A few months ago (January) I posted a blog about ‘Broken Britain’ (http://arbeale.blogspot.com/2011/01/broken-britain.html) and at the same time began to draft a very short a one act ‘sketch’ about the 'Oxfordshire Set' - a spoof on the characters and on items then in the news. In my blog I mentioned the alleged ‘goings on’ in this august group of individuals who seem to be very close to the Prime Minister and who potentially wield a lot of power in our country - albeit behind the scenes. I suggested that these people - some of them by anyone's standards rather dubious - might benefit from an investigation by the great Inspector Morse – the intrepid fictional Oxford detective. Little did I know that within a few months one of the Oxfordshire Set would sadly meet his death in rather unusual circumstances at the Glastonbury pop festival – just the thing for Morse to get his teeth into!
I have to confess that the older I become the greater I become a conspiracy theorist. I simply do not believe that all these 'events' simply jump out of the wood work by chance – whether it be the death of Diana, the death of David Kelly, or raised terrorist threat levels – they have an uncanny knack of appearing at just the right moment – for the Government that is. They have now become so predictable that in my view we are in the realms of farce. The sad thing is that we are such a law abiding and gullible society we all touch our forelock and 'believe' what we are told.
So, with the latest piece of farce on our front pages and with tongue in cheek I thought I would add to my one act farce – and make it full length four act farce! Sadly, having read it through I think it's a bit too much like the real thing!
OR COTSWOLD CAPERS
A New Inspector Morse Mystery.
Prime Minister: David Cannon MP .
Theresa Mayne: MP, Home Secretary
Michael Grove: MP, Minister for Education
Rebekah Book: CEO of NewsCom International, ex-editor of various salacious newspapers
Jeremy Harkson: TV personality and presenter of First Gear
Jeremy Lunt: MP for, Minister for Culture
Eric Bickles: MP, Minister for Communities
George Oxborne: MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Vince Dable: MP, Business Secretary
Andrew Tansley, MP, Minister of Health
Inspector Morse: Detective Inspector, Thames Valley Constabulary
Sergeant Lewis: Detective Sergeant, Thames Valley Constabulary
Charlie Book: Husband of Rebekah, 'Champaign Charlie' playboy, ex-jockey and trainer and pundit, ran sex toy mail order company,
Rupert Hoames: Grandson of former Prime Minister, Business man
Christopher Hoames: Brother of Rupert, MP
Rupert Murdon: Australian media mogul, CEO of NewsMedia. and boss of Rebekah Book
Christopher Bale: Business man and chairman of West Cotswold Conservative Association
Scene: January 2011 - The Cabinet Room, somewhere in Oxfordshire (reputed to be Rebekah Books' dining room). Assembled around the dining table is the cabinet – both official and unofficial. There are, of course, no civil servants present - just servants who occasionally scuttle in and out of the room to service George Oxborne whenever he calls out in his best Bullingdon Club voice ‘Fag’.
Prime Minister: Lovely salad Rebekah - and I really enjoyed the capers.
Rebekah Book: Thanks Dave - they're local Cotswold capers - they only grow around Chipping Norton.
Rebekah Book: Thanks Dave - they're local Cotswold capers - they only grow around Chipping Norton.
Prime Minister: So we’re all agreed then. George, we’re losing the economy argument. Andrew, your NHS reforms look to have the potential to bring the Government down. And Rebekah, we need to take the spotlight off you and Rupert. We don’t want to intrude on the banks – risks our directorships when we give up politics. And the big society is tits up now that Liverpool and Lord Wei are pulling out. We need an idea to move the debate away and give those pesky journalists and voters something new to chew on. Any suggestions?
Theresa Mayne: How about raising the terror threat – that always takes over the front pages for a few days? I could soon have a word with the security services.
Prime Minister: Good thinking Theresa but we’ve done that several times already – it’s starting to look a bit thin. And anyway, the holiday season is approaching, don’t want to upset the natives by upping security at airports again. We’ll have that bloke O'Leary from Ryanair at us like last time.
Michael Grove: Should I announce a new school curriculum – I can knock one up while I have my pudding?
Prime Minister : Not worth it Grovey – what little there was of the education system after Blair has been rubbished by the academies. Nobody gives a toss any longer. What about you Jeremy - anything at Culture that might give us a get out?
