ITEM 1: IMPLEMENTATION. The Department is on its best behaviour - the Tories are here on an official visit. A General Election's only a year away, which means shadow ministers and their teams can start liaising with civil servants about future policy. It's called implementation and is mostly very jolly, like a World War One Christmas armistice football match. Our think tank's not really affected: we're neither civil servants nor party-affiliated. That's probably why nobody from the Conservative team has been in touch with us then, says Caz uncertainly. Yeah, we're independent, free thinkers, agrees Owen, when the Tories take over they'll inherit our expertise, right? Actually, it is a TINY bit odd that we've not been invited to a briefing session yet.
ITEM 2: FIRE DRILL. Wow, we haven't had one of these for ages. I'm huddled with the smokers in the car park by the No Smoking sign, chatting to this young, smartly-dressed woman. Oh, this is just part of the implementation exercise, she says. We need to make sure the alarm works, don't we? All that backlogged paperwork, place could go up like a bonfire. We'll be checking where the stopcock is and stuff like that after lunch, ha ha.
Oh my God, she's part of the Conservative team. She offers a handshake: pleased to meet you, by the way - Bryony Stamp, Shadow Futures Delivery Taskforce. "What?" I blurt. Er ... Colin Watt? From Accounts? Hey, looks like they're letting us back in, catch you later yeah?
ITEM 3: LUNCH. I knew it, says Sandra, toying with her starters. They've got their own think tank. Doesn't matter what we do now - beat Britain's top quiz team on Eggheads, dodge Scary Paula's spending cuts, come up with some good ideas - we'll still be out of a job. Max says we should be proactive. Intercept the shadow team, find out what ideas they've got, then nick them. We vote 4-1 for him to do the intercepting.
ITEM 4: REPORT. Max returns. He found Tory think tank. Spoke to this girl Bryony, he says. Very friendly but not much help. She reckons the Opposition is just trying out policy "flavours" at the moment. Freedom's one. Competition's another. Hey, says Sandra, let's suggest a nationwide Free Competition for school places. Yeah, says Caz, only let's call it a postcode lottery.
ITEM 5: INSPECTION. End of the day, I'm dozing with my feet on the desk. The door flies open. It's Team Gove! A bloke who looks like a veal calf in an Asda suit, plus his retinue, including Bryony. Just touching base, she says, introducing me to Mr Neo-Con Vealcalf as "Colin From Accounts". They melt away again. Bryony lingers. She's very impressed, how clever to have someone from Finance wired into blue-sky thinking, a nice balance of idealism and pragmatism. We're definitely stealing THAT idea, ciao. Bugger. - Inchworm.