Boris Johnson had served under Lord Barnet for more years than he cared to remember. That their period in office had come rudely to a halt with the loss of almost all their MPs (including himself) still seemed unthinkable.
He smoothed his fair hair back and leant back in the dark red leather armchair in 25, Victoria Street. Tory HQ was looking a bit sorry for itself these days. He sipped his Barbaresco and looked out of the window. It looked thunderous. A bit like how I feel, he thought humourlessly.
He tried to cheer himself by thinking about the exploits of Xanthippus, which he had enjoyed reading so very much when he was at boarding school. Xanthippus had been booted out by his own people for a while but had returned to lead Athens to victory. Maybe that would happen to him? Let old Ashdown screw everything up and then he could be back. Lord Barnet might want to retire so he'd have to take over the Tory Party, which means he'd be the Prime Minister... Love that Barbaresco, he thought as he drained the dregs of the delicious Italian red.
He decided to stagger over and open a comforting fizzy bottle of Moscato. "Red and white, what a fright" or whatever the saying was... oh, hang it all - he'd jolly well mix red and white.
There was a long farting sound. He looked round purely out of idle curiosity to see who the phantom raspberry-blower had been. The miscreant, the Earl of Strathspey, had now fallen asleep. That was no fun. If they'd still at school he'd have made the person burn a hole in the wood by lighting it but you couldn't have fun like that with these daft old codgers.
Mr. Johnson was just starting on his second glass of Italian white when the Earl woke up.
"Care to join me for a drink, Horace?" asked Boris, always one to be sociable.
"That's dashed civil of you, Boris."
"Not at all, Horace."
"What pleasures... ah, don't tell me - Luccio Prosecco, Boris?"
"Not quite, Horace," said Mr. Johnson, showing his elderly colleague the label.
"You have very good taste, if I may say so, sir."
"Come on, drink up before the new PM bans it!"
"Oh, that fool Ashdown! Is the silly ass thinking of banning wine then?"
"No but he's a Whig, isn't he? I shouldn't think we'll stay friends with Italy for much longer with him at the helm. And then we can say goodbye to all this, Horace," and he indicated the huge rack of Italian wines behind him.
They discussed the silly ass and the daft inaugural address he'd given in which he'd unbanned the Labour Party. Some say he'd even been talking about arms-limitation talks with the Americans but neither Boris nor Horace could remember him saying that exactly.
Why were the Whigs so keen on making peace with those vulgar Americans and so opposed to the nation which brought Britain the finest wines, the finest women and made its trains run on time? And everyone in Fascist Italy seemed very happy with their lot. According to government statistics there the leadership had a 99.7% approval factor! Fair enough there are always ways to bribe voters - they probably gave them all some Moscato or something - but that was a high approval rating by anybody's yardstick.
Boris surreptitiously pretended to be blowing his nose on his handkerchief. He was actually checking to see how much money he had on him - a vulgar thing to be caught doing in public.
The Earl farted again, really loudly this time, and Boris politely ignored him.
35 guineas? That was enough to take himself, the Earl and the other two people half-asleep in their chairs, once he'd shaken them awake, to the nearest chocolate house to have a few chocs and get royally drunk. It'd lift their spirits.
Boris led the way. As he went through the doors there was an overweight bespectacled girl smiling at him. He smiled back and tried to pass but she held out a notebook and a very lower-middle-class-looking pen in front of him. He was embarrassed to hold it but did to be polite. He'd get ribbed mercilessly by the other chaps in the chocolate house for this, he felt sure. And her notebook was bright purple, he noticed. What was wrong with a decent fountain pen and good quality paper, he wondered? Come to that what was wrong with a diet?
He left the girl drooling over his autograph while he scurried on to join the old codgers, who were now staggering a few steps ahead of him, as they made their way to the chocolate house.
Chocolate houses were famous haunts for any Tory worth his salt. Some of the best Tory plots in history had been thrashed out in them and you need not worry about being overheard by Whig spies: all the Whigs would be in the coffee houses plotting back again! Boris Johnson would start the new era as he meant to go on: resisting Paddy Ashdown's absurd government by any means necessary and hatching ingenious drunken plots in chocolate houses.