Jeremy Lunt: Err, sorry boss – I’ll have to ask Rupert. All my announcements and ideas have to go through NewsMedia’s press office and be personally vetted by Mr Murdon.
Prime Minister: Sorry, I forgot, Jeremy – but have a word. Good chap.
|Theresa Mayne - the Home|
Secretary - reflects the tasteful
sensibilities of Maidenhead
and the Thames valley.
A long silence. People try to look thoughtful.
Vince Dable: Prime Minister, I could make an announcement that all bankers will be named, shamed and publically garrotted.
Prime Minister: But nobody believes anything you say any more Vince. It wouldn’t even be reported. Would the News of the Planet run Vince’s idea, Rebekah?
Rebekah Book: Sorry Dave – who’s Vince?
Eric Bickles: I know, Mr Cannon, sir, yer 'onour. I’ll squeeze local councils a bit more. That’ll make big news.
Prime Minister: Eric, how many times do I have to explain this to you! It’ll also make big problems – we’ve been there before. I can’t get through my front door for the letters of complaint from authors and library users complaining at the library cuts. That’s the problem with all this education for the oiks. You teach 'em to read and the next thing you know you’re funding libraries. That’s why Grovey is doing his damndest to run down the school system. Let the private companies run it. Have another sausage roll and go back to sleep Eric. Grovey – refill Eric’s trough for him.
Silence – the cabinet (official and unofficial) gaze at the ceiling and their navels (not at the same time) and mull over the problem. Then the silence in broken. Outside there is a screech of tyres, a thump and a scream. 'Bugger' a voice shouts, 'that’s dented my front wing. Can’t these servants learn to get out of the way more quickly?’
Rebekah Book: Oooh! It’s Jeremy – he’ll know what to do.
The door crashes open and in strides a dishevelled Jeremy Harkson. He kicks the chair from under Eric Bickles who rolls onto the floor and falls head first into the trough. Jeremy sits on the chair and puts his feet on the table. Rebekah and Theresa gaze at him and sigh.
Jeremy Harkson: Sorry I’m late boss – been downing a few beers with the lads and chatting up the local totty. Grovey when you’ve finished filling Eric’s trough, lick the mess off my shoes and then nip outside and clean up the drive. Clean the blood off my car.
Michael Grove : Oh do I have to?
Prime Minister: Grovey. Do it. Now! Jeremy, we’ve got a problem. We need a new idea to put on the front pages to get the press off our backs about all the cock ups we’ve made. Any ideas?
Jeremy Harkson: Oh I’m good with cock ups boss. (Jeremy Lunt sniggers and nudges George Oxborne; Rebekah Book and Theresa Mayne giggle). Easy, boss. I’ve always found that a bit of racism and prejudice goes a long way. We call it muscular liberalism on First Gear – means we’re free to pick on anyone or anything 'cos we’re bigger and stronger. Learned it on the playground years ago. In fact Grovey’s outside now cleaning up the mess it often leaves. Sorry about that servant of yours Rebekah. Used a bit of muscular liberalism on First Gear only last week – called the Mexicans lazy - certainly boosted the ratings. Readers of the tabloids love it – and it goes down well with our First Gear crowd. How about making an announcement that multiculturalism has failed and mention words and phrases like Muslim extremists. That’d go down well with the punters and Rebekah here could sex it up a bit in the 'News of the Planet'. It would certainly move the debate on and Guardian journalists would really get their teeth into it – the economy, the NHS, and your problems with who you had dinner with over Christmas would be on the back pages tomorrow and fish and chips paper wrapping by Monday.
Loud cheering from the assembled.
Prime Minister (scribbling down Harkson’s ideas): Jeremy, you’re a star – I’ll get my speech writers and new media director onto it right away. Anyone know if it’s a curly 'c' or and kicking 'k' in mus(k?)cular? Now, anyone for pudding. What is it Rebekah?
Rebekah Book: Oh, it’s your favourite Dave – Eton Mess.
Scene: June 2011: The sleepy Cotswold's lanes of Oxfordshire. Inspector Morse is speeding along in his red Jag with his trusty companion Sergeant Lewis.
Lewis: So tell me again Sir, why are we going to Glastonbury – I thought you were more into Wagner than U2
Morse: (raising his eyes to heaven) It’s not the music, Lewis. There’s been an unexplained death in the portaloos at Glastonbury. One of the Oxfordshire Set.
