Jeremy knew he had seen it somewhere. “I have seen it somewhere. That is very clear and important,” he told his head of communications, Seumas Milne, who having failed to find the cursed document in the filing cabinet had now started rifling through the leader’s books. “Might you have used it as a bookmark?” said Seumas, leafing through a copy of Martin McGuinness’s memoirs – Bullet or Ballot Box? Choose both and be the terrorist who has everything – and then dropping it onto the floor and turning his attention to a rare first edition of Arthur Scargill’s Cuban Cookbook, a doomed diffusion line trialled in 1985 by the National Union of Mineworkers
Frankly, Jeremy’s patience was wearing thin not only with this stupid search for a tax return, but with the entire rigmarole of modern political leadership. First, he had to put up with reporters outside his door in the morning asking him questions about goodness knows what, when all he was doing was trying to get his cycling helmet on without dropping his sandwiches on the pavement. Now even Seumas, good old sensible Seamus, a comrade from the old days, was being sucked into this mad media whirlwind.
Jeremy felt the red mist descending and his anger rising. “Frankly, does it matter whether we have this exact piece of paper or not? When there are people dying in their homes… while the bankers pay themselves disgusting amounts of money and ordinary Britons like Paul in Nottingham cannot afford the drugs he needs to get… how did he put it in his letter?”
“Off his napper, out of his tree,” prompted Seumas.
“Yes, thank you very much. That is what Paul said in his letter, that he cannot get the drugs he needs to get out of his tree every weekend. Because of the Tory obsession with austerity and the heavy handed tactics of the police intent on hounding law-abiding British drugs users.”
Jeremy had lost Seumas momentarily. The Guardian columnist (on loan to the leader’s office, but for how much longer?) was too engrossed in Arthur Scargill’s recipe for Cuban chicken surprise. All the chickens have been nationalised to feed the fathers of the revolution, so there is no chicken. Use grass instead.
“Seumas, does this tax return actually matter?”
“Well, let’s see. You have only spent a week demanding that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor release their tax returns . They have done so. You should probably do the same. Only we can’t find it, after six days of looking. I’d say that matters. Yes.”
This was not a good moment for Diane Abbott to arrive. But then there is never a good moment for Diane Abbott to arrive, especially when she starts speaking extra slowly, to emphasise the point, and drawing shapes in the air with her fingers to emphasise for the hard of thinking how simple it all is.
“Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy. It is only a tax return. Weeee haaaave to stop playing the Murdoch media’s game.”
Jeremy was extremely pleased to hear this. “See?! See?! Exactly. Seumas? Diane agrees with me. We should be asking the real questions about the real issues on behalf of people in this country. Like Paul, in Nottingham. And the other man who wrote to me by letter this morning. Mr Al Kada of Luton, who cannot get the funds from his bank that he so desperately needs to build his groundbreaking green technlogy nuclear reactor in his back garden. In Luton. These are the projects and the jobs of the future we should be investing in. Creating jobs. Investing in people in this country, with the jobs of the future.”
Seumas had had enough, and once he had stopped shaking Jeremy and put him back down on the floor, he left in a hurry to “go to a meeting at the Guardian” about getting his job back. Diane took over, drawing more shapes, and slowing down to such a low speed that Jeremy feared for a moment that she had been taken ill.
“Look, eeeeeeven if you… don’t… need… to… find… the aaaaaaactual tax return, might we prepare a piece of paper that simply states your eaaaaaarnings?”
Jeremy harumphed a bit. It sounded as though Diane was almost as bad as Seumas, although what she was suggesting was theoretically quite a simple exercise, and if it allowed to him to get back to the real issues that concern the people of this country then he might go along with it. Right, this would only take a few seconds. But what had he earnt in the last year? He had been so busy, and he didn’t handle the accounts. Had he been paid for that monthly column on Chinese bicycles in Cycling News? There was his MP’s salary, of course, and some speaking. And the guest appearances on Russia Today to discuss Syria. Who had been been taking a note of all that? Had he been paid? He wasn’t very good with money. He scratched his head.
“How much did the Russians pay you?” asked Diane.
But which Russians? The lecture tour of former tractor factories, on EU expansionism and the class struggle, had not made any money. Ticket sales had been disappointing. What about the documentary for Russian television he had made on American imperialism and the defeat of Ronald Reagan in the Cold War? Now it was coming back to him. The producer – Svetlana – had said they would put some money in his bank account. But that was no good. Jeremy had such a mistrust of capitalist banks that he never – ever – looked at his account.
He would phone his agent in Moscow, he told Diane, and ask him to explain the situation. This would clear everything up. When he had finished the call, Diane leaned across the desk: “Hoooooow… much?”
“It is fine, Diane. We have complete and total clarity. They paid me in four installments. Is 100m Roubles a lot of money?”