“It’s a hoot! Many jokes: fantastical twists and turns.”— Tony Peake, author of North Facing
“Brilliantly written post-Brexit satire in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire and Vonnegut.”
“Imaginative plot, greatly humorous, this vividly written satire would make a great television series.”— Andy Merriman, author of Hattie: The Authorised Biography of Hattie Jacques
“It is – all at once – biting satire, science fiction fantasy, contemporary lampoon, surreal romp and stand-up comedy. It’ll have you cursing at the turn of history it so skilfully derides while chuckling into your post-Brexit porridge.” — Robert Nurden, journalist and author of Between Heaven and Earth.
The Dream of Boris was previously published as Deceived Kingdom, which in 2017 accurately foretold Prince Harry drinking kava in the South Pacific, “a most uncivil war”, and the elevation of Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart to the Lords. Coincidentally, Deceived Kingdom used the same alias for Boris Johnson, “Marmaduke”, that he himself adopted for the rejected screenplay he wrote in 2015, Mission to Assyria.
Click on the link to hear Swedish Radio on Brexit books and Deceived Kingdom, with an interview with the author.
Read the first chapter here:
THE TROIKA AT PLAY
The Round Pond, Lundun: Saturday 6 Dickens, 2026
A WEEK AFTER THE 2016 EU REFERENDUM, Boris Johnson pulled out of the Tory leadership contest which he was dead cert to win. There was no clear reason. A solution to the mystery is supplied by a dream he had had the night before. Allegedly. He found himself propelled ten years into the future. Though discombobulated to find he was not World King, consolation of a kind was provided by the discovery that he was the dominant partner in a triumvirate that ruled what remained of the United Kingdom: Ingerland, a pinched parcel of land edged by Salisbury in the west and King’s Lynn in the north.
In popular affection, Boris stood head and shoulders above his fellow triumvirs. His ready wit, gravity-defying optimism, and shaggy demeanour excited in dockers and dowagers alike the type of adoration usually reserved for dogs. Indeed, many saw Boris as a replacement for the Queen, after Elizabeth the Second, appalled by rationing, the prohibition of Dubonnet, and suspension of habeas corpus, fled to Germany.
The first act of the triumvirate had been to impose rule by online referenda. Scheduled to follow EastEnders, which rehearsed the issues at stake, digital referenda took place on every working weekday except Wednesday. They made parliament superfluous and dictated the laws of the land. The digital referendum of 18 May 2023 renamed the months after writers. Costumed as characters from the pages of Jane Austen or Wodehouse, the public transformed Ingerland into a giant theme park, initially greatly boosting the tourist trade. For those who could not afford the outlay, Dickens, formerly June, was the least taxing month. Since the wholesale collapse of manufacturing and the flight of financial services in the early 2020s, towns and cities swarmed with more beggars than in Victorian times. On every street, there was an Artful Dodger, a Nancy and a Bill Sikes; though all the Fagins had been deported.
A policy of bread and circuses had given Boris an official approval rating that was off the scale. He reclined now, on the balmy night of the 6th Dickens, in the royal box of the recently built Colosseum that overlooked the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens. It was called the Liberty Arena, though there was little freedom in Ingerland in 2026. The amphitheatre comprised a half-circle rising in tiers above a sand-covered arena that gave onto the deepened waters. Basking in the adoration of the spectators, Boris was spruce in the purple-tailed jacket and velvet waistcoat of Pickwick, a character that tallied perfectly with his portly physique and jovial mannerisms. Alongside sat his fellow triumvirs: Artemis Mizzle, uncharacteristically jaunty in blazer and straw boater, and Ronnie Outlander, leader of Mighty Blighty, the sole remaining political party, who had taken the helm of the Brexit ultras after Nigel Farage had opted for a well-deserved retirement in the Black Forest. Outlander had taken a leaf out of A Tale of Two Cities and was dressed in a cutaway coat with a tall standing collar and billowing cravat. Also occupying the box was a film crew from Fox News and a mousey-haired Norwegian journalist whose lined face creased with disbelief as Boris boasted of the grandiose celebrations planned for the Independence Day Decennial on the 23rd of the month.
‘Mouth-watering spectacles, daredevil rides, riveting rallies, jaw-dropping combats, jubilant jousting. There will be a celebratory inter-school boat race at Broadbrooks. and the Eton Crammers are bound to win. Here, on the Pond, we will put on an edge-of-your-seat naval battle fought from replica galleons by Spaniards versus Catalans captured during the siege of Gibraltar.’
‘It sounds all very bloody,’ said Freya-Ilse Petersen.
‘There may be a black eye or a broken nail or two,’ conceded Boris.
‘They’re Latins, hotheads, frankly,’ snapped Outlander. ‘You can’t make an omelette….’
‘But I make a perfect tasteful one at our summer house in Vikebygd. I use chanterelles from the forest.’
‘Of course, there will be much more than fun and games,’ cut in Mizzle primly. ‘We will be holding a great service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.’
Boris was the public face of the regime, but Mizzle was its presiding genius. As Foreign Secretary, he was charged with international relations; as Star Chamberlain, he presided over the courts. The man himself was a mystery. He had emerged in 2021 at the head of an aggressive new City law firm whose clients were Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs intent on preserving their UK-held assets in the headwinds fanned up by Brexit. Raised by nondescript librarians, attending a minor public school and provincial university, Mizzle’s background was obscure. Yet he seemed to have a network of mysterious backers who financed his effortless transition from law to government, endowing him with sufficient funds and influence to become a triumvir. While there was still a semblance of a free press, journalists had dug but found no dirt. Renowned for his mild, unflappable manner, it was almost as though Mizzle had not existed before 2020. The only splash of colour in his otherwise grey existence was his marriage to Brunhilde Mist, the celebrated German diva.
‘But do you have so much to be happy about? The economy …’
‘Is roaring along like a jet engine on crystal meth. Supersonic productivity, Madam! A GDP that’s positively ballistic!’
Boris knew these words were hollow even as he volleyed them. Digi-ref had outlawed European produce, but the vote was purely symbolic as punitive tariffs put olive oil and Camembert beyond the pockets of ordinary consumers. Good old-fashioned staples, such as toad in the hole, jam roly-poly, cheddar cheese and ale were de rigueur, though citizens of Commonwealth countries were allowed biryanis and jerk chicken in the privacy of their homes. There was, however, a thriving black market which Outlander, formerly distribution manager for a supermarket chain, seemed easily able to access.
The Mighty Blighter’s latest list of toothsome products nestled in the pocket of Boris’s waistcoat. He was still reeling in shock at the prices. Vile Spanish plonk at 115 guineas a bottle; Champagne at more than 400. Smuggled-in fine foods had doubled in price in the last week, which posed an excruciating dilemma