A conspiracy unravels

Gordon wants to eliminate Stephen, Stephen and Tony scheme against Gordon, Tony conspires with Alan

Scene 1: No 11. Gordon is in the middle of concluding a live press conference.

Gordon: And finally a statement in relation to my esteemed colleague, Stephen Byers. Mr Byers has been filling his empty life with a new role as a freelance economic journalist. We value his contributions highly. In fact, we've never had so much laughter at our morning conferences. Mr Byers informs the world that death duty is a bad thing. Hear, hear. So I vow to scrap it - as soon as Mr Byers tells us the secret of eternal life. He also wants me to be more open about my plans in government. Well, here goes: eliminate child poverty; eliminate anti-competitive practices; and eliminate Mr Byers. And if he thinks that's bad news, at least he'll know where to bury it. Thank you.

Scene 2: Meanwhile in No 10, Tony is watching the conference and sharing a call with Byers.

Tony: Miao! Nice work, Steve. You've really got the old sourpuss going. Keep it up.

Stephen: Thanks, Tony. There's more to come, much more, and we'll drive him over the edge . . .

He puts down the phone. A knock at the door. An old friend walks in.

Tony: Hi, Alan. Great to see you. What have you got for me?

Alan sits down and chews his nails.

Alan: Swear you won't tell anyone. Fact is, I haven't quite kept to my promise. I love my family, yes, I adore them. But I want to spend more time with the party. It's been awful. I've been sneaking away, you know, weekends. Overnight trips. Telling lies to my wife. She thinks I'm visiting friends from university. But I've been volunteering at HQ.

Tony: Volunteering?

Alan: Printing stickers. Punching out badges. Painting balloons.

Tony: You must be mad.

Alan: I am, Tony. I'm mad about new Labour.

Tony: No, I mean you must be mad not to have asked for a consultancy fee. How long have you been there?

Alan: Only a few months. I want to keep in touch with the grassroots. And I hate to say it, but people keep calling for you to resign.

Tony: Oh that? It's sorted. I'm making an announcement just before conference. Ahem.

[Reading]: "In order to end the speculation about my future, I would like to confirm that I intend to serve another full year in office. After that, my successor will take over." And I'll add some bollocks about the reform programme. What do you think?

Alan: Classic Tony Blair.

Tony [basking]: Thank you.

Alan: Ambiguous, slippery and opportunistic.

Tony: Eh?

Alan: You didn't say when the "full year" begins.

Tony: I was hoping no one would spot that.

Alan: They're bound to, Tony. And, it's not just about you. The party's in financial meltdown. Nearly a fifth of the workforce is being laid off.

Tony: Oh dear. Well, I'll send them each a personalised Leo coffee mug. To soften the blow.

Alan: The situation's desperate. We can barely keep afloat. They're talking about cadging a grand off every MP. Including you.

Tony: Mmm. Don't like the sound of that.

Alan: Tell you what. Instead of the thousand quid, put in a personal appearance at HQ. You know. Work the old magic. Slip off the tie. Turn on the charm and all that.

Tony: OK.

Alan: And we'll pass round a bucket and squeeze a last bit of cash out of them.

Tony: I'm certainly not passing the bucket. Everyone will be sick into it.

Scene 3: Labour HQ. A large office. Tony addresses the redundant party workers.

Tony: Dear friends and colleagues - and former members of CND. Before saying goodbye, let me first thank you all for giving so much to the party. In future, many of you will look back and say: "These were the most exciting days of my political life." But there are fresh challenges ahead and I know each of you will be determined to forge a dynamic new career in the future .

Milburn, at the back, is filming the speech on a concealed video camera. He slips away just as Tony moves into his tear-filled peroration.

Tony: And so, dear comrades in our glorious struggle, I'll miss you all .

Heckler: Get on with the auction, you hypocritical warmonger.

Awkward laughter.

Tony [thinks fast]: Er - ah! I didn't realise my father-in-law was here.

The trusted put-down fails to work. The silence is deafening. A slow handclap starts. A paper cup is thrown and Tony retreats towards the exit under a hail of personalised Leo coffee mugs.

Tony: Hey. Guys? Come on. Dialogue not missiles, dialogue not . . . [He runs out.]

Scene 4: No 11. Gordon is hunched over a computer watching an edited version of Tony's speech. Beside him smirks Milburn.

Tony: Friends and colleagues. Thank you . . . for giving . . . me . . . the most exciting days of my political life. But there are fresh challenges to face . . . and I . . . will be determined to forge a dynamic new career in the future . . . Goodbye.

Gordon: Well done my old friend. Our hour is approaching.

Alan [queasily]: I still feel bad about betraying Tony over all these years.

Gordon: No, no. He betrayed the party - for his own ambition! Now pour some whisky and make yourself at home - "Chancellor".