Border control row: a page from Mrs May's diary explains all
The most recent border control row is in full swing. While Theresa May and Brodie Clark have it out, the following diary extract sheds a little more light
12th July 2010
V. tough day today.
Was in the middle of an agonising decision when Trudi (Permanent Under Sec. or something like that), enters without knocking (AGAIN), and tells me that Brodie Clark is on the phone.
Who’s he? I ask. Turns out he is the top bod at Immigration or Border Agency or whatever we’re calling it this week. Okay, okay, I say, give me the phone (the agonising decision I’d been mulling over had to be put on the back burner for a bit - which was v. annoying).
Brodie (what kind of name is that anyway?), asks me if I know about what’s happening at UK airports. Stupid question that deserves stupid answer so I tell him I assume that some planes arrive and some planes take off and what’s it got to do with me anyway, isn’t that Hammond’s job?
Well, turns out that UK Border Control’s in a bit of a mess and that there are gargantuan queues of great unwashed so long that some planes can’t even get disembarked or whatever they call it; too many people hanging around the tarmac, clutching stuffed donkeys and plastic bags full of cheap Spanish Menthol Superkings and generally getting in the way.
Apparently some passengers are getting a bit annoyed at waiting 4 hours – want to get home to see if Sky Plus worked over the fortnight, get some real food down them, have a proper pint etc.
Not really got time to sort this one out as agonising decision getting more pressing by minute. Honestly these Civil Service types, absolutely no gumption.
Tell Brodie (wasn’t he one of the Professionals in the 80s? Sure that was him. Far too smooth for my liking, I quite fancied the other one, the judge fella, had curly hair back then, Shaw?). Anyway, ask Brodie why is it that Immigration staff can’t process them all more quickly.
He says it’s because all his Border Agency staff are on their holidays – it’s summer after all; don’t I have a heart etc. This is ridiculous I tell him. It’s summer, the busiest time of the year, what are they doing having holidays now? He says it’s Union agreement from way back when. It’s in the rules.
So I say, what about the new electronic passport readers, weren’t they supposed to make things quicker?
Apparently most of them don’t work and they lost the user manuals at Gatwick so they definitely won’t work there.
And when they do get them to work at LHR and LTN, people with the new passports are so stupid they can’t work out how to use them. So Border chaps have to show them how to and that takes staff away from being at their desks and checking passports and so the queues get bigger.
Go back to my own desk at this point to make a note to blame previous government if this ever comes up.
A good Minister makes a good decision decisively, so they say. And that’s just what I do. OK Brodie, I say, here’s the plan. If they have an EU passport just get the staff to wave them through. That’ll crack it. OK?
His line begins to break up. He’s using a Blackberry. I can tell.
What was that? Asks Brodie.
I say again through the crackling static, just get the staff to wave them through. Capisce?
What? Says Brodie, all of them?
Agonising decision can wait no longer and shoots up towards the top of my mental priority list. Turn round to gaze at leopard-skin killer stilettos, then look at green suede kitten heels beside them. C’mon God, help me here.
All of them? Asks Brodie again down the phone.
Kitten heels looking lovely in the dappled sun from window.
“Yes! Yes! For God’s sake man – just get it sorted! All of them!”
But then again, leopard-skin, I mean, don’t they just look dreamy?
Are you sure? Asks Brodie.
I’ve made up mind; nothing more to be said I say etc. and put the phone down.
Adrian Moss is an award-winning screenwriter and a chapter-contributor to Biteback's recent publication, "Prime Minister Boris and Other Things Which Never Happened..."
We are wholly dependent on the kindness of our readers for our continued work. We thank you in advance for any support you can offer.