In the early hours of Friday June 21st a loud altercation at the London home of the (then) prime ministerial candidate Boris Johnson resulted in his receiving an ill-timed visit from the police. He had allegedly been rowing noisily with his partner Carrie Symonds. The matter caused something of a stir in the press, particularly as Johnson blankly refused to talk about the incident. Four days later he gave an odd interview to talkRADIO during which he revealed a passion for making models of buses from wooden wine crates. No images of his model buses came to light, but the interview served to distract the media from the events of the 21st and, for a while at least, ensured that googling Boris Johnson's name along with the word "bus" no longer threw up references to the £350 million NHS funding Brexit mistruth. This much is fact. What follows is fictional.
Wednesday June 26th 2019
Giles Beaumont, senior parliamentary assistant for some years, reported to the office of Boris Johnson at 9am to notify the latter of a brewing Twitterstorm relating to his model bus making revelation on talkRADIO the previous day.
'Well that's rather good then isn't it?' blustered the blonde leadership contender.
'Not really Boris,' said Giles. 'The tone is a little incredulous to say the least. Almost everybody is saying it was a cynical ploy to divert attention from the, ahem, unpleasant business of Friday morning.'
'Well sod them!', Boris grumbled, his mood hastily deteriorating.
'Best not to,' offered Giles. 'I think if we could put out a couple of images of your models on social media that might turn it around pronto.'
'There are no buses you buffoon!' chastised Boris.
Giles looked concerned. Boris drummed his fingers impatiently.
'I made it up you fool. Had to get the bloody interviewer off my back about the row with Carrie.'
'Ah, so what do we do?' Giles inquired.
'We get some model buses and photograph them,' said Boris.
'I don't think photographing Dinky Toys is going to convince anyone.' Giles muttered. 'They need to be homemade and at least resemble the ones you described in the interview.'
'Of course they bloody do,' Boris yelled. 'Get someone to make a few man, it's not rocket science.'
'Who?' quizzed Giles.
'Surely one of the interns can do it. Preferably someone with an O-level in Art or something.'
'It's GCSE in Art now Boris.'
'Just get it done Beaumont!'
Giles Beaumont made for the coffee room where he knew some of the interns would be loitering.
'Anyone here do Art at A-level, or GCSE even?' he asked the huddled cohort of young hopefuls.
Heads shook but no-one spoke. After what seemed like a minute of general mumbling and navel-gazing Beaumont cleared his throat noisily.
'Not one of you?' he growled.
A smartly dressed girl at the back spoke up.
'I think Joe Booth's got A-level Art,' she said. 'He's delivering members' questions to the Table Office at the moment, but he should be back soon.'
'Thank you ...?' Beaumont replied, unsure of the identity of his addresser.
'Amelia Devoe,' the girl clarified.
'Will you ask Mr Booth to report to me as soon as he's back?' Beaumont requested.
'Of course,' answered Amelia, flashing him a charming smile.
The intern with the artistic bent was at the door of Beaumont's office within half an hour.
'I'm Joe Booth. Amelia said you wanted me.'
Beaumont glanced up and nodded.
'I have another job for you. Did you by any chance hear the interview Mr Johnson gave to talkRADIO yesterday?'
'The one where he revealed his bus-making hobby?' Joe sniggered, making air quotes as he uttered the words "bus-making".
'Yes,' conceded Beaumont humourlessly. 'It's created a bit of a Twitterstorm, because, well...'
'No one believes him?' Joe chirped with a barely concealed grin.
'Yes, no-one believes him. Because it is of course not damn well true,' Beaumont bristled. 'We need to sort the mess out, make him look like he's a good honest man of the people. Someone the public can put their trust in if he's going to be their next PM.'
'So...' Beaumont continued. 'I need you to get hold of some wine crates - the wooden ones that hold two bottles, as Boris described in that stupid bloody interview. Then paint them to resemble London buses with people visible in the windows.'
'And don't make them too good,' he added. 'Go for a naïve style.'
'Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau?' Joe asked.
'Yes, but a tad more rough and ready. Boris is never too hot on detail. And don't get bloody smart with the passengers. I don't want to see any senior Tories snorting drugs or flicking Vs at the plebs.'
'Yes sir!' quipped Joe, clicking his heels and directing a Nazi salute at the back of Giles' exiting head.
Feeling pleasantly diverted at the thought of his comical new responsibility, Joe left the Palace of Westminster to source his materials. He returned an hour and a half later with wine crates, brushes, paints and a large plastic tablecloth. Beaumont found him an empty office to work in and suggested he ask Amelia if he needed help.
'Maybe she could photograph the models when I've finished them and get the pictures up to the Media Relations Team?' Joe proposed. 'While I'm clearing up - aka disposing of the evidence...'
'Right,' said Beaumont snappily. 'I'm counting on you. Soon as you can.'
Joe spread the plastic cloth out over the aged wooden desk and got to work.
Thursday June 27th 2019
Shortly after the first coffee break of the morning, senior parliamentary assistant Giles Beaumont burst into the interns' room looking for Joe. He was clearly fuming.
'Booth you fucking idiot.'
Joe stepped forward. 'Sorry Giles?'
'Your fucking buses. You can still make out the name of the wine where it's burnt onto the side of the crates. In the bloody photos. You've started another effing Twitterstorm and it's worse than the bloody first one!'
'But you told me to make them rough and ready, so I didn't completely cover them in paint. You said they were great.'
'I didn't examine them that closely. I thought you'd have had more bloody sense boy!'
'I still don't see what the problem is Giles.'
'Chateau fucking Petrus is what the fucking problem is Booth. Two thousand and bloody nine vintage.'
Amelia glanced at Joe, who wore a decidedly blank expression on his face. He gave a theatrical shrug, prompting the now apoplectic Beaumont to elucidate.
'It's four and a half grand a bloody bottle you idiot. Two bottles to a crate. Five bloody buses. You do the maths. How the hell do you think this makes Boris look like a man of the people?'
'Sorry Giles,' said Joe. 'Comprehensive school and all that. Wine appreciation didn't really feature in our Citizenship classes.'
'Shit!' snarled Beaumont as he stormed out of the room. 'Boris is going to bloody kill me for this.'
As the oak-panelled door slammed behind the exasperated senior assistant, Joe shot Amelia a conspiratorial grin. For a moment she appeared confused and then convulsed with laughter.
'Oh my God Joe, your dad's a bloody wine merchant!'
'Don't tell Boris,' he smirked.