Like you, I spend the early hours of the morning squinting at high-resolution photographs of ministerial clipboards taken by the Downing Street press pack. My hope, like yours, is to decipher the occasional scribbled note and to reveal to the wider world what actually goes on behind those undemocratically closed doors. Today, at last, I am delighted to offer to Spectator Lifers the scoop to end all scoops. Below is the full list of the mandated (and some might say imagined) summer briefs for every Cabinet member of Her Majesty’s Government…
Theresa May, Prime Minister
Mrs May acknowledges that running through a field of wheat is far too flippant an activity in a time of national crisis – even though it is deliciously fun. Instead, she has had to compromise, and will instead visit Skylark Maize Maze to pursue a week-long, aimless meander through the country’s largest grain-based labyrinth. Philip May confides sympathetically that his wife finds peace when walking in a space designed for directionless, purposeless, leaderless dawdling. Her evenings will be spent leafing through her full cookbook back-catalogue, rustling up some dinners and possibly even eating them. Location: Wimblington, one week
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for the Home Department
In what seems a spectacular misinterpretation of his brief, Javid proposes to spend three weeks working on the second floor of his local John Lewis. Location: Solihull, three weeks.
Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU
Raab will spend his summer attempting to leave Sky. He will argue that no deal is better than a slightly less expensive deal. He will not be cowed by the threat of all his saved content, built up assiduously over many years, being summarily deleted. He will claim not to give a flying fork about losing ‘the food channels’. He will end the summer a fully-paid-up member of Sky, but without Sky Sports, the film channels and a remote. Location: Thames Ditton, 1,325 hours
Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
It is a happy fact that one whose career in the public eye literally began with diabolical satire on environmentalism is now at the helm of that field. But, for Greener-than-thou Gove, it is no laughing matter to put British Farming First. A long-standing initiate into the mysteries of the water cycle, Gove pledges to spend the daylight hours of August ‘taking back control of our clouds’. Plans are necessarily hazy, but initial, irate sketches suggest ‘netting and dragging’ the lion’s share of Iceland’s controversially-hoarded nebular stockpile. Location: the shoals of Vestmannaeyjar, indefinitely.
David Lidington, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Aware that the Tories need to engage with the everyman, Lidington intends to recast a royal and ancient office into a form fit for the 21st century. He will spend eight weeks working in what civil servants suppose to be his dukedom: the city of Lancaster. His days will be spent in the covered market, where he will mimic the cries of his fellow stall holders, on the strict proviso that customers address him as ‘Your grace’. His evenings, by contrast, will be spent touring pubs as ‘The Duchess’, an improvised washboard-wielding drag-act who works up unequivocally-expressed queries about governmental policy into comic musical skits. Location: Lancaster, two months
Gavin Williamson CBE, Secretary of State for Defence
Ah, the tough man, the scallywag of Scarborough. Where now for the public taunter of Russians, where for the private flaunter of spiders? To gain credibility with colleagues who have literally earned their stripes, the obvious answer is Ninja Warrior UK. For all the raised eyebrows, Williamson is bullish about his chances in a show that he claims already to have won twice: once in a ‘private Special-ops competition’, and once on a hitherto-unreported Cabinet away day. Location: Manchester Central, 17 seconds.
Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Hammond pledges to put his money where his mouth is: to show that small businesses can thrive amid Brexit uncertainty, he will revitalise his discotheque business, sadly mothballed in early-80s Essex. For authenticity, and to show that entrepreneurs need not undergo drastic change or knee-jerk panic, he will be returning unchanged to perform (as DJ Ceta+) at his alma mater, Shenfield High School in Brentwood. Location: Brentwood, three nights only
Brandon Lewis, Chairman of the Conservative Party
Brandon Lewis has promised to spend the rest of the year on maternity leave. His office refuses to go into ‘unnecessary specifics’.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport
The nation’s favourite Transport Secretary will spend the entirety of August recording a BBC Three series ‘Grayling’s Tough Training’. Each episode will consist of his riding, pushing, hauling, leaning, repositioning and cursing a tandem bicycle, as he takes it aboard the nation’s trains. The first 10 (post-watershed) episodes will be filmed in the rush hour of the UK’s major urban commuter routes; the second 10 will be filmed from Saturday evening to Sunday morning as Grayling desperately hopes to conjure up viable and survivable routes from one rural community to the next, while nursing impossibly unwelcome hangovers on trains bereft of any functioning toilets. For the entirety of each episode Michael Portillo will remain seated on the tandem’s rear seat in stony, pointed silence. Location: Post-Beeching Britain, four weeks.
James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
A concept album about the housing crisis and the failures of county-level governance is planned: Brokenshire, Broken Britain. The Secretary of State confirms that recording is planned for 2018-20, mixing for 2021-3, and – pending approval by the local authorities and the various companies directly and indirectly involved– release may be possible in 2024, provided that the market hasn’t changed in musical taste or buying strategy. Location: unused scrubland, Sidcup.
Liam Fox PhD, Secretary of State for International Trade
Dr Fox proposes to work in Maplin. Asked today whether this was a fully-immersive attempt to get his head around the complex trade arrangements and regulatory requirements that underpin our domestic technologies, Fox was nonplussed: ‘I just like Maplin,’ he blurted. When told that the last of the country’s Maplins closed permanently earlier this month, Fox blinked slowly before mumbling that ‘Comet would do.’ Location: Unknown
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Clark has no plans, choosing instead to relish the care-free summer that stretches before him.