Political column – November 18
As Rishi Sunak cast a doleful eye round the Cabinet table, a thought occurred to him.
How, he wondered, did he end up with such a rum bunch of deadbeats, dead wood, and miscellaneous off-cuts?
Then he caught the eye of David Cameron. Now Lord Cameron. At least I've got one bit of class, said Rishi to himself. From Eton, no less. No need to slum it with Harrovians or the like. And while Rishi realised that as a Wykehamist he might feel a little junior, he reflected that they did have something in common, both being very, very, wealthy.
When things are not going well it makes sense to reach out for the steadying hand of experience, to those who have been there, done that.
As Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron will know what it is like to stride the world stage and build partnerships.
Was he not the architect of the triumph of the intervention in Libya, when he teamed up with the international French fraudster Nicolas Sarkozy? Strangely, Libya does not get mentioned much these days, even though large numbers are taking to small boats to flee the country liberated by Lord Cameron and his Sarkozy sidekick.
Did Lord Cameron not go on a six-month city-hopping tour of European Union member states to achieve dramatic concessions for Britain from the EU leaders? They still talk fondly about those times in European capitals. What fun they had had toying with the British Prime Minister who had arrived with a pledge to achieve "fundamental reform of the European Union."
As Foreign Secretary in the House of Lords, Lord Cameron is perfect for the job. He can't challenge Rishi for the leadership. And he is out of the way of MPs who might want to ask him awkward questions about government policy.
Rishi reflected that his only other successful appointment had been Jeremy Hunt, a serial leadership contender loser with all political ambition excised.
He quietly cursed himself for giving a top job to Suella Braverman in the first place. Against his better judgment he had been persuaded that it would be a good idea, to try to keep the right wing of the party sweet.
But she proved totally unsuitable for her position, and actually, totally unsuitable for politics. Firstly, she said what she thought. Secondly, she thought what she thought. The loosest of loose cannons.
As the Cabinet debate droned on, Rishi started scribbling ideas for new appointments on the back of one of his papers.
Sir John Major, top of the list. Why, Sir Norman Fowler – Baron Fowler – has portrayed him as a great and much underrated Prime Minister. That must be the reason we so often hear Sir John's opinions on BBC radio. He's a go-to wise man from the 1990s, a sage who knew how to use both the carrot and the stick to keep the Tory party together.
Put him in the Lords, make him Minister of Brexit Fulfilment, and hey presto.
Lord Heseltine. Okay, he only went to Shrewsbury School, but he stood up to that icon of the right, Margaret Thatcher. He's a great communicator, and all the Tory grass roots love him. Or at least they used to.
Heseltine was even liked in Liverpool, so he might be good for a few extra votes at the general election, and the Tories need every vote they can get.
Liz Truss. Mmm... bit too soon.
Nigel Farage? Rishi knew he had to consider all possibilities, but shook his head and scribbled the name out. The man's just trouble, he muttered to himself, and nobody can get in touch with him at the moment anyway. He wondered where Nigel might be.
Down went his posh ink pen, and he picked up his pencil, for these would now be long shots. He needed winners. If he was to have Lord Cameron, would it not make sense to try to invite on board the man David had modelled himself on? But would Tony Blair accept?
His eye wandered to a television monitor on mute in the corner of the Cabinet room. A familiar face popped up. A perfect fit for the modern Conservative Party – Sir Keir Starmer.
Rishi sighed. He could but dream.