The Procrastinating Minister – by Stephen Hands
The faces around the table were all looking at him, waiting for the decision to be made. They all owed their jobs to him, yet he knew few regarded him in much esteem. A lucky politician was how he had been labelled. What nonsense, as if luck alone wins an election, luck alone makes you Prime Minister. He looked at them one by one. About half met his look, half looked elsewhere. Junior ministers terrified of making a mistake at this first cabinet meeting since his election, old hats like the Foreign Secretary sitting there thinking they should be in his seat instead. The room remained silent while he remained undecided.
These first decisions of his term in office would set the stall. Lucky, yeah right, he thought. Was it lucky that the only other contender for the party leadership was found to have some very dubious financial dealings overseas? Was it lucky that the young, bright opposition party candidate was shown to have been having an affair for the last year, while his faithful wife sang his praises about his loyalty up and down the country on the campaign trail? No luck, just good back room staff working away doing their jobs and doing them well. He never asked how the information was discovered, wasn’t important. Only thing that mattered was that it found its way in to the public domain before the well intentioned voter had the chance to put their cross against a name they would surely later regret.
What shall it be? Look at them all hanging on his word. His first cabinet decision and he was nearly ready to make it. Just a little longer, just to be sure. Nothing wrong with giving things a little time, nothing wrong on erring on the cautious side to begin with. He was Prime Minister now with all the responsibility that brings. Hasty decisions will be difficult to reverse. He knew parts of the press did not appreciate this approach. As an MP they had dubbed him the Minister for Procrastination. Now he was Prime Minister it was just the Procrastinating Minister. Ha, ruddy, ha. That must have taken a whole editorial meeting to come up with. Well I’ll show them he thought. The faces had all returned to looking at him, the silence all encompassing. No mobiles permitted in here. How nice was that, to know your train of thought was not going to be disturbed by some irritating ringtone. Though he now mused that his train of thought had still been disturbed by just thinking about the banned mobiles. Focus. Focus. Not the back benches now, can’t just drift away while someone drones on about who knows what. Back to the matter at hand, this first cabinet decision. His decision alone. Nobody else’s. Remember that Mr Foreign Secretary as you tour the world miles and miles away from the seat of power, miles and miles away from looking down your nose at this upstart of an MP turned Prime Minister.
10 Downing street. Who would have thought it? All the doubters proved wrong. God bless the electorate, at least they have some faith in him. Just look at this room, this table, this seat even. The history contained within these walls. He looked around the table again thinking how many of those sat there were worthy. Not many. But he digressed again. Focus. He felt the presence of the man standing just behind his seat to the right. The man waiting patiently, professional to the last. He turned slightly to look at him. Always look your audience in the eye.
“Right I have decided what it is to be” he declared in his best prime ministerial voice. Upon this announcement he heard a muttered “About time”, followed by a mocking sniff. It was faint. Loud enough to be heard around the table, faint enough to throw doubt from where it had emanated from. Yet he knew. He looked at the Foreign Secretary, who in turn held his stare. Two pros locking horns. The Prime Minister looked back over his shoulder to the man stood behind.
“Yes, I am certain now.” Another slight pause. “Yes, white coffee for me, please. Definitely white coffee”
“Very good Sir”, replied the man in the most patient manner he could hope to muster under the circumstances. “Would Sir prefer hot or cold milk with coffee?”
“Ummm” said the Prime Minister.
To which this time a very audible, collective groan swept around the Cabinet table.
Author: Stephen Hands
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