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The Christmas Countdown started early this year. You could feel everyone's eagerness to escape the Department's poisonous intrigue, and air-conditioning. People would stop and chat excitedly in the corridor. Not long now, yeah when do you break up, ha ha ha, oh soonish but definitely not before they've dismantled the NHS, ha ha ha, only joking, I don't think that's funny, please don't report me, sorry I'm only following orders. There's a definite chill in the air. I've never seen Scary Paula look so contented.


Departmental staff are voting today in the annual Biscuit Awards. The girls at reception buy a packet of bourbons and solemnly hand them out as prizes for outstanding work during the year. More complicated than usual, obviously, as we've had two regimes in 2010 - Ballsy's and The Gove's - and biscuits, like funding for education, are a finite resource.


A muted, furtive atmosphere at the lunchtime awards ceremony. Biscuits are now discouraged as "anti-progressive" in the Department. Lots of individual achievements acknowledged, including Sandra's spectacular cock-up of releasing, twice, the wrong list of school building projects to be scrapped. Ballsy is honoured in absentia for his breathtaking election claim that he'd won the backing of teachers. But ultimately it's The Gove who takes the biscuit for telling everyone categorically that Sure Start was safe. He's not there to collect his biscuit in person as that would mean most of us getting sacked, so we award it secretly.


Chaos at reception. Some "Bourbon Informer" grassed up the biscuit girls. They were outside with their bin bags full of stuff first thing. Gove, thy name is Wrath. And thy handmaiden is Scary Paula.


The Departmental Christmas Fancy Dress Party. Theme: Shakespeare. The Gove's worn his Richard III outfit every day for a month, but still manages to surprise us by swishing in with the full get-up: hunchback, sworddagger combo, and a creepy black wig that makes him look like the Patrick Troughton Doctor Who, or a very startled Una Stubbs in Summer Holiday. Scary Paula's come as Lady Macbeth, staring daggers. The whole event's politically charged and becomes more so as we all get pissed. Surprised not to see Ballsy, who we'd heard was coming as Hamlet's father's ghost. Plus, irritated by my beard (I'm one of the Mechanicals from A Midsummer Night's Dream). I fall into conversation at the drinks table with an Incidental Bear, unsteady on his feet after one too many flagons of Elizabethan punch. I tell him about Ballsy's no-show. Useless fat lump's probably networking somewhere, I say. You watch, in six months he'll be doing PR for Cadbury's ... oh bollocks, it's HIM. Exit, pursued by Balls.

As intercepted by Ian Martin.

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