The Crime of the Ancient Minister

 It is an ancient Minister,
And he stoppeth one of three.
“By thy stubbly beard and blood shot eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

 The doors of the pub are opened wide,
My turn to get a round;
My friends are there, and do not care
To miss on pound for pound.”

 He grabs him with a podgy hand,
“In Government,” quoth he.
‘Get off! Unhand me, old buffoon!
Here’s a pound for a cup of tea. ’

 He holds him with his rheumy eye –
The thirsty man stands still,
And listens like a teenager:
On a purple pill.

 The drinkless chap sat on a bench:
He cannot choose but hear;
Thus rambled on that ancient man,
The dull-eyed Minister.

“I was a politician,
Name of Albert Ross,
At thirty-three a new MP.
One day I would be boss.

 I had been a citizen
Of credit and renown.
A County Councillor eke was I
Of famous London Town”

 The good ale it was flowing,
Amber, crystal clear;
Drained from tinkling glasses
The model of fine beer.

 The parched throat uttered protest,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The dull-eyed Minister.

 “The very soul of loyalty.
Response to every pull.
Answered as to royalty.
Yes Sir, Yes Sir, three bags full.

 So every day, in every way,
I showed them my devotion.
It came as no surprise to me
That I received promotion.

 Higher and higher every step,
Well beyond my means –”
The would-be drinker here gave a moan,
And wriggled in his jeans.

 “Inevitable my just reward,
A call from Number Ten,
‘Here, have a drink to celebrate.
Don’t bother to say when.’

 At last, I thought, I’ve made it.
Nothing but the best –
Fine wines, chauffeurs, concubines,
Caviare and the rest.

 Soon there dawned reality,
Not as a single blow,
But by the page, the quire, the ream.
The boxes come and go.

 Paper, paper everywhere
And never time to think.
Paper, paper everywhere.
My God, I need a drink!

 A memo from the Treasury –
Your targets for today,
Your numbers from the day before
Belong in your out-tray.

 Spin doctors and advisors,
Constituents and press.
Never mind the stories,
You sort out the mess.

I stiffened up my sinews.
Was I man or mouse?
My name to earn, it was my turn
To address the House

 I stood at the dispatch box,
Full of manly pride,
Surveyed the scene, the benches green,
The PM at my side.

Began my peroration.
Phrases lofty soared.
The party hacks behind me
Hung on every word.

 Now came time for questions.
I felt great calm within,
At ease, and yet the trap was set
And deftly I fell in.

O vanity of hubris!
O pitiful the fall!
O insolence of office!
All was turned to gall.

 A flash, a sec, a moment,
No longer does it take.
I fell in to the cardinal sin

 The house then fell to silence.
A pin was heard to drop.
O miserable toad! I broke the code.
Was heading for the chop.

 The PM met the media
And handled it quite well
“The Minister is unassailable”
Which rang as my death knell.

 Offered resignation,
As I was told to do.
Accepted under protest
“Well, it’s up to you.”

The PM wrote “You’ll soon be back”
But what was rather odd he
Said quite clearly with his eyes
“Over my dead body.”

 Down and down the downward path,
But further to sink yet.
Finally caught in public
Smoking a cigarette.

 Into the Chamber softly
I stole on tippy toe,
To hear a fearful moaning
Like harbingers of woe.

 ‘I fear thee, ancient Minister!’
“Be calm, I bring no strife!
'Twas not the souls in torment, but
Back-benchers come to life.

I lost my seat, I lost my feet,
I lost the will to live.
O how could I have done it,
Who had so much to give?

 So I sank like jetsam,
No affliction missed.
Then I reached rock bottom;
Became a journalist.

 They only know, who sink so low,
What nature doth intend.
Inconsequence can drive you
Slowly round the bend.

I am doomed for a certain term
To walk the night and tell
My tale to whom will hear me
To save them from such Hell.

 So hear me well, young toper;
For I will say you sooth.
If you stray into politics,
Steer well clear of truth.”

 The Minister, whose eye is dull,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone; and now the drinker
Turned to the welcoming door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
Hath seen the world of strife:
A sadder and a wiser man
“Politics? Not on your life!”

 © John Brignell 2002


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