Today, I’d like to take a break from sketching to talk to you about The Other Critic Autumn Appeal, on behalf of The Society for The Relief of Distressed Toryfolk.
Think of the Conservatives you know. On the surface, they may seem sleek and self-satisfied, confident of holding power until the end of time. Perhaps they tell jokes about the French, or the Labour Party. With their red box and ministerial car, they seem the picture of smug success.
But underneath, there can often be hidden turmoil. Perhaps, like “Dom” – his real name – they recently suffered a humiliating demotion. Or like “Michael”, they’ve been put in charge of Fixing Everything That’s Wrong But Without Spending Any Money.
And that’s where we at the Society for The Relief of Distressed Toryfolk come in. Every year, we organise “conference”, a chance to get away from the stress of real life and just enjoy being a Conservative.
This year, we’ve brought our guests to Manchester. Here, safe behind a security cordon, they can drink champagne and talk about how well everything is going, with armed police keeping reality at bay.
It’s hard to overstate the difference it makes. Some of the ministers we help have never experienced a standing ovation before they come to “conference”. Here, they can glimpse how it feels to be competent and admired, before they’re forced to return to real life.
Take the Secretary of State for Agriculture. To protect his anonymity, we’ll call him “George Eustice”. In the outside world, he’s facing questions about unslaughtered pigs and broccoli rotting in fields. But for a few precious days at “conference”, he’s freed from all that, liberated to reminisce about his days as a strawberry farmer.
Or there’s “Frosty”. In Brussels and Dublin, Frosty is a laughing stock. Here in Manchester, he can pretend to be a flint-eyed negotiator who definitely never agreed to a border in the Irish Sea.
Here, they can glimpse how it feels to be competent and admired, before they’re forced to return to real life
Many of the people we help are just one broken promise away from disaster. But some are in a far more desperate situation. Take “Boris”. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of how many promises he’s made. It’s possible we never will. At first, we thought Boris just wanted people to stop asking him where the money is that he promised for the NHS, or why the supermarket shelves are empty, or where the petrol is. Of course, that’s the sort of thing “conference” would help him forget. But we soon realised that Boris’s needs run far deeper.
Desperate for attention, Boris insisted that none of the other visitors to “conference” should be allowed to make any announcements, or speak for more than 20 minutes. He demanded daily broadcast interviews to ensure he was always in the spotlight. At one stage things were so bad that the BBC had to tell him to stop talking.
A lot of people would have given up on Boris. But not us. We’ve arranged a special “rally” for him on Wednesday, in a big room that no one else is allowed to use. Of course, we can’t get him everything he wants: we had to explain to him that he couldn’t drive onto the stage in a tank, and the Red Arrow fly-past will have to wait for next year. But we know all our hard work will have been worth it when we see a brief flash of joy in his eyes at the sight of a cheering crowd.
It’s not just senior Conservatives we help. Ordinary party members, too, benefit from being somewhere where everyone thinks Brexit is a success. As “Nadine” told them yesterday: “It’s all good news!”
Can you help us? Perhaps you could not write to your MP about the situation in your child’s school. Or you could put off your hip operation, to keep the waiting lists down. Or, if you’re able, please send us a cheque. £50 will buy a bottle of fizz. Donations over £150,000 will be recognised with a seat in the Lords and a job at the Scotland Office.
Please, give what you can to help a Tory enjoy a few days without consequences.
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