Virtual Ministers…

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak meets Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay Wikimedia Commons This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. It has been recoloured.

Greetings, South-westerners! Now you see him…

The news that Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health, was meeting the Prime Minister for discussions about the NHS refutes the widespread belief, supported by the press and social media, that he is a Virtual Minister.  

Virtual Ministers are the result of a dire shortage of genuine candidates for senior posts, as Central Office has gradually run out of suitable figures to run key ministries, like health, transport, defence, etc..  Repeated changes of ministers have led to a  vacuum in the ranks.  This has been intensified as several MPs have found themselves the subject of accusations of improper behaviour and are therefore ineligible for high office.

But the public has got wise to it.   You hear of a minister of this, or that, and you say “Who?  Never heard of him/her.  Where did they come from?”  

The answer’s simple:  you’re hearing about a Virtual Minister, constructed by artificial intelligence (AI), complete with posh accent, smart gear, a virtual knighthood or title of Dame, and a glossy history of success in creating shell companies in the Caymans.  The use of AI explains why most of what they say at interview sounds flat, repetitive and mechanical.  The answer to every question is usually: “The government has spent X million pounds on this.”

This also seemed to explain why Steve Barclay was never available to speak to the NHS unions, creating the impression that he didn’t really exist. The recent news may be something of a relief for suffering doctors and nurses, though it fails to explain where he has been hiding.

The most spectacular Virtual Minister is Grant Shapps, repeatedly moved from post to post where, chameleon-like, he is briefly seen walking away through a doorway, after which he becomes completely invisible until he is required to appear for the next posting. 

So there you have it:  your first real taste of AI.  Make sure the next Prime Minster isn’t a Virtual.  Even the present one might be – you never know!

MI (“Lord”) Birtwhistle, 

Ministry of Truth and Unreality.

Barclay has no problem with maintaining the Conservatives’ record for lies… Ed