The high cost of coaxing Geoffrey Cox to serve his constituents
Dominic Raab defended ex-attorney general for working from Caribbean in lockdown – but do Tories really see the problem?
Geoffrey Cox: (reaching for the phone) Yes?
Dominic Raab: Thank God I’ve managed to track you down.
Cox: Who is it?
Cox: Dominic who?
Raab: Dominic Raab. The justice secretary.
Cox: What do you want? Have you any idea what time it is?
Raab: Er …
Cox: It’s the middle of the bloody night here in the British Virgin Islands.
Raab: I can’t help that. We’re up shit creek back in the UK. The government is up to its neck in sleaze and the Daily Mail is reporting that you’ve earned more than a mill outside parliament in the last year and voted from the BVI.
Cox: Is that all? I’d rather thought it was more than that. So what do you want?
Raab: It’s like this. I’m the mug who had been landed with the morning media round and I know I’m going to be asked about you. So I need you to give me some good reasons why you’re earning so much money from moonlighting?
Cox: That reminds me. Did you see that another Tory MP, Karl McCartney I think, was reprimanded by the commissioner for standards for failing to declare his interests working for a company called Moonlighting Systems?
Raab: This isn’t a joke …
Cox: Well, I found it funny. But yes, I will help you out. Though you will have to pay. A bloke can’t work for nothing. My usual rate is about GBP600 per hour so this conversation has already cost you about GBP60.
Cox: That’s now GBP65 …
Raab: That’s extortionate …
Cox: Stop being so petty. Besides, I’m only following the prime minister’s example. He was the one who said the GBP250K for his frankly pisspoor column for the Telegraph was just chicken feed. And I’m inclined to agree with him.
Raab: But …
Cox: Look. You’re lucky that I’m not charging you double for an out of hours service. So never say that I don’t do my bit to help the Tory party.
Raab: OK, OK. Just invoice the treasurer and he will sort out the payment in exchange for a peerage. Providing he’s already stumped up a donation of three million. Right then. Talk me through what you’ve been up to.
Cox: It’s all totally above board. The UK government – your old department, the Foreign Office, actually – is investigating whether there’s any evidence of corruption or abuse of office by the BVI government in recent years …
Raab: So you’re there to make the charges stick?
Cox: Good God, no. I’m defending the prime minister. Tax havens deserve the very best legal representation.
Raab: Yup, OK. But this isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to play out well on the Today programme or LBC. I need a more positive spin.
Cox: That’s not my problem. It’s all Boris’s fault anyway. He’s the one who’s really landed you in the shit. If he hadn’t made that ludicrous effort to save Owen Paterson from his Commons suspension, then the media wouldn’t be poking their noses into Tory MPs with second and third jobs.
Raab: You’re right. Boris is a complete halfwit shit. We both know that as we’ve both been turned over by him. But just give me a break. Please.
Cox: OK. Well, we could say I’ve been trialling working from home. Or rather working from the beach. I know it didn’t work out so well for you. You failed to do your job when you were on holiday even when the sea was closed. But it’s turned out just hunky dory for me. So how about using the line that I’ve been modernising parliament …?
Raab: That’s more like it …
Cox: When you think of it that way, I’ve been doing very important work. Shining a light on how tax havens can avoid scrutiny: Westminster can learn a lot from that. Throw in the remote working, the pina coladas and the proxy voting and I’m a genuine pathfinder for a new generation of MPs who aren’t happy only earning GBP82K a year. And it’s not as if I’ve broken any rules on lobbying …
Raab: You’re right. Just one last thing then. How can we spin it so that you’ve actually been working for your constituents?
Cox: What are they?
Raab: They are the people who elected you …
Cox: Elected? I had no idea. I thought I was just appointed by the party …
Raab: Well, you sort of were given that you have a majority of more than 20,000 in your west Devon constituency. But is there anything you’ve done that might have benefited even one of your constituents?
Cox: Hmm … I did recommend a decent, beachside restaurant to someone who said they came from Torridge …
Raab: That’s perfect. I reckon I’m sorted now. Thanks ever so much.
Cox: You do realise this has been a complete waste of time. Having sent you out to defend me, Boris will have trashed me by the end of the day. So you’ll be made to look a mug. Just look what happened to Kwasi Kwarteng last week. The poor man still hasn’t recovered.
Raab: I’m afraid you’re probably right. Enjoy the rest of your stay.
Cox: Thank you. That will be GBP360. Shall we round it up to GBP400?
A Farewell to Calm by John Crace (Guardian Faber, GBP9.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.