‘You’re not seriously going ahead with this Brexit nonsense are you Prime Minister?’
Keswick spoke to Carlton Bennet, who was lying on a lilo in the Downing Street swimming pool. The media didn’t know about the Downing Street pool. It was in the basement, through a door marked ‘Experimental Weaponised Killer Defence Bees Inside: Do not enter’. The PM didn’t look comfortable. He was finding it harder than he’d expected to sip a pina colada and float without falling in. It was strange he thought, how two things so enjoyable separately could be so difficult together. It was like eating a lunch of sardines and marmalade – the sort of meal you only try once when the cupboard is really bare.
‘What?’ Carlton handed his glass to Godfrey, a special advisor who was standing in the pool looking grumpy. This was not surprising as when he had enthusiastically signed the Official Secrets Act after leaving university he had thought the job would entail more than standing in a swimming pool handing the PM drinks. He’d also expected that the official secrets that he couldn’t tell anyone would be more juicy than knowing that there was a secret swimming pool in Downing Street and that saying ‘I will consult with the chancellor’ was code for ‘I am going swimming.’
‘He said-‘ said Godfrey, trying to increase his role to a speaking part.
‘Uh!’ Carlton raised his hand. He preferred Special Advisors who didn’t speak. Godfrey quietly seethed, and wondered vaguely if a bit of chlorinated water in the pina colada would kill the PM. ‘What did you say Keswick?’
‘I said, what are you going to do about this idiotic referendum? This totally unnecessary vote that you assured us would be impossible to lose. What did you tell us? That it would be more likely for Leicester to win the league than for us to lose the Brexit vote?’
‘I did say that. Who’d have thought Ranieri could marshal his troops so well?’ The PM shrugged, which looked peculiar as he was lying down. ‘To achieve so much with so few resources – he should be Defence Minister. Or Education Minister. In fact given the chronic underfunding of all our departments he should be in overall charge of them all. He should be next Prime Minister!’ The PM floated across the pool considering this brainwave. ‘This pool really was the best decision of my premiership. Such a shame I couldn’t mention it in my resignation speech. It would be a left-field choice for Claudio Ranieri to be in the leadership race…’
‘He’s not even an MP.’
‘I can easily elevate him to the House of Lord’s. Godfrey, phone Leicester United and see if Ranieri would like to be the next PM. He’s Italian isn’t he? he might be able to row back on this Brexit misunderstanding.’
Pleased to have something to do that didn’t entail his fingers getting wrinkly Godfrey raced to the side of the pool and clambered out. He wasn’t an elegant de-pooler and Keswick averted his eyes.
‘Ranierei couldn’t do much worse. What are you going to do?’
‘What can I do? The people have spoken.’ Bennet lent back and closed his eyes. He looked like a man with no worries, which – given he was prime minister of a country in total meltdown – was impressive.
Keswick sat down awkwardly on a sun lounger by the side of the pool. He’d been one of the voices that had argued that the building of a secret Prime Ministerial swimming pool was wrong and had never used it. Being fully suited he didn’t feel quite right in the steamy environment.
‘The people are idiots, Prime Minister.’
‘All of them? 17 million can’t all be feeble-minded. Can they? I ought to have met more of them.’
‘Most of them are completely mad. They cannot be trusted. They have no more sense than a bucket of Koi carp. We should have offered that extra episode of East Enders every week that I suggested. You must have kept a reserve position? Some escape clause in case you lost the vote?’
‘That would have been a good idea. I didn’t once think that we would lose the vote.’
Keswick picked up an inflatable dolphin and threw it into the pool.
‘We should never have had a referendum!’ he bellowed.
‘Well that’s obvious now,’ The PM said, kicking the water with his feet to propel himself to the side of the pool. ‘Tell me something I don’t know. Is Pimlico around? You two are like Rosencrantz and what’s-his-name, in Macbeth. Never see one without the other.’
‘He’s getting changed. But Prime Minister, we don’t have to go through with this Brexit.’
‘I’m not going through with anything,’ the PM said. He had not made it to the side of the pool but was heading diagonally towards the far corner of the deep end. He kicked his legs more enthusiastically and then sighed. ‘Even my lilo pulls to the right. Nothing goes as planned.’
‘Hello, hello, hello! We did it!’
The PM and Keswick both looked across the pool. Pimlico Smith was beaming as he entered from the changing rooms. He ran past the sign that said No Running and executed a high-class bomb which soaked the PM and would have, if he hadn’t seen the danger and retreated, ruined Keswick’s suit.
‘You buffoon! I’ve got water on my glasses,’ the PM complained.
‘Of little concern. You must feel a right wally calling that referendum!’
‘Not at all. It’s just crowd-sourcing decisions. Totally on trend.’
Pimlico took a deep breath and started swimming, wondering how many lengths he could do without breathing. He’d always had a huge lung capacity. The PM and Keswick watched him power up and down the pool.
‘I’m surprised he’s not in the Olympics.’
‘Rumours of doping,’ Keswick said quietly.
‘So what’s the plan?’
The PM considered.
’I intend to float around here for a bit longer, then head upstairs for a spot of supper before heading to the theatre. I haven’t been to the theatre for years. Do you have any recommendations?’
Keswick realised he was shaking his head violently.
‘Sir, you need a plan.’
‘I’ve got one. I’ve just told you it.’
‘We need a plan not for your evening, but for the country.’
‘The country’s welcome to join me. I don’t know what the capacity is at the theatre, probably wouldn’t seat the whole country, but first-come-first-served, everyone’s welcome.’
Having completed eighteen lengths, Pimlico Smith came up for air.
‘I have great news for you Carlton,’ he said. ‘I have decided to stand for the leadership and save this country. We need to make the UK a tax haven off Europe.’
‘You’ll have to stand in a leadership election.’
‘ I fancy my chances.’
‘Even against Claudio Ranieri?’
‘Why would he be standing? He’s not a politician.’
‘My last great act as PM will be to offer him a place in the House of Lords!’