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“Oh cripes,” said the Prime Minister, turning to the Cabinet Secretary. “Have you seen the story in the Daily Mirror? I appear to have hosted an illegal drinks party by mistake. Who could have made me do such a thing? Was it you?”

Simon Case removed his glasses slowly and started to clean the lenses, gently, with the end of his Harvie and Hudson silk knitted tie.

“Let us say for the sake of argument, Prime Minister, that this hypothetical party on the 18 December 2020 during Covid Tier 2 restrictions happened, but that you cannot remember it happening. Can it, then, really be said to have happened in any meaningful metaphysical sense? It is a question of logic, surely.”

The Prime Minister nodded, running a hand through his hair: “I see. You think it might mean that the party disappears if I can’t remember it? Is this like that Brown-trouser, sorry Brownlow chap, and the flat and me begging for money for Carrie’s wallpaper? And then the magical appearance of that WhatsApp message I forgot I sent to Brownlow?”

“There are similarities, Prime Minister,” said Case, nodding. “This allegation on your party, that I must stress did not happen, may require a brisk but thorough investigation to confirm whether the party that didn’t happen, did, indeed, not happen.”

“Simon, can you think of anyone sound to investigate this for us?”

The Cabinet Secretary looked away, into the middle distance, towards the portrait of Charles I above the fireplace, and smiled. 

The investigation by Case got underway. Officials were summoned. Over the course of ten days, interviews with terrified advisors were conducted. Witnesses were reminded not to destroy evidence such as WhatsApp messages relating to parties that never happened.

On the tenth day of sleuthing, disaster. The inquiry hit a snag.

“Turn on Guido, look at it,” shouted a furious Prime Minister, out of breath from having sprinted down the stairs from the Downing Street flat. Dilyn the dog, who had followed the Prime Minister, began to bark wildly. This only accentuated the sense among some observers that Number 10 had, in recent weeks, begun to resemble the interior of a bunker in Berlin in late April 1945. Dilyn had better watch out for revolvers, thought one of the watching secretaries.

Simon Case logged on and began to read.

“The Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the official tasked with investigating last year’s illicit Downing Street parties, had himself attended an impromptu Christmas drinks party,” ran the report.

“But… but… this is categorically untrue, Prime Minister,” said a flustered Case.

“You mean,” said the Prime Minister, “that when you undertook to investigate the party that never happened, that I forgot, you yourself had attended a similar party, that you also forgot. Does that mean neither your party nor my party happened? Simon, are we in the clear?”

Dr Simon Case CVO, career mandarin, one-time advisor to trainee King William, took off his glasses and put his head in his hands.