Ah, there’s a point, and it’s sure to get out. His friends will see to that. The other thing I’ve been pondering on is the gender matter. What’s your opinion of Winifred?
William: A ghastly woman. A wicked witch if ever I met one. All claws and spite and totally without political nous.
Donald: So there’s another bleak assessment. Unfortunately she’s the most senior woman in our ranks. In that respect our opponents are better placed than we are. Who else can we discuss?
William: I’m stumped, Donald.
Donald: What do you make of Bob?
William: He wouldn’t do at all. He can certainly box the compass in terms of changing his stance at five-minute intervals, but he can’t do it with with any degree of sophistication or panache.
Donald: Hmn, I’d have to go along with you there. My goodness, we seem to be scraping the barrel. How do you rate Frank?
William: A roughneck. A knuckle-dragger. The mystery to me is that he doesn’t live in a cave and carry a club. I mean you only have to look at the way he walks around this building, growling and scratching his armpits.
Donald: Well, yes. I grant you he isn’t the most prepossessing of men. So I suppose we can rule him out. That brings me to our number two female, Amanda. Do you think she might do?
William: Definitely not. For one thing she’s offended too many of us on her way up. There must be a score of people in our ranks who’d love to see her go back down, and they’d put the boot in to accelerate the process. It’s hard to tell which part of her anatomy is sharper, elbows or tongue.
Donald: You’re doing a pretty comprehensive job of character assassination, William. I’m becoming desperate.
William: We’re certainly in an awkward position. Frankly, I can’t see a really satisfactory way forward.
Donald: We need a candidate too colourless to upset anybody. A person with no distinctive qualities or firm opinions, someone who’ll bend with the wind, a weathervane, a potential turncoat, a chap or chapess who vacillates and equivocates about every issue. Above all, whoever we choose must be malleable, susceptible to colleagues’ suggestions, ready to shift ground with changing public moods and have the ability to speak with apparent firmness while being in reality completely non-committal. Vigour without direction is what I mean.
William: I know exactly what you’re driving at, Donald. We’re looking for a pretty rare bird.
Donald: Indeed we are. Tell me, William, have you considered accepting –
William: Me? This is rather sudden, Donald. I mean, I’ve never for one moment contemplated a step of such magnit –
Donald: Hang on. I was about to ask if you’d considered accepting that we might have to comb through –
William: However, if certain circumstances were to arise, if a sufficient number of my colleagues were to be of one mind, if there seemed to be no likelihood of a serious challen –
Donald: My intention was to ask if you feel that we might look at a few of the backbench –
William: I was going to say that if there were no heavyweight challenger, I hope I would not fail to do my dut –
Donald: Hey, what I meant was that we might root around among the lesser light –
William: I had in mind my duty to the country. After all, there comes a time when a man or woman must put aside personal wishes, think in terms of what our great nation requires, hearken to the cries of comrades and other compatriots, and it would remiss of me to –
Donald: You’re not expressing quite what I was thinking, but it occurs to me that you may have hit upon the solution to this problem. Let’s forget about backbenchers for the moment and look at what’s right under our noses. Would you care to have a go at the job yourself?
William: I thought you’d never a – that is to say I’m immensely flattered by the trust you clearly have in me, and if the call were to come –
Donald: Let’s not go through all that again. I’ll put your name forward at tomorrow’s meeting and I think you’ll be unopposed.
William: It will be a great honour to step into the breach and –
Donald: Yes, yes, of course it will, but I have another commitment now. I’ll see you just before the gathering at nine in the morning.
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