A nightmare on Downing Street ...

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The publishing success of the last few months has been `Ghost Bumps', RL Stine's short modern ghost stories for children which give them a delicious scare without shocking them. At the end of each chapter, for instance, there is a sort of cliff-hanging horror which is gently defused at the start of the next chapter.

But why is there nothing for adults which cashes in on the same desire to have a skin-creeping fright, which mixes the uncanny with the familiar?

Well, there are now. Because today I am kicking off a new series of goose- pimple political tales called `Westminster Wobblies', and the first flesh- crawling tale is called:

Little Ken at Number Ten


John had been Prime Minister for a number of years, and quite enjoyed the job. What he had to do in this job was run the country and make sure that everyone was better off than before. Very soon he realised that this was not possible, so instead he tried to make sure that everyone was under the impression that they were better off, even if they weren't. This worked for a while, but after a bit everyone realised that the only ones who were getting any better off were the ones who were already well off, and everyone started grumbling again. It was about this time that John realised that the country was going to grumble no matter what happened, and indeed that they quite enjoyed grumbling, so he gave up worrying and just got on with life at Number 10.

Number 10 was a big old house where all the previous prime ministers had lived, and he was sitting in front of the fire in the old sitting- room one night when suddenly his blood froze. He could hear voices! He thought he could hear a voice saying: "John! You're a jackass!" What could it be?


Very slowly the door opened. His blood ran even colder. Then, round the door, came his wife, Norma. "Phew, you gave me a shock, Norma," he said. "I thought you were a ghost."

She smiled and said she was not.

"Did you say something about a jackass?" he enquired.

"No," she said, "you must have misheard. I was talking about Chequers."

"You want to play a game of chequers before we go to bed?" said John. "That would be fun!"

"No," said Norma. "I said I would like to read you a chapter from my book about Chequers."

"That would be fun too in its own way," said John, holding on to his smile. "I'll be up in a moment."

His wife left him and he sighed. His gaze fell on the portrait of Disraeli on the far wall. He wondered if Disraeli ever insisted on reading his wife parts of his novels. He yawned and then, halfway through his yawn, he had the shock of his life! The figure of Disraeli was moving! It was coming towards him! "Who are you?" said John, fearfully.

"I am the ghost of Disraeli," said the figure. "and I have come to warn you!"

"Warn me? Of what?"

"Do not trust Kenneth! He is after your job!"


"You mean Kenneth Clarke?" quavered John.

"Well, I don't mean Kenneth Branagh!" said the ghost suavely. "Surely there's only one Kenneth you need to fear?"

And before John's very eyes the figure of Disraeli took off its wig and make-up and revealed itself as John's next-door neighbour, Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth!

"Surely you haven't forgotten that I'm playing Disraeli in the Tory end- of-term panto?" chuckled Kenneth. "I thought I'd bring the costume round and see how effective it was. I have to say it worked pretty well!"

"I wasn't scared at all," said John stiffly. "I was half-asleep, that's all. So you're after my job, are you?"

"Not really," said Ken, sitting down. "That's just what Disraeli thinks."

And Ken started chuckling again in a most annoying manner.

"Look, John," he said, "everyone is after someone else's job. It wouldn't be natural if they weren't. There are people after my job. There are people after Michael Howard's job."

"Who wants mine?" whispered John.

"Someone with the same initials as Michael Howard," whispered Ken." He would do ANYTHING to get it from you ..."

"You mean, Michael Hes ..."

As John spoke, an explosion went off and there was the sound of breaking glass. As the two chums dropped to the floor, Ken whispered: "Gosh! I never thought he'd go that far!"

Want to know what happens next? Buy `Little Ken at Number Ten' in the new scary `Westminster Wobblies' series!