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  • Writer's pictureDavid Mathews

On the oche

'Fancy a game of darts, Dave?’ Sidney had phoned, sounding rather chipper.

Darts? Had my old buddy missed a couple of government announcements recently? Not at all. A dartboard at his place and another at mine, agreement on the oche line, touch of Zoom, and we could be away, 501, best of three. Well, if Sid does not stream it to the gang, at least my usual pummelling will be private.

Sid, being a bit of a traditionalist, was also rather upbeat about the resurrection of good old-fashioned letter writing, notably by Johnson from his isolation. ‘Can’t wait for the post,’ he said. ‘And you, I don’t suppose you’ve had a letter from a Prime Minister since David Lloyd George wrote to you.’

That was to my father, I reminded him.

‘Will you write back to him, to Johnson?’ he said. ‘I wonder how many will. People are getting quite sparky online, but he might appreciate the more personal touch of, what do they call it, the visible hand? The moving finger writes, and all that.’

What to say, though. Heartfelt thanks from an ailing, but grateful nation? Something to cheer the sickly chap up? Maybe letters from the newly thriving Tory voters in Middlesbrough or Hartlepool would do it. Not exactly in the class of Letter from America on the old wireless, but …

‘Speaking of America, Trump must be livid. Him and Johnson were on the blower the other day, and I’ll bet Johnson never told him he was going to pull this stunt.’


According to Sid, Cummings spotted that Johnson’s condescension to the ‘herd’ had been sussed, what with threatening to visit his mother while telling us not to, and so on. So the ruse was to have big J locked in the flat with the dog, and get Gove – Gove, for heaven's sake – to say, oozing sympathy, how it shows the virus does not respect superiority.

Also, of course, Johnson did not dare to be seen in public with Sunak again. Fucking Winchester oik, showing him up.

But, surely, the ‘herd’ was Cummings’s conception in the first place?

‘Water under the bridge, Dave. The Mail, Express and Telegraph have the memory of a goldfish, so no check there on continuity, as it were.’

But does he have it or not?

‘What, the Covid? Doesn’t matter, Dave. Either way it’s a great smokescreen. And if he has, people like him don’t get it seriously. No, what matters is the project.’

What project?

‘General election 2024. Clearing the decks. You wait. Blame Cameron and May for hobbling the NHS and ignoring the hopeless pandemic dry run. Set up a commission on social care, but in two stages with no report until after the second stage in 2026. Blame the Brexit-20 outcomes on Covid-19. And get Grayling to bury the Russian report.’


‘Obvious. Give him the job of publishing it. Meanwhile, all these billions of quid they’re pouring in, a lot of people are going to spend it, and think this not-working game is a lark, until the taxes kick in. A few are going to trouser serious amounts. Goes tits up before the election? What’s the loss of one callow Wykehamist? Ready, Dave? Your throw, double top to start.’

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