Lewis: (with a look of horror on his face) Not the Oxfordshire Set – aren’t we a bit out of our depth with that lot? And anyway - I guess there are lots of deaths near the portaloos at Glastonbury every year – the smell is terrible!
Morse: Ah but this one is different – this guy is friends with the PM, and his house is only six miles from the PM's constituency cottage and a short drive from the home of Rebekah Book, the chief executive of NewsCom International.
Lewis: How do you know all this, Sir
Morse: In this morning’s Guardian Lewis – look it says the man in question, Christopher Bale, lived 'in a handsome house on a remote lane in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside around Chipping Norton, which has become a weekend powerbase for the Conservatives'.
Lewis: I agree Sir – looks nasty.
Morse: It gets worse. A newspaper, the Mail on Sunday, was going to publish a leaked document written by this guy saying that the Conservative Party was 'graceless, voracious, crass, always on the take'.
Lewis: Well everyone knows that, Sir and anyway nobody will ever believe what the Mail on Sunday says.
Morse: Quite true Lewis but I think it’s a bit suspicious – after all the other goings on with the Oxfordshire Set in recent months it’s too much of a coincidence that this guy dies on the day all this is published.
Lewis: Sir, you don’t mean that Mr Bale been MURDERED!
Morse: No, I don’t think so Lewis. All I’m saying is that it needs looking into. With the people in the Oxfordshire Set we have to be careful.
Lewis: Well yes - I mean, the Oxfordshire Set must be the brightest and best of English society – all those clever, genteel people – pillars of society and all that.
Morse: Where have you been Lewis? Do you believe everything that you read in your Daily Telegraph? No, the Oxfordshire Set are a devious bunch – linked to every shady operator in the world - Silvio Berlusconi, Rupert Murdoch, George Bush, Tony Blair, Prince Andrew, Fergie, Peter Mandelson, Simon Cowell.....the list is endless. I wouldn’t put anything past them.
Lewis: Gosh Mr Morse, this looks serious.
Morse: It is Lewis. These people will stop at nothing to get what they want. Just like the Gods in The Ring. It’s Wagner at its best!
Scene: Evening the same day: A handsome house in a remote lane of the Oxfordshire countryside. The room is filled with members of the Oxfordshire Set. It is the Conservative Party powerbase.
Michael Grove: Oh I do wish this would soon be over. I mean I didn’t do anything. I know that what Mr Bale said was true – I am a bit crass but I do try hard.
Prime Minister: Yes, Michael – we all know – you are very trying.
George Oxborne: When can I go boss? I admit it – Bale was right on – he often told me I was always on the take. And I admit it – it’s bloody expensive being MP in Cheshire – all those Manchester United footballers living in my constituency. I have standards to maintain, parties to throw. I mean Cheshire’s MP used to be old Neil Hambledon and his loopy wife – talk about on the make – look what happened to him – cash for questions, bankrupt. It’s just so lucky that my constituents are all so rich and on the make themselves that they don’t notice me making a few bob.
Rebekah Book: Don’t get so worked up George. I know that it’s grim up north – I was born in Warrington you know – but that’s another story. Everything will be alright – Rupert promised. And to cheer you up my Charlie will get you a load of blow up dolls – they’ll go down well at the next Constituency Fund Raiser you have up in Cheshire. All those Premiership footballers love will ‘em.
Prime Minister: Now look, let’s get our story straight. We know nothing and we saw nothing. After all it’s true. Let me do the talking. And Eric (looking at Eric Bickles who has two sausage rolls stuffed into his mouth and custard around his face as he looks up from the trough under the table)). Please would you try not to look so obviously voracious – don’t make it look as if Bale had a point.
Eric Bickles (snorting and dribbling custard down his tie): Err alright yer 'onour – can I have some more cake please?
The door crashes open and in strides Jeremy Harkson with Theresa Mayne on his arm.
Jeremy Harkson: They’re here boss – an old red Jag just came up the drive.
Prime Minister: Jeremy, tuck your shirt in and stop fondling Theresa – don’t be so graceless – and please try to show a bit of respect to Morse. He’s not a fool. Theresa make yourself decent.
