Implausible Story No22

 

Cabinet Meeting, November 2004

Hello lads and lasses, come in and sit yourselves down, the PM wanted me to call you in and explain a bit about David's idea about making the law more approachable, as it were.

Do you mean that announcement I heard on Radio 4 about giving the phone numbers of local policemen to the public so they could feel a bit closer to the long arm of the law?

Exactly Eustace.

Well what's to tell Deputy PM, it's all been said by that chappie on the wireless?

Not quite Eustace, there's been a few teething troubles and the scheme is going ahead slightly modified.

I always thought you could ring up the local bobby anyway deputy PM. Just ring the local police station and chat away to your heart's content?

When did you last ring a police station Eustace?

Er let me see… I rang about an unexploded bomb in 1943 if I remember correctly Deputy PM.

Well things have changed slightly Eustace. If you ring the local number you get put through to a police call centre and they take all your details so that the local policemen don't get all stressed listening to a lot of whingeing and whining.

Oh I didn't realise that Deputy PM. So what's this new scheme all about?

When you ring the new number you were supposed to get put straight through to the local bobby but there's been a slight change.

Why is that Deputy PM it sounds like a jolly good idea?

Well it would be just the same as the old system and our boys in blue don't want to go back to that.

Go on Deputy PM.

The system that's being implemented now is much better because we've got a new call centre that's going to filter out all the nuisance calls, you know about barking dogs and noisy parties etc
Callers will get straight through to a very understanding young lady who will make notes and say she'll call back, but pass any real emergencies through to the old police call centre
They will benefit because they'll only get interesting things to listen to like murders.

That sounds like a great idea Deputy PM.

Can I try it out?

If you must Eustace.

Picks up the phone and dials 999.

Which service do you require?

Police, please, young lady.

Lots of clicking and buzzing followed by…
Hello this is the police here where are you calling from?

The Prime Minister's house.

Oh good evening sirrah, that must be an important call?

What do you mean good evening, it's only nine o'clock in the morning?

Sorree sirrah, I thought you were calling from our Prime Minister's House.

I am. That's number ten in Downing Street.

Sorree sirrah I thought you were here in Rawlpindi.

What!?

How can I help? Oh and before we start I have to tell you that this is a special line and the charge is 150 rupees a minute.

Rupees! What are you babbling about?

Sorree sirrah, I'm quite new here, I mean one pound fifty pennies per minute.

Eustace quickly puts down the phone.

Something's wrong, Deputy PM, I got through to a young lady in Rawlpindi.

Nothing wrong old man, we're using an Indian call centre. They're a lot cheaper than those in the UK. Everyone's doing it now.

It was a premium line Deputy PM.

Quite right Eustace. The new scheme has to be self-financing.
Not only will it attract more money for Gordon here but also it should stop all these nuisance calls and only really important things will get through to our lads in blue.
They can't do everything you know. Somehow we've got to stop them getting submerged up to their ears in barking dogs.
Now what do you think about our push to get emergency outpatients waiting time down?

I'm afraid I can't think of anyone that could be bothered one jot Deputy PM, we've got our membership of BUPA if we stub our toe.

That's not the attitude to take Eustace old boy. Let me explain to you the PM's reasoning. First he tells everyone we've got waiting times down to a world record low figure of four hours and everyone will think that's really good.

Four hours does seem to be quite a long time to me Deputy PM. Imagine sitting waiting bleeding all over the floor for all that time.

Well, take it from me, four hours is jolly good. Actually it's a statistical average and it only applies to working days so we don't include weekends.

When you say working days you'd include Monday and Friday as well Deputy PM?

Yes you irk, it's only the privileged few like us whose working week is three days. Everyone else has to stick with it for five days.

How is the figure kept so reasonable Deputy PM?

Quite clever really old man. You know that everyone expects hospital car parks to be always nearly full and the parking meter costs are really expensive?

