From the private papers of Sir Humphrey Appleby
Met Arnold at the club this evening. He seemed concerned, which surprised me, as our lords and masters have been unusually well behaved of late. A couple of glasses of the better whisky persuaded him to open up a little. It seems he is having problems with his latest protege, young MH. I wondered if MH, like Woolley, is sometimes a little slower on the uptake than is desirable in those whose task it will one day be to steer our great ship of state.
"No, no, it's not that at all. Quite the opposite. Gets things done. The problem is, he has a taste for drama. The flourish."
I raised an eyebrow.
"Flamboyant, would you say?"
"No. At least, I don't think so. But he likes the grand gesture. Grand Guignol, sometimes."
I was appalled.
"Arnold, surely you can't mean he has the instincts of – a politician?"
He was quick to reassure me.
"He doesn't want public acclaim. But he wants the people he deals with to appreciate how terrifyingly clever he is. Sort of chap who'd do well South of the river. Where he must on no account go."
"Keep your friends close, hmm?"
So, the question is, how do we keep young MH both close enough to ensure that his sense of the dramatic does not ruin the best laid plans of his elders and betters, and at enough of a distance that he does not try to supplant them? I suggested that a short spell in Hacker's office would be enough to try the most ingenious of minds, particularly if it were to coincide with one of his periodic economy drives.