Sue Moroney, Chief Whip of the opposition Labour Party, the party most famous for opposing itself, entered the office of David Cunliffe, the First Among All the Davids and Leader of the Opposition. She found him, as she had often found him in recent times, slumped over his desk, his head in his hands.
"Tell me the good news, Sue," he said.
"There is no good news, David. Though I suspect we are entering the phase now where even mildly bad news could be called 'good' news."
"So the news is only mildly bad, then?"
"No. No, I'm afraid the news isn't even close to mildly bad, unless your definition of 'mildly bad' is the same as your definition of 'terrible'. The Shane situation has, as we feared, spiralled wildly out of control. We are losing MPs even faster than we are shedding
points in the polls."
David Cunliffe whimpered, a sound no grown man should ever make. Sue's heart went out to him, even though, strictly speaking, as Chief Whip, she wasn't meant to have a heart.
"It's my fault, boss," she said. "The writing was on the wall with Shane, and it was my job to know what it meant. And maybe if I'd acted sooner I could have stopped the exodus."
"No, don't be so harsh on yourself, Sue, no one could have seen coming what Shane did."
"No, seriously, after he lost the leadership battle Shane wrote '%#&<\@> yous, I'm out of here' in really big letters, on the wall of his office. We all thought it was his idea of a joke. Did you never see it, in Shane's office? Really big letters, hard to miss."
"I never go into Shane's office. I'm too scared of what he might be doing when I walk in. Okay, give me the gory details, who have we lost today?"
"Well, Jacinda has resigned to become a spokes-model for Colgate; Cosgrove's landed a gig managing the Countdown in Rangiora; David P muttered something about there being too many Davids and not enough Goliaths and tramped off into the bush; Grant Robertson has accepted a job as a tolerance counsellor at the NZCTU; and Annette has decided going back to being a dental nurse is better that being Labour Spokesperson for Health."
"The best and the brightest, gone," David sighed mournfully.
"Oh yeah, and Trevor Mallard's buggered off too - no idea where."
"Jumped ship, the lot of them, like rats."
"Are you saying we're a sinking ship, sir?"
"Not at all," David rallied, remembering the Party line. "We're on track to win the election, and let's not forget it."
There was a long, awkward, very long and extremely silent, silence, until David felt the need to end the silence before it strangled both of them.
"What about Shearer? Which part of the world has he gone off to save this time?"
"Not entirely clear," frowned Sue. "The thing about David S is that he seems to have vanished or become invisible. No one's actually seen him for ages, but every now and then you think you hear his voice, way, way in the distance, as if carried on a gentle breeze."
"So you're saying he's still here, then."
"It would seem so, for the time-being, it really is very difficult to tell. On the upside, boss, Tamati Coffey is still exceedingly keen about the whole politics thing and he reckons he can bring other ex-TV presenters like Nice One Stu and Hey Hey It's Andy into the Party if we're really short on numbers - which we are, by the way. Mind you, we're also short on numbers in the polls, so the culling process we're going through at the moment might actually end up kind of balancing out the two sets of numbers. And on that note, sir, is there any chance I could be bumped a little higher up the Party List? Just to be safe, you know, not that I'm worried."
"Sue, you're well in the Top 10 already."
"Top 5 would be good - just to be, as I say, safe."
There was another silence, to rule all the silences. "I can't promise anything, Sue. Sure, you've been a loyal servant to the Labour Party, but then haven't we all? Haven't we all fought the good fight? And look where that has got us."
David sighed, closed his eyes, just for a second, as if this could make the horror go away. And when he opened his eyes, Sue Moroney, Chief Whip, had gone, like a Shane Jones into the night. The room was so empty it was like David Shearer was standing in front of him.
David Cunliffe put his head back in his hands. It was the only thing that seemed to help these days.