Theresa Mayne (tucking in her blouse and adjusting her skirt): Oh don’t worry Dave – Rebekah and Rupert Murdon have already bought the Met. We can soon put something together with Thames Valley Police to get Morse off our backs. I’ll fix it. Give me the word and Morse will sleep with the fishes at the bottom of the Thames. I know just the spot near Maidenhead where I live. After all, what's a Home Secretary for?
A knock on the door.
Prime Minister: Come!
In walks Morse followed by Sergeant Lewis.
Morse: Good afternoon Gentleman and, err, Ladies. Thank you for agreeing to see me.
Michael Grove (putting up his hand): Please Sir, can I go now – I need to go to the toilet.
Morse: I’d rather you didn’t, if you don’t mind, Sir.
Michael Grove: But I’ll wet myself.
Morse: You may be aware that we are investigating the sudden death of a local man – Christopher Bale. I understand that he was a friend of all of you all.
Everyone (Together): No – never heard of him! It wasn’t me! Didn’t know him from Adam! I’ve been here all the time! It's a fair cop! It was him - he told me to do it! I'll get my big brother on you! I demand to have my lawyer present! What about my human rights? Mummy!
Morse: Oh! But I understood that he was a local Conservative – a big man in the local Party.
Prime Minister: Oh you mean that Christopher Bale – well, yes I met him once or twice but I’d hardly say I knew him well.
Morse: It just seems rather a coincidence that on the day he called the Conservative Party 'crass, voracious, graceless and on the take' he should be found dead in a toilet at Glastonbury.
Michael Grove: Well it’s true, Sir, we are all crass, graceless, on the take and vor.....vor...acious – how do you say it? What does it mean? Please Sir, can I go to the toilet now. I need a poo.
Morse: Lewis escort Mr Grove to the toilet – watch him like a hawk.
Lewis: Do you really mean that Sir – do I have to watch him? Ugh!
From under the table there is a large burp and Eric Bickles’ head appears smeared with custard and gravy.
Bickles: I feel a bit sick – can I go to the loo as well?
Morse: Excuse me Prime Minister, who is that?
Prime Minister: Oh, that’s Eric. Don't mind him. He can’t help it – he's an MP in Essex you know so he's not really top drawer – only went to a polytechnic. We just keep him to remind us what life would be like if the oiks got into power. Actually, he was a free offer in 'Waitrose'.
Morse: I see – but back to Mr Bale – what can you tell me about the gentleman?
Prime Minister: Well, it’s true Inspector, I did hear that Christopher had made some rather strange statements – I think that he had been a little unwell recently.
Morse: Quite so, Prime Minister. But is there anything else you might be able to tell us?
Prime Minister: Inspector, we in the Conservative Party believe in transparency - and we agree we are all crass, voracious, on the take and graceless – we have nothing to hide. Everyone, after all, has their little foibles. I mean look at poor old Eric.
Jeremy Harkson: Hold on Boss, my foible is rather large – isn’t it Theresa?
Theresa Mayne (Giggles) Oh you are wicked Jeremy!
George Oxborne: And I know that Theresa’s foibles are enormous I’ve seen 'em!
Prime Minister: (Raises his eyes to heaven and glares at Oxborne and Harkson): As I was saying Inspector, I don't think we can help you.
Morse: Well, thanks anyway, Prime Minster. I’ll be going now. I think you’ve told me all I need to know. Are you sure there is nothing more you would like to add?
Prime Minister: Glad to be of help Inspector. Oh...... there is one other thing – I've heard a rumour that Mr Bale met Rupert Hoames at Glastonbury. Hoames might be able to help you.
The whole Oxfordshire Set roar with laughter.
|Nicholas Hoames - what a laugh!|
George Oxborne: Yeh, bit like a night out in Wilmslow! Great!
Theresa Mayne: And Maidenhead! Bring it on!
Prime Minister: Jeremy! Shut it - stop being so graceless and crass! And you two - behave like Government ministers! And now Inspector I really do think that's all. I have important work to do running the country.
Morse: I understand Prime minister. Thank you for your time - you've all been more than helpful.
Lewis and Morse leave and climb into their Jag.
Lewis: Do you know who did it Sir? Are we any closer?
