Dave was too exhausted even to feel angry. Betrayed by his own people – after all he’d done for them! Just as he was trying to take in the news, his phone chirped, sounding out the opening notes of London Calling.
He stared at the screen, then gave a short bark of laughter. “It’s from Boris,” he announced. “It says ‘Et tu, Oxfordshire?’”
“Nice of him to try to cheer you up,” ventured George.
“I’m not sure that’s the plan,” said Dave. The phone chirped again. “ ’Aegroto dum anima est, spes est’. What does that mean?”
Michael spoke up. “As long as a sick person has breath, there is hope.”
“Great,” said Dave. “He’s not only taunting me – he’s taunting me in Latin. What’s next? ‘Sic transit gloria mundi’? Or maybe ‘Remember, Caesar, that thou art mortal’?”
“No,” said George, peering at his own phone, which had just buzzed. “’Ut sementem feceris, ita metes’.”
“’As ye reap, so shall ye sow’,” muttered Michael, without being asked.
“Come on, Dave,” said Eric, nudging over the remnants of a platter of sandwiches. “Illegitimi non carborundum and all that.”
“Eh?” said Dave.
“Don’t let the b—— grind you down.”
“Quite,” said George, before inspecting his phone again. “And on the plus side, it looks like Boris has run out of Latin.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?” said Dave.
“Not entirely,” said George. “He’s asking me to send him the measurements for the Downing Street curtains.”
Deep within Dave’s soul, a defiant spark flickered into life. He’d be dashed if he was going to take this from Boris, of all people. He’d prove he was still the Alpha Etonian.
“Right, that’s it,” he said. “Make a note – first thing tomorrow, I want plans on my desk for a fightback. I want an outline of the reshuffle. I want a new draft of the Queen’s Speech that’s tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. I want Abu Qatada on the first plane out, no matter how long he has to queue at Heathrow. I want next week to be a fresh start.”
“Good plan, chief,” said Eric, loyally. “It might even distract people from watching Rebekah and Andy at Leveson.”
“Oh yes,” said Dave. “That.” As silence descended again, he slumped mournfully in his chair, and reached for the wilted egg and cress.