Your big chance to make a difference!
How would you like to run the country for three weeks while Gordon Brown is away on holiday? It couldn’t be easier. I’m offering the unique opportunity for one lucky reader to take command of Downing Street this summer in the absence of the Prime Minister following news this week that the political contenders for the role are causing Gordon Brown a few headaches.
All you have to do is answer one simple question to be entered in my Grand Prize Draw. Here is the question: What sort of hat does a cowboy wear? Is it: a) a Datsun, or b) a Stetson, or c) a Simpson?
You can telephone your answer to my premium telephone line or send us a text, costing £30 a time. Remember, you have to be over the age of 16 to enter.
The winner will be picked up from his or her home and taken by chauffeur-driven limousine to Downing Street. On the journey there will be a briefing on the current political situation by the chauffeur.
After being photographed waving, you will be ushered into Number 10 to take tea with the Cabinet Secretary’s PA’s secretary ‘s admin assistant and will be shown the actual sofa where all the important decisions are taken. You will then be presented with an easy-to-follow handbook How to Run the Country which you will be able to keep as a souvenir after your stint at Number 10.
The handbook gives tips on such matters as waving-while-walking, how to check for messages on the PM’s answering machine and what to do if the hotline develops a fault. It also contains a speech saying that you’re monitoring the situation closely – just in case there is an unexpected international crisis and you can’t get Douglas Alexander on his mobile.
I have organised a packed diary for your weeks in office. On the first Tuesday you will be showing a party of schoolchildren round the Department of Work and Pensions then later rushing to Heathrow to greet the Bolivian holiday relief foreign minister on a stopover on his way to Paris. (If the holiday relief foreign minister is not available I’m hoping to line up somebody from a Taiwanese trade delegation. If that is not possible you will have the option of sending messages of goodwill to various countries.)
With a bit of luck, you may be able personally to scramble the RAF to deliver something that Sarah Brown has forgotten to take on holiday. And I’m arranging for you to summon the Secretary of State for Defence to Downing Street for urgent talks. Pressure of work means it won’t be the actual Secretary of State, but a Mr R.G. Higginbottom, who is believed to be 17th in line of seniority at the ministry and is said to be “very big in camouflage”.
The highlight of your time in charge will be Your Very Own Crisis. (See page 86 of your handbook for the illustrated guide on “How to look grave”.)
You will be the envy of all your friends as you come out on to the pavement outside Number 10 to announce to the cameras that the situation is now under control, but as a precaution you are cancelling all leave for the Corps of Commissionaires. I’m hoping to lay on the level of crisis that will allow you to say: “The Prime Minister will not be flying back early from holiday, but I am, of course, keeping him fully informed throughout.”
There will be ample rehearsal time before your big press conference and leading political speech coaches will train you in how to say: “This is just one of those silly season stories and I’m not even going to dignify it with a comment. All I will say is that the Government is getting on with the job it was elected to do.”
So, for the experience of a lifetime, just get the old brain working on that question about cowboy hats and you could be the one in the saddle. If you think you know the answer, get telephoning or texting to win your place in history. Or you can enter by post, marking the envelope “Acting Prime Minister”.
I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy yourself so much running the country that you won’t be able to resist writing your memoirs. And for the runners-up there are 100 life peerages to give away. The next 100 runners-up get the chance to enjoy a whole week as head of the quango of their choice. So hurry – a week is a long time in politics!
One final point: when sending in your entry to the quiz please also include your head size.
As Acting Prime Minister, the winner will be fitted with a special safety helmet for being photographed while doing a walkabout at an ambitious building project – details yet to be confirmed.
If the eventual winner ducks out for any reason, Lord Mandelson will stand in for him/her.