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The Columnist
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King Tony
  Episode I
  Episode II
  Episode 111
  Episode IV
Episode V
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  Episode VII
  Episode VIII & 1X
  Episode X
  History of King Tony








Earlier this year I printed some extracts from the newly rediscovered play by Shakespeare, ‘The History of King Tony’, or ‘New Love’s Labour Lost’, and I am sometimes asked if here is any more of it. Certainly there is! Today I bring you part of the stormy ‘reshuffle’ scene, which marks the end of King Tony’s first year in power, and is, I think, full of dramatic interest.… 

The scene is King Tony’s court at Westminster, where several senior courtiers are awaiting the arrival of the king and discussing their promotion prospects, including Lady Harriet Harman, Milady Mowlam, Lord Tony Banks, Baron Blunkett, etc, with the Duke of Livingstone concealed behind a curtain, listening.

Lord Dobson:  Now comes the time, as summer creeps apace,
When all the court looks back a year and says:
‘Twas this time, twelve months back, that our fair king
Did climb the throne as Anthony the First
And give out titles, jobs and sinecures
To those who had befriended him before.
But officers of state are not in place for long.
And kings may pull them down just to seem strong.’

Duke Cook: It’s time that he should make some drastic changes.

Blunkett: Aye, and time to tremble in our shoes,
In case it’s us who’re destined for the chop.

Lord Tony Banks: You’re safe, at least, old man! For who would dare
Dismiss a kindly blind man and his dog!
That would look bad. Not even Tony’s men
Could spin it round so it looked good again.

Blunkett: Lord Banks, you never could resist a scurvy joke.
You ope your mouth before you stop to think.
You’re first to make a quip, I grant you that,
But last to be promoted, for that very reason.

Banks: Am I not master of the king’s own games and sports?

Blunkett: Aye, and will be five years hence! No other place
In Whitehall would admit your grinning face!

Duke Cook: The king is minded to promote Jack Cunningham,
Or so it’s said, to be his Grand Vizier.

Milady Mowlam: To be his WHAT?

Duke Cook: To fill this new post dreamt up by our king.
The Fixer-General, Chef d’Affaires, Great Lord
Of Pulling Strings Behind the Royal Scenes...

Blunkett: Ah yes, the Great Big Whitehall Panjandrum!
But this, I thought, was privily earmarked
To be the private fief of Mandelson...
All spit upon the ground at mention of the name.

Duke Cook: I would not see that upstart boosted thus!
That wily, weaselly lizard with forked tongue.
I would not trust him further than I see him.

Blunkett: I see him not at all, and yet I trust him...

Cook: You trust Lord Mandelson? You must be mad!

Blunkett: I see him not at all, and yet I trust him
To rise as far as boundless ambition springs.
He rises far who has the ear of kings...

Lord Banks: But soft! I see the king himself who comes,
Walking and musing, and sighing too, I ween.
The affairs of state weigh heavy on his brain.
Let’s go and cheer him up as he comes by!

Blunkett: Nay, let’s have no more jokes from you, Lord Banks.
The way you cheer up men makes them feel worse.
Let’s rather stand away and lend an ear;
Perchance we shall, as he walks by, hear words
That tell us what he privily purposes.

The courtiers withdraw as the king slowly walks past, musing out loud.

King Tony:  Alas, poor Harriet! You were always good
On Question Time, and radio’s Any Questions!
You shone in opposition, and were a coming star.
Now look how slow you move. I must devise
A way of firing you without it seeming so.
Welfare was your brief; as far as I can tell,
It’s now reversed, and welfare becomes farewell!

Lord Banks:(Aside)
I never thought to hear the king, alone,
Make jokes much worse than mine ! Excuse my groan...

King Tony: And Doctor Jack, Lord Cunningham - where shall
I move you so that you can do least harm?
I cannot let you make another gaffe
Like ‘beef on the bone’. That was far too naff...
And Mistress Mowlam! You have done so well
In Northern Ireland, that I’ll keep you there.
Duke Prescott seems quite happy playing with cars,
And Gordon-Brown will chunter on for hours,
Explaining things to anyone who’ll listen....
Once I understood the British economy.
Then Gordon-Brown explained it. Now it’s a mystery...

King Tony exits, still talking to himself...The courtiers come out of the shadows.

Blunkett: Come, we have heard enough. Now let’s away,
To carry on our plot some other day. 

Duke of Livingstone comes out of hiding.

Livingstone: I fear them not. For all they want is power.
Wait till I’m London’s Mayor! Then comes my hour!
Exit Duke of Livingstone.
More of this soon, I hope.

March 10th 1998

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