Well the PM came up with a simply wizard idea. There will be only two vacant spaces in each hospital car park. We've ordered a new computer that will keep track of spaces and when a car goes a special projector makes a hologram image of a car in the empty space. The car park is actually empty and, except for two spaces, a hologram will be projected in each parking bay. If too many people turn up in the waiting area the reception lady will instuct her computer to add holograms to the remaining two empty car park spaces.

What if there's a computer failure Deputy PM?

We've thought of that Eustace. The coin machines won't give you a ticket if the holograms aren't working. We've already tried a pilot system in some areas. When you put any coins in the machine they go straight through without issuing a ticket. There's a large sign warning everyone that their car will be towed away if there isn't a ticket on the windscreen and to get it back will cost £1,000.
Basically the only people arriving at casualty will be the odd patient arriving by ambulance or on foot and two cars every few hours or so.

What about coming by bus Deputy PM?

All the bus companies will be told not to stop their bus any nearer than three miles from the nearest hospital else their contract won't be renewed.
As far as arriving on foot, we're going to divert the paths leading to the casualty entrances along the back of an eight-foot high chain link fence stretching at least two miles. You know, like the route into town for ferry foot passengers at Cherbourg.

While we're on the subject of health Deputy PM, I went to get a check up at the dentists yesterday and he told me he wouldn't need to see me for a year. When I asked if all my teeth had fallen out he said they were OK but he wasn't allowed to see his NHS patients more than once a year now. Is that right?

You cheapskate Eustace. Why aren't you private like the rest of us?

I don't know Deputy PM. I just sort of never bothered to change.

Well I'd bother now Eustace or all your teeth will probably fall out. The NHS dentists are costing us a small fortune so the PM thought it was a good idea to slash costs by half and extend the period for inspections from 6-months to a year. After all he said. You don't take your car to be MoT'd more than once a year do you?

I don't have to take my car to be MoT'd, Deputy POM, it's brand new!

Well most of the plebs do Eustace so shut up.
By the way Eustace why are only you and Gordon here today, and he's been fiddling with a slide rule most of the time. I've noticed numbers have been dropping for our little get togethers lately?

I think most of them are busy Deputy PM.

You mean with the trappings of office Eustace? I know being an MP is a full time job without having to turn up to Cabinet meetings all the time.

I don't think it's to do with their MP jobs Deputy PM.

What do you mean Eustace?

Well, like that Conservative Editor chappie, most of us have proper jobs you know. Even though we managed to reduce our parliamentary business to just Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, it's ever so hard not to have to spend time in our proper jobs. After all we have to justify our large fat- cat pay packets. We can't just turn up on a Saturday morning you know. It's not like a paper round. Most of us have really important jobs.
I'm only here because I thought it was Monday. I overslept after the office party.

What do you mean Eustace... you had an office party on Sunday?

Not exactly Deputy PM it was actually Friday night.

We won't go into that Eustace, I think I'll move onto the last item on the agenda.
It's quite an important item.
It's to do with allowing big supermarket bosses to build extra large supermarkets on greenbelt farmland.
The PM and myself think it's a wonderful idea.
In exchange for me overturning local council decisions not to allow development in greenbelts the big supermarket bosses are going to cut our unemployed numbers to zero. That will save us pots of money in unemployment benefit and other handouts.

How will they do that Deputy PM?

Shelf stackers Eustace. The kingpins of Industry. A huge army of shelfstackers. Mostly employed during the small hours.
Anyone signing on at their employment exchange, sorry Job Centre, will have to accept a job as a shelf stacker from next January.

Are there enough jobs Deputy PM?

Well put it like this Eustace. We'll share out the work between everyone then reduce the number of hours that determines whether someone is in work or not. With a little fine-tuning we'll have full employment.
And an added bonus.

What's that Deputy PM?

We'll divert loads of cars and lorries from our main roads to country lanes in the greenbelts leading to the giant new supermarkets. We'll make proper use of those little roads that are hardly used. Why should tractors be the only vehicles to use the Queens highways?

Amazing Deputy PM. You know all the answers. I only wish everyone were here to listen to these little gems of yours.

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