The Home Secretary liked to fight crime on Thursday evenings, unless it was particularly cold or particularly wet, and then he would skip it and do some paperwork instead. But if the temperature was right and the air was dry, he would take his special outfit – black suit, black polo neck sweater, black boots and black balaclava, dropped at the dry cleaners by his wife every Friday morning – and march out into St James?s Park.
There was always some crime or another that needed his attention. There was a lot of stuff that waspetty but annoying, the type of thing that voters found irritating but not terrifying – littering, dog mess, mildly anti-social behaviour of the shoving-and-shouting kind.
But then there were the muggers, who brazenly infested the park under the eyes of the Palace itself, stepping out from behind trees and demanding wallets and phones in oddly polite voices. When he saw one of them, he would hide himself behind a different tree and wait for them to conclude their business. Then he would step up behind them and accost them, identifying himself as ?Chief of Police? (this was his crimefighter name, and it was also, in its way, the truth) in a voice so firm and terrifying that they surrendered themselves immediately.
He?d catch three or four muggers like this every Thursday night. They didn?t always surrender, and they weren?t always polite – some of them swore at him, and on one memorable evening he was forced to use his Chief of Police Stick, a kind of umbrella made especially for him by James Smith & Sons. He took this umbrella everywhere he went, to meetings at the palace and to sessions at parliament, and nobody suspected that it was in fact a kind of cudgel. So when this particular mugger swore at him in the park, he was surprised to be struck about the head with an umbrella, only realising on impact that the umbrella was heavy and solid and skull-threatening. The mugger did not get up again. Ever.
At the end of his busy night, the Home Secretary would go back to his offices and change out of his black uniform. The next morning, he would call in his special advisers, and talk about Britain?s Mugging Problem.
?It?s getting worse. Much worse. Why, I caught a half-dozen last night alone,? he said. The special advisers, all of whom had been dressed as ?muggers? the night before in the long-standing tradition of their team, looked at each other. ?I?m announcing a new initiative. Mandatory five-year terms for first offenders.?
?But, Home Secretary,? said the most senior special adviser, who had been pretending to be a mugger on Thursday evenings for three years. ?Our research shows a steep fall in crime of this type.?
?That has not been my experience,? said the Home Secretary, firmly, his special umbrella leaning against his thigh.
?But, Home Secretary, the plural of anecdote is not?.?
?You?re fired,? said the Home Secretary, and they moved on.