Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

There I Sat in the Palace of Westminster, Idly Fantasising about My Crossbow

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

There I Sat in the Palace of Westminster, Idly Fantasising about My Crossbow

Article excerpt

It was suggested that I be a parliamentary sketchwriter, so I spent three days in the Palace of Westminster writing failing witticisms in the Press Gallery. It's made of carved wood and crazed knobs and it is very disorientating, covering mass psychopathy in what, essentially, is a Disney castle.

My pieces weren't good, probably because I just sat there, idly fantasising about shooting the prime minister with a crossbow. I knew I could get a crossbow into the palace by day two; they don't search hacks for weaponry. I also knew--or rather suspected that the political editor of the Times, who I was sitting next to in the Press Gallery, wouldn't stop me shooting the prime minister with a crossbow, out of a mixture of professionalism and ennui, which, in my imagination, made him very likeable. I did think the political editor of the Sunday Times would stop me. He would rugby tackle me to the floor, remove my crossbow and be awarded a peerage. This, then, is what I thought about in the Press Gallery as I wilted: journalistic ethics. Some hacks report the news; some fantasise about murder; some write in expectation of a peerage.

I was also stymied by the expectation that I write something "funny" about Chris Grayling. I have nothing to say about Chris Grayling, funny or otherwise, except that I think he looks like a bent policeman, and even more so from above. As I watched government ministers lie they didn't even lie glibly; they lied with a rueful kind of professionalism, men taking one for the team--I couldn't think of anything to say. …

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