All shall have prizes

The Returning Officer.

Saki (H H Munro) is best known for his short stories, but in 1900- 1901 he wrote a series of political sketches for the Westminster Gazette based on Alice in Wonderland, and later collected as The Westminster Alice.

The Tory leader Arthur Balfour is “The Ineptitude” who, when Alice asks what he is doing, can only reply: “I haven’t any idea.” The White Knight is the Marquess of Lansdowne, secretary of state for war, proud to have invented guns that would be of no use to the enemy. The Liberal imperialist Joseph Chamberlain is the Red Queen, rushing around insisting that everyone wear khaki.

Lord Rosebery’s celebrated “Chesterfield” speech is parodied as the rose that all the gardeners (Lloyd George et al) try to paint in their own political colours. And Alice questions the Duchess (Frederick Temple, archbishop of Canterbury) as to why she can’t keep order in her house: “My dear . . . I give orders, and it’s my endeavour not to see that they are disobeyed.”

This article first appeared in the 20 August 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Back To Reality