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?
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.)