Morse: (sighs) It wasn’t murder Lewis – the poor man realised he was right in what he said – he suddenly realised that the Oxfordshire Set, which he had worked so hard to get into, was simply a group of not very nice people. Bale was a good man – look read his obituary in the Guardian. He worked abroad at a Christian mission, was keen to make the country a better place and was by all accounts discreet and personable. He was asthmatic and born with a finger deformity but he worked hard and got to the top of his profession. He really wanted to make things better but his undoing was he got caught up with the Oxfordshire Set. He thought he was joining like minded people and the academic and genteel elite of English society - a set of Gods. Instead he found that these Gods were just Tory politicians - crass, voracious, graceless and on the take – not at all like him. Just like the Gods in Wagner’s Ring really. And on top of all that he went for a bit of peace and quiet at Glastonbury, to sort his ideas out and there he sadly met Rupert Hoames. It was all too much for the poor man. His dream was shattered – he simply sat down in the portaloo and lost the will to live. What a way to go – in a portaloo at Glastonbury. Very sad. The Gods move in mysterious ways. You should listen to the Ring Lewis - Wagner is about important things - life and death - and for poor Mr Bale it was death. Let’s go home Lewis – and we’ll stop for a quiet pint on the way.
And the red Jag disappeared down the drive.
In the house a row of little faces press against the glass of the window.
Eric Bickles: Can I get some more sausage rolls yer 'onour?
George Oxborne: When are the rubber dolls coming Rebekah?Rebekah Book: Oh you are impatient George - just like a little boy! Look if you're really good and do as I say I'll get Rupert to buy you a new constituency so that you don't have to make those awful journeys up to Cheshire and mix with those northerners. We'll find you somewhere nice in Oxfordshire or Berkshire or Surrey - they're all filled with people with no brains, no morals and loads of money - just the place for you. You'll make an ideal MP for them - I mean look at Grovey and Theresa - and Rupert will soon fix it with a bit of bribery, corruption and dodgy newspaper articles.
George Oxborne: Oh! Will he really Rebekah? That would be great. What would you like me to do - a few tax breaks for Rupert? Or could I give you a few directorships at the banks we now own - you know RBS and the rest - that'll bring you a few bob in and someone with your skills would fit in admirably on the Board? Or how about taking the VAT off blow up dolls - that will please your husband, Charlie.
Michael Grove: I’ve pooed my pants
Prime Minister: Don’t be crass Michael.
Jeremy Harkson: Chill out Boss. Come on Theresa – climb aboard my super car – it’s a Ferrari Testarossa – we’ll burn some rubber down these Cotswold country lanes and play with our foibles.Jeremy Lunt: Just popping outside for a few minutes Boss - I have that TV appearance booked for 10 o'clock.
Prime Minister: OK Jeremy - hope it goes well. (He picks up his mobile and sighs as he looks at the group before him): Is that Special Branch? Oh good, it’s the PM here. I just wanted to check that you have made sure that the Glastonbury Coroner’s office won’t be carrying out an inquiry into the death at Glastonbury. Can I be assured that the whole thing will be put quietly to bed? Good. Thank you.
|Morse and Lewis enjoy that |
well deserved pint of beer. Oxfordshire
and wider society can sleep
safe and sound in their beds.
Jeremy Lunt: I'm pleased to announce the government's approval for Mr Rupert Murdon's NewsMedia takeover of ASkyA. We are all delighted with the outcome. Everyone has worked errr.... very hard for this. There have been a lot of late nights putting all this together.
|Rupert Murdon thanks |
everyone on TV
Rupert Murdon: ......and I'd like to thank the Culture Secretary for all his...errrrr... help, in bringing this matter to a satisfactory end. I'd also especially like to thank Rebekah Book for all her hard work in ensuring this monopoly went through - it's good to know that England is full of people like her. And now if you'll excuse me I have phone calls of thanks to make, undue political influence to exert and important people to manipulate. I'm really looking forward to playing an even bigger part in Britain's democratic process.
Morse (Sighing):Oh, I'm sure he is and he will, Lewis. You see, Lewis, the Gods at work - crass, voracious, graceless, on the take........poor Mr Bale didn't know the half of it!
'High on a throne of royal state,
'High on a throne of royal state,
Which far outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat, by merit rais’d
To that bad eminence.'
Please note, this is a work of fiction - any similarities with real people are coincidental