Bob Neill, minister in charge of community pubs, is dropped in Government reshuffle
By Robert Sayles:
“Morning Prime Minister.”
“Ah, morning Humphrey. Sit down, we’ve got a lot to discuss.”
“Indeed Prime Minister. What is it you wanted to see me about?
“I think we may have a bit of a problem on our hands Humphrey.”
“Really Prime Minister?”
“Yes. It seems people are becoming increasingly sceptical about our commitment to the pub trade.”
“Sceptical Prime Minister? We’ve given them four Select Committee enquiries; what more could they possibly want?”
“Action Humphrey; they want us to actually do something.”
“Do something Prime Minister?”
“Yes, do something; as in affirmative action. Go beyond mere words and party rhetoric, instigate meaningful reform, address the deep seated, fundamental problems afflicting society and institutions. It’s what government is all about, isn’t it?
Are you all right Humphrey? You don’t look well.”
“Errr...umm....umm....I think I need to sit down. Err...Prime Minister, how can I put this? We’ve been going out of our way to avoid ‘affirmative action’ for the past eight years."
“I don’t understand Humphrey. The pub trade is in a mess; we need to step up to the plate, get involved, sort it out, once and for all!”
“Err...Prime Minister; I don’t think you fully understand the ....err ....complexity of the situation.”
“Well then please enlighten me Humphrey, because from where I’m sitting the whole thing looks like the proverbial dog’s breakfast. Our commitment is in question Humphrey; we need to reassure publicans we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with them on this.”
“What makes you think people are questioning our resolve Prime Minister?”
“Oh Take my word for it Humphrey they are. Now I’ve been thinking about it and have come up with some great ideas to convince the public that we’re serious about saving pubs.”
“Pray do tell Prime Minister.”
“Well I suggest we start by encouraging a few MPs to venture into their local pub and pull a few pints; great photo opportunity don’t you think?”
“We’ve already tried that one; dismissed as nothing more than a cynical PR exercise.”
“Ok. What about appointing a minister for pubs on the proviso that he maintains a low profile?”
“Already been done Prime Minister. We’ve got Bob.”
“Who the hell is Bob?”
“That’s the question everyone’s asking Prime Minister.”
“Then what about insisting the voluntary code be strengthened to offer greater protection for tenants?”
“The BBPA have just sent back the twenty fifth revised version. It is in their words “watertight”.
“Do you believe them?”
“It’s not my place to judge Prime Minister.”
“So then it’s back to square one Humphrey?”
“Yes Prime minister, I’m afraid it is.”