The ministerial car was waiting outside my house to pick me up this morning. My ministerial car, with my personal driver, an ex-London cabby who goes by the name of Gab. Whether this is short for Gabriel or merely an allusion to his verbal dexterity I am yet to determine.
Gab took me to my new offices. Though I technically run my own department, I am based within the Home Office, on the 2nd Floor in Marsham Street.
I was greeted by my Private Secretary, Chloe, who introduced me to something close to 100 civil servants who make up the Ministry for Tiger Precautions, including the Assistant Private Secretary, a spotty teenager called Nigel. Amazingly when Chloe is absent Nigel is the senior civil servant within my department, I shall just have to hope that Chloe is never far away.
Sir Robert had already appointed me a Special Advisor, Major Reginal Huntly, a former soldier in one of our 'unofficial' specialist forces and now a Conservative policy advisor on all things tiger related. I also had a PPS, my fellow Lib Dem Dorset MP Reg Spicer, who I knew I could rely on to help me navigate the maze of ministerial papers and persons.
Although the Department had only been established that day, there was already a pile of correspondence for me to sign, including some minor policy decisions that required careful attention.
As with any first day at the office, by the end I was exhausted and was pleased that I completed the last of the papers just as the hands of the clock were turning to five p.m. However, no sooner was the in-tray empty than Chloe handed me a new pile of papers.. "This is the new Bill," she said.
"The new Bill?"
"The Precautions to be taken for the Prevention of Tiger Attack and Related Measures Bill, Minister," she said, "the one you're taking through parliament."
A Bill, this was the first I'd heard of it, but I pretended to know all about it, though Chloe saw through my lies thirty minutes later when I set off to go home, leaving the Bill behind me.
"Aren't you taking the Bill Minister?", she said, "the First Reading takes place tomorrow and there are likely to be questions. I've prepared a short briefing."
"Ah, of course," I said, picking up the papers and making to put them in my briefcase, again unwittingly showing my ignorance of all things ministerial.
"You'll need a red box, Minister," she said, "it's a confidential document, until it's published tomorrow."
"Ah, of course," I said again. I will have to be careful to get to grips with my portfolio quickly, civil servants are notorious for taking advantage of minister don't properly know their brief and I don't wish to fit into that category.
So it was that I was given my first red box, another symbol of my high level status in the corridors of power. Red boxes are lead-lined, locked cases, which are used for carrying confidential papers, so strong that if by misfortune a minister is killed by a bomb, or, to be topical, by tiger attack, the ministerial secrets and memos survive intact.
I arrived home early, just after seven, but sat up until midnight reading the Bill I was to present the next day. Although the First Reading doesn't involve a speech, indeed I am not actually required to say a single word, I merely have to be in the room when the Speaker mentions the Bill, there was none the less a strong possibility that a question might be asked in relation to the Bill and I needed to be an expert on its contents.
I retired exhausted, I will have to talk to Sir Robert about getting a junior minister to share my burden during the Bill's passage. Being a cabinet level minister is more hard work than glory, I just hope that the public appreciate the efforts I am putting in so that they can sleep safely in their tiger-free beds.
If I can just get this Bill through parliament, and the tiger safely back in its cage, I could be in the Cabinet permanently come the next reshuffle.