Richard Pierce

Politics, Writing

Day 299

A bit politics-laden, this blog, lately, but that’s appropriate, really. We have a Tory party that’s a mess, the third Tory Prime Minister in 6 weeks (or less). Now, neither Johnson nor Truss claimed in their first speech that they would bring “integrity and accountability” back into their politics, but Sunak did exactly that yesterday in his speech outside 10 Downing Street. Then went into the building and reappointed Braverman as Home Secretary, and carried on in that merry fashion by bringing back into government many of the previous lying heads that had surrounded Johnson. And, as sure as day turns into night and night turns into day 24 hours after he became Prime Minister, Sunak went into Prime Minister’s Questions defending the Braverman appointment (that’s the integrity bit gone), and side-stepping questions about having been secretly filmed boasting about diverting “levelling-up” funding from deprived areas in the North to affluent rural Tory areas in the South, in this case Tunbridge Wells and questions about the previous non-domiciled tax status of his wife and why that tax loophole, which costs the UK Treasury £3.2 billion a year isn’t being closed as soon as possible (that’s the accountability bit gone).

Even some right of centre Tories are appalled by the Braverman re-appointment, and it seems to be only the Brexit-rabid section of the Tory party which is taking exception to political commentators (and people like me) saying that a minister who has broken the Ministerial Code shouldn’t be a minister any longer – but then look at how long Johnson hung on for after breaking the Ministerial Code, and how he defended Patel, the previous racist Home Secretary, after it was declared by the parliamentary standards watchdog that she, too, had breached the Ministerial Code. Let’s face it, Sunak is no different at all to Truss or Johnson or May or Cameron when it comes to telling untruths, when it comes to protecting his and his party’s own interests. And, at the risk of repetition, let’s just remember that, actually, Sunak has broken the Ministerial Code, too, because he does have a criminal record after having had to pay a fine for breaking the law during one of the covid-19 lockdowns. But repetition is necessary to keep reminding the public (and possibly ourselves) of how particular politicians have broken the law, and how particular politicians continue to lie in the House of Commons (the irony being, of course, that the antiquated rules of that place do not allow one MP to call another a liar – so we have had politics based on lies for decades/centuries).

Talking of rabid Brexiters – rabies used to be a disease that came to the UK from Europe. Now it seems it is a home-grown UK disease specific to right-wing politicians. And, mark my words, Sunak and his cabal of old ministers are as right-wing as they come.



‘Do you mind if I join you once I can?’ That voice again.

Aggie doesn’t even turn round. ‘I’d rather you didn’t.’

‘Is that any way for a servant to treat her master?’

‘You’re not my master.’

‘Is that so?’

The plane keeps climbing into the dark sky, vibrations running its length as it pierces the clouds.

‘I wasn’t surprised to see you,’ he says. ‘But surprised you didn’t come in a taxi. I almost missed you.’

‘I had it drop me off away from the terminal.’

‘My, such thoughtfulness to keep the deceit going.’

‘I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve.’

‘Neither do I, really. I should just blow up the plane.’

‘I’d watch my words if I were you.’ Aggie’s rage is building; she can feel it. Tries to keep it down.

‘Oh, in case cabin crew hear, and they set an air marshal on me? Now that would be quaint.’

‘The deaths would be meaningless,’ Aggie says. ‘Your death would be.’

‘Oh, you think it’s the real me this time, do you? Sorry to disappoint, but even I’m not that foolish.’

‘Then I don’t know what you want.’

‘I’ll tell you when this damn seatbelt sign goes off.’ He giggles. ‘Unless the plane goes off before then, of course.’


He doesn’t answer, and Aggie leans back in her seat and closes her eyes. Perhaps he has a blade that long enough and sharp enough to penetrate through the seat and kill her while she pretends to sleep. But she doubts it, although she thinks anything is possible.

The plane keeps going, and it feels to Aggie like it’s trying to get too high, that surely it’s passed the point where it should be levelling out at its cruising altitude. She looks out of the window, but all she can see is the top of the louds that they’re over now, the red flashing light on the belly of the plane reflected back at her in crazy swirling patterns.

‘Such a pretty pillow to fall on to,’ Valentine whispers.

‘Oh, shut up,’ she says. ‘I’ll call cabin crew in a minute and really get them to do something with you.’

‘Oooh, I can’t wait,’ he says in a high-pitched voice. ‘Though I’m not sure Cassie would like what you’re suggesting. She’s such a very faithful woman.’

Aggie shakes her head.

The seatbelt sign goes out, accompanied by the annoying sound it always makes when it’s switched off.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ Aggie growls when she perceives his movement behind her.

‘You’re such a spoilsport,’ he says. ‘Why do you have to be so damn uncivilised.’ He sighs. ‘Just like these damn planes nowadays. There were times when you could have a cigarette when the lights went out.’

‘I didn’t realise robots had cravings,’ Aggie says.

‘Oh, we have the freedom to have anything, as long as the freedom is programmed into our operating parameters. And I crave nicotine, and many other things besides.’ That inhuman giggle again.

‘Sounds like you’re malfunctioning,’ Aggie says.

‘Oh dear, touched a nerve, have we? My AI allows me to have my own laugh, and I seem to have developed a rather odd one. Not that I mind, particularly. It’s quite funny to annoy people with it.’

‘Not a direct clone, then?’

‘Oh, the real me can see everything this me is doing,’ he says. ‘But I have a certain amount of free will. Of course, I could choose just to blow this me up, and you along with me, but that wasn’t really the point of this.’

‘Then what was?’

‘You disposed of that other me very effectively. Very impressive. You’re a very clever resourceful woman.’ He coughs discreetly. ‘That’s why I was going to ask you to join me. We don’t have to fight.’

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