Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
31 January 2011

Work-shy Clegg? Get real

A play in one act.

By Olly Grender

Scene: A brightly lit atrium called Portcullis House, part of the Houses of Parliament. Plenty of people chatting, drinking coffee.

Enter stage left; two journalists from the Telegraph are talking to each other.

Journo 1: “Crikey, let’s hold that front page. Something really important is happening in government.”

Journo 2: “What is it? Is it radical and frightening changes to the NHS?

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Journo 1: “Er . . . well . . . yes, that is happening this week, actually, but no, this is much more dramatic.”

Journo 2: “Is it the ongoing battle in the House of Lords about changing the voting system and boundaries?”

Journo 1: “Well, yes, again . . . that is happening . . . and you’re right again, this week, but no, it is something much more fundamental to the workings of government.”

Journo 2: “I give up. What can be so important?”

Journo 1: “Apparently the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has asked all government departments to submit documents that are not urgent by 3pm for his red box. Which gives his office time to follow up with further requests for information.”

Journo 2: “Is that really big news? Do other cabinet ministers do that?”

Journo 1: “Well, good question. Yes, other cabinet ministers do that, including the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who has an even earlier deadline.”

Journo 2: “Shouldn’t we write about her, too?”

Journo 1: “Don’t be ridiculous, she’s one of Tories in the cabinet: we need to big her up. This is a genius way to get Clegg and his team having to answer ludicrous, lowlife questions about process rather than the policies he is trying to promote. It also gives everyone an excuse to suggest that he is feeling overworked. Even though the memo is nothing to do with that and pretty standard.”

Journo 2: “You are bloody brilliant. Those Barclay brothers are going to love you. When’s the promotion?”

(According to Olly Grender, with apologies to Hugo Rifkind et al.)