A quick step in the wrong direction

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The Independent Online
TODAY I bring you a complete political novel; it's also a multiple-choice novel, which means that you, the reader, play the part of the hero, and have to pick the right option at every turn. Exciting, eh? Right, here we go]

You are Bernard Gorringe, the Minister of State for Procrastination. You wake up one Monday morning, with an awful feeling of nausea and depression. For a moment, you cannot pin down why you should feel so bad. Then you remember that:

a) You were meant to take a constituency surgery at the weekend and forgot all about it

b) You travelled 300 miles to take a constituency surgery at the weekend and nobody turned up

c) You had promised your mistress to tell your wife over the weekend that you were leaving her, but you never quite got round to it

d) You have suddenly remembered that you have an emergency Cabinet meeting this morning, which promises to be pretty painful.

Yes, you'd forgotten the Cabinet meeting. You get out of bed, feeling awful, and totter down to the kitchen to put the kettle on. There, your eye falls on the magnetic letters on the door of the fridge, which have been rearranged into the phrase: 'RESIGN NOW]'

After a moment of disbelief, during which you consider having a heart attack, you come to the conclusion that this malicious message was left there by:

a) Your private detective, who has always hated you

b) Your children, who want to have you at home more

c) Your wife, who has found out about your mistress and wants to have you at home less

d) Yourself, last thing last night, to remind yourself in the morning.

It all comes flooding back, suddenly. It was you] Last night you talked everything over with your wife and made the drastic decision to resign. But now you haven't the faintest idea why. So you do the sensible thing: make a cup of tea, take it up to your wife and ask her if she can remember why you are resigning.

She tells you. Of course] It all comes back] You are going to resign in order to:

a) Spend more time with your family

b) Spend more time with your mistress

c) Get a few early nights for a change and stop missing Have I Got News For You every week

d) Avoid becoming prime minister

That's right. You are desperate to duck any chance of entering 10 Downing Street. Quietly, you and your wife decided that the present Prime Minister was in for a rough time. He might ride it out. But he might be forced from office. If so, he would probably be replaced by one of the dynamic, tough Cabinet contenders. However, it was also possible that a wishy-washy compromise candidate would be picked. Like you.

'After all,' your wife had said, 'remember why the present Prime Minister was

chosen in the first place.'

You rack your memory, but you can't think of a good reason off-hand. Was it because:

a) He knew humiliating secrets about all the other


b) Nobody else wanted the job?

c) The party had expected to lose the election, so that they could fire him then?

d) He was a good guy to chop when the going got rough?

Yes, of course. The PM was only there as a fall guy. He was like the half-fit defender who is pulled off midway through a football game and subsequently blamed for the defeat. He was a Christian to be thrown to the lions. He was . . .

'You'd better get there early if you are going to get your resignation in in time,' says your wife. She's right, of course. You dress hastily and race round to Downing Street, rehearsing your resignation speech as you go. The best opening line is:

a) 'I have a grave announcement to make . . . '

b) 'It is with a heavy heart . . . '

c) 'It has been a great privilege . . . '

d) 'Seldom have I worked with such a crew of mealy- mouthed bastards.'

But the question turns out to be immaterial. You are greeted at No 10 by the Cabinet, and before you can resign they advance on you, smiling, to say you have been elected the next Premier. Your heart is gripped with terror. You feel sick. You are sick. You . . .

I'm sorry. I've run out of space. You're on your own now. Good luck]