Another week, another summons to the Russian ambassador’s residence, whose Friday lunchtime press conferences are surely now meant to be understood as a daring avant gardist interpretation of Shaggy’s 2000 denialist reggae summer classic, “It Wasn’t Me”.
Indeed it’s not immediately clear whether Ambassador Alexander “RikRok” Yakovenko wants us to tune in week by week or hold out for the DVD box set. Only by binge watching can you truly appreciate the artistic subtlety in this ingenious crescendoing of successive nerve-agent attack denials, its intricate layers taking the viewer by their terrified hand and marching them to the end of civilisation. Episode 1: Wiltshire Pizza Restaurant (It wasn’t me). Episode 2: Syrian children (It wasn’t me).
Who knows how long we’ll have to wait for the season finale? Indeed it could only be as soon as next week, when Sky, ITV, Channel 4 News and the rest are lugging their gear up Kensington Palace Gardens in the nuclear winter, pointing their cameras at the ambassador as he stares into the middle distance, his melted face still set in its lunatic grin, passing round his latest “reports” scratched into burnt tree bark. “Where is the evidence?” he demands, “Where is the evidence?”, as the army of radioactive rats arrive to devour the free biscuits at the back.
This time you knew it was serious straight away because he’d prepared a video presentation. There, gurning out from a flatscreen TV in the corner was Tony Blair, calling for military action in Syria, which was then cut with previous claims about WMDs in Iraq; now considered sketchy at best.
It was not made clear whether he’d borrowed this ingenious tactic from Jeremy Corbyn’s office or vice versa. It’s so very clever, such utter, galaxy brain genius, it seems highly implausible both parties could have arrived at it independently of one another.
How could we know, the ambassador suggested, that this gas attack in Douma, and its froth-mouthed child victims, had not been staged? Syria’s White Helmets, a volunteer organisation that performs search and rescue operations in bombed out parts of the country, he claimed, “is funded by the British government” and “we know it stages chemical attacks.” (No, ambassador, you don’t know.)
He had another killer argument, too. It is now more than a month since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and yet they have not been on television. Not been seen, not been interviewed. “Are they in isolation?” he asked. “Where is the British free press? There are a hundred of you in this room. Not one of you has spoken to them?”
Oh ambassador, you are really spoiling us. The days when the British press burst into hospital to take photos of critically ill celebrities against their will came to an end in the Burns Night storm of 1990, when Rene from ‘Allo ‘Allo! drove his car into an airborne advertising hoarding then took the Sunday Sport to court when pictures of him on what was thought at the time to be his death bed were all over their front page.
Of course, one TV news crew has so far been brave enough to breach the police cordon round Salisbury District Hospital, but that was a buccaneering young Russian chap who managed to evade detection for long enough to point his camera at an apparent “Danger: Keep out” sign which in fact said “Caution: Slippery Floor Surface” but that was it.
Oh well. Join us next week no doubt for another episode of Russian Chemical Attack Denial Live, coming soon to every single 24-hour news channel near you. Whatever happens ambassador, even if, in the ever so slightly amended words of Rikrok himself, they’ve caught you red handed leaving novichock on a spy’s front door: you know what to do. Just say it wasn’t you.