A dentist’s appointment for Liam

Rishi discovers he is more appealing to the voters when he’s not there


This article is taken from the April 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“I can’t find Liam, have you seen him?” Rishi has put his head round the door into the room where I’m sleeping. James, who used to write nice things about us in The Times, jerks guiltily and closes the window on his computer screen.

I don’t know why he’s embarrassed; it was just an email he was writing to some of his old work friends asking if anyone needed someone to write nice things again. Apparently he expects to have a lot more free time by December, or February at the absolute latest.

“Dentist appointment,” says James.

“I expect that’s why he’s turned his phone off,” says Rishi. “I wanted to talk to him about what I’m doing in the local election campaigns.”

“Lot of campaign visits?”

“Oh, um, PM!” Liam looks awkward. “I was just at the doctor … ” “Dentist!” says James

“Well, that’s what I expected. But in the grid, Liam’s got me working on spreadsheets every day.”

“Well,” James says, “you do like spreadsheets.”

“That’s true, I do. I guess I just thought he’d want me out there fighting the good fight. Leading the charge. Rallying the troops. Meeting the voters, doing photo ops, that sort of thing.”

James takes a deep breath. “Sit down for a second, Rish. There’s something we ought to discuss.”

“I haven’t seen you this serious since school,” Rishi says, smiling. “You haven’t raided my tuck again, have you?”

“Look. The thing is, we’ve done some research, and we think … well, you know the Trident submarines?”


“You know how they scare our enemies more when no one sees them and no one knows where they are?”


“We think you’re like that.”

“I’m less threatening if people can see me?”

“No — well, yes — but also you’re more appealing to the voters if you’re not, well, if you’re not there.”


“So … spreadsheets?”

“Yes, please.”

The door opens, and Liam comes in. “Oh, um, PM!” He looks awkward. “I was just at the doctor … ”

“Dentist!” says James.

“Yes, dentist. Painful toothache, yeah.”

“You do make me laugh, Liam,” Rishi says. “Every day you come into Downing Street you’re scruffy as anything, but when you have a dental appointment, you comb your hair and put on a nice suit!” James and Liam are very quiet. “Well,” says Rishi, “I’d better get on with my spreadsheets.”

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