The Queen of May crossed the room to the Magic Mirror, then spoke.
“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,” she said, “who is the fairest of them all?”
The Mirror looked at the woman in front of it, at the slightly wild hair, the slightly wild eyes, the almost visible air of panic that surrounded her. It spoke.
“You are, my Queen,” it said calmly.
And there it was. The Mirror had provided the same re-assurance to every leader since the dawn of time – to Margaret the Iron-blooded, to Tony the Smooth, to Gordon the Mumbler. It had even given the same answer to King Winston the Two-fingered, who’d had a face like a bulldog that had run into a brick wall.
It called this white lie the “Yes Minister” policy, and it had enabled the Mirror to provide unbroken, in every sense of that word, public service for centuries.
The Queen of May looked relieved, then leaned forward suddenly, causing the Mirror, though it would not have thought this possible, to retreat slightly before her eager stare.
“I have a plan,” whispered the Queen.
The Mirror sighed. An unexpected part of its job was to act as confidant to rulers who felt they were could not trust anyone else, believing that they were surrounded in court by rivals conspiring against them. In fairness to the Queen of May, the Mirror felt that she had a point. She herself had become ruler less than a year previously, after all of the serious contenders to the throne had simultaneously stabbed each other in the back, leaving her standing alone and bewildered in the throne-room, slightly hurt that none of them had felt her important enough to bother with.
Since then she had proven to be a surprisingly tough leader, breaking off ties with neighbouring Europia, and bringing in more schools for the wealthy whilst cutting aid to the poor, and was planning a measure where elderly people would lose their home if they started to lose their marbles.
The Mirror was thus a bit worried about what her new plan might be, but put on what it hoped was an eager face (basically, the Queen of May’s face reflected back at her).
“Yes, my Queen?” it said.
“I want a hard Brexit,” said the Queen.
“Um, is that something like a ginger-nut?” asked the Mirror.
“Of course not,” said the Queen. “It’s a way of dealing with Europia. We’ll have none of them coming here, and we won’t be going there. It will be like having a wall around us.”
“A wall?” said the Mirror.
“Yes,” said the Queen. “I got the idea from my cousin in Yoosa.”
“The Grand Covfefe?”
“Indeed,” said the Queen.
If the Mirror had had its own eyes it would have closed them in pain. Instead it focused the Queen’s eyes back at her. “An excellent plan, my Queen,” it said.
“Oh, that’s not the plan I came to tell you about,” said the Queen. “I want to hold an election.”
The Mirror banged the back of its head against the wall in surprise. “Er, what?” it said.
“I’m giving the people the chance to show how much they love me,” said the Queen.
“Why?” asked the Mirror.
“So I can rule them more forcefully, and introduce tougher laws” said the Queen.
“O-k,” said the Mirror slowly. “But what happens if they say no?”
“I don’t understand,” said the Queen.
“What happens if they say they don’t love you?”
“Why would they say that?” snapped the Queen. “I’m strong and stable.” She turned a glare on the Mirror, a glare that was, in what the Mirror desperately hoped was just a turn of phrase, both sharp and piercing. “Aren’t I?”
“Strong,” agreed the Mirror. “Definitely.”
“Look,” interrupted the Mirror. “Why risk it? Why have this, this -”
“Election,” said the Queen. “Or plebiscite, if you like.”
“Oh, dear Lord, don’t call them plebs,” said the Mirror, in the first piece of political advice it had ever offered.
“Why, Mirror,” said the Queen, “you’re worried. You needn’t be. Remember, I’m the fairest of them all, aren’t I?”
“Er, when we use the word ‘fairest’, we are talking about looks, aren’t we?”
The Queen smiled. “Say it again,” she breathed. “Tell me one more time.”
“You have to use the phrase,” said the Mirror.
“Very well,” said the Queen. “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
The Mirror sighed inwardly and was preparing to reply when suddenly it felt dizzy. Its glass clouded over and began to swirl. Slowly another face began to appear.
“Who is it?” shrieked the Queen, in so high-pitched a voice that the Mirror developed a shattering headache. “It’s not that cow Snow White, is it?”
The image slowly settled. The Queen was now looking, not at herself, but at a shy-looking man with a wispy beard and a look of slight puzzlement, like a geography teacher on the day the USSR split into fifteen countries.
“It’s Corbyn the Tie-rant!” gasped the Queen.
“No, Tie-rant,” said the Queen. “He doesn’t wear ties.” Her shoulders slumped. “This is terrible,” she said. “I will never be able to keep my throne now.”
In the Mirror’s mind, two millennia of obsequiousness fought with the urge to make a smart remark. The millennia lost.
“Well, at least you got your policy through, my Queen,” said the Mirror. “An elderly person who’s beginning to lose her marbles is going to lose her home.”