Theresa May looked at the cards in her hand. She’d practised a few times in front of the bedroom mirror. They all thought she was a dull sort, but she’d show them what a card-sharp she was.
She took a drag on her imaginary cheroot and waited until the pretend smoke disappeared from the green baize dealing table. She’d been online and watched a video on how to “shuffle like a pro”.
Well, she was going to reshuffle like a pro.
But it didn’t get off to the best of starts. Quite a few cards fell from her fingers. And when she flourished her best cards, the crowd in the saloon mostly shrugged and carried on not paying attention.
Events had spiked that pack, that was the trouble.
The ‘joker’ was never going to move. That was her name for Boris, even though she found him as funny as toothache. She couldn’t move any of the big names: Philip, Amber or that Brexit double act, David and Liam. What had she even seen in that pair? For the life of her she couldn’t remember.
Theresa put that shameful question from her mind as she concentrated on the Jeremy Hunt two-card trick. She dealt her cards well, just as she’d practised, but Hunt spoilt everything by refusing to take the new ‘trick’ of business secretary.
He’d walked into her saloon with one job title and left with two: health secretary and social care secretary. Maybe she was cleverer than they all thought – no one had a clue what to do about social care, so Hunt might as well mess that brief up as well.
The pianist in the corner slowed the beat as Mrs Maybe prepared for one was sure she could pull off. Reshuffle Justine Greening from Education to the Department for Work and Pensions. That little woman would never put up a fight.
Theresa fanned the pack and pulled out the right two cards, but Justine stood her ground and got into a furious strop. She wasn’t going anywhere. Justine quit, leaving Theresa to pull off a new trick when she wasn’t even that good at the old ones.
By the end of the afternoon, Theresa said to herself (and anyone who was listening): “That went well.” As she stood to leave the dealing table, she ignored all the cards at her feet. Some were torn in half, others had bent corners.
The next morning at breakfast, she was nibbling a piece of toast while Philip read the newspapers. “What are the reviews like, Philip?” she asked.
Philip hid the Daily Telegraph behind the toast-rack, as he knew that the front-page headline “Night of the blunt stiletto” wouldn’t do much for her mood. He slid the marmalade pot on the front page of the Daily Mail – “No, Prime Minister!”. He’d tried saying no to his wife; never got you anywhere: it was a surprise how stubborn life in that vicarage had made her.
He put the butter dish over The Times – “Greening quits in shambolic reshuffle” and dropped the Financial Times – “accident-strewn” – on the floor.
“Splendid,” he said. “They all like your reshuffle card trick very much.”
He glanced at Twitter and saw that Ruth Davidson had just tweeted… “Sorry to see @JustineGreening leave government – she brought her non-nonsense, northern accountant’s eye to every brief and is a real role model for LGBT+ Conservatives.”
He turned his phone off.
“Yes, it’s all gone splendidly, dear.”