In Competition No. 3260, a challenge suggested by a reader, you were invited to reveal the existence of a hitherto unsuspected government department by means of a speech by its minister explaining its important policies.
Among those entries with a distinct whiff of plausibility was Alan Millard’s Department for Silly Talks, which aims ‘to encourage the proliferation of senseless gobbledegook amongst politicians, professional groups and the general population so that anything anyone says becomes too unintelligible to understand’ and to thereby ‘disseminate utter confusion amongst the populace forcing them to accept parliament’s decisions by being too bewildered to challenge them’.
Honourable mentions are also awarded to other worthy runners-up: Brian Murdoch, Frank McDonald, Adrian Fry, David Silverman, David Shields and D.A. Prince. The winners, printed below, pocket £30 each.
Department of Absolute Fantasy
What is DAF? you ask. I say it is the lubricious mechanism of the state. I say it is the power in the government’s engines. I say it is the main driver of decision-making. As we all know, our batteries are recharged by sleep, and by the healing experience of dream-land. If we did not dream, we would go mad. So it is with DAF. We exist to foster a love of ambition – to turbocharge our days, our weeks, our years. Into the interstices of central and national government, we introduce stories of wonder, of sunshine, of play. We cultivate the upside. We look for rainbows. At DAF we are proud to say we are infectious – more effective than any pandemic at circumventing drudgery or dullness. Want some good news for business? DAF: We have your waffle dust. DAF: Your fairy tale. DAF: Your happy ending. Cheeese!.
It has come to my attention that a vicious rumour has been circulating concerning the Ministry that I have the honour to represent.
My devoted and conscientious staff work night and day to provide speeches for politicians at all levels, from back-bench members of parliament to cabinet ministers, and even the Prime Minister himself (or herself, as the case may be). The politicians themselves provide a draft of what they wish to say, which my civil servants scrupulously transcribe into coherent speeches, confident that those drafts reflect the unimpeachable standards of honesty and truthfulness for which politicians are known. Yet there are those who maliciously claim that my people’s actual job is to produce packs of lies to be regurgitated for popular consumption.
I cannot emphasise too strongly that these cruel and wounding rumours are completely unfounded, and that, moreover, the Ministry of Mendacity simply does not exist.
It is our crucial mission, our essential mission here at the Ministry of Worst Case Scenarios to contemplate those unlikely yet terrifying events which the British public would prefer to keep out of their thoughts and far away from their dreams. Crisis leadership is always an opportunity for greatness, and our unique role is to make greatness possible by applying game-theory expertise to existential threats at the very fringes of human imagination. Other government entities are tasked with addressing extinction-level asteroid impacts and the like, disasters with statistical significance in our planet’s history. We are here to devise strategies against radioactive mutant murderous hornets, airborne sharks and similar predators. We are here to forestall savage extraterrestrial invaders who perceive the wet wipe island in the Thames as their ideal landing zone. We can imagine even the catastrophic returns to power of idiot tyrants manqués. We will not be unprepared.
Good evening. Viewers may be surprised by this live appearance of a backbencher to address a national TV audience. And that’s a clue. You see, I’m not really a backbencher. For years I have headed the Ministry of Organised Chaos and Havoc (MOOCH). Finally, at this juncture, I can announce our successes, share the pride.
Remember Jeremy Corbyn? It took hard, committed, unacknowledged work to arrange his leadership and generally discredit the Labour party. That let in Keir Starmer, the invisible man, not a boat-rocker, but neither was Theresa May so our next move was Boris, mayhem personified.
Post-Boris, who knows? But I confidently predict that continued uncertainty and confusion, a dazed electorate and international ridicule will maintain the UK’s keynote role as a centre of instability upholding our position in the global marketplace. Now it can be told. What MOOCH promises, MOOCH delivers.
We at the Excessive Warnings Department have had no cause to reveal ourselves until now. Our work has been mocked for such labels as ‘aspirin – contains aspirin’, and ‘do not place live animals in food processor’. However, in our increasingly litigious society, we intend to campaign for hot beverages to be served with gloves and portable fridges to cool potentially dangerous contents. Fruit must be sold with leaflets demonstrating how to safely remove and dispose of peel. Sports, including croquet, are prohibited without full body armour and ambulance volunteers. Heavy items must be labelled with ‘potentially painful if dropped’ and books with ‘may cause paper cuts and eye strain’, while all walls require the signs ‘slamming into may cause injury or death’. Plants must be marked with ‘pollen – may cause sneezing’, pointy utensils marked as ‘sharp’, and new shoes with ‘danger of blisters’. Remember our motto; Keep Calm and Don’t Do Anything.
No. 3263: cosy CRIME
You are invited to submit a short story, written in the style of a cosy mystery novel, with a topical twist. Please email entries of up
to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 17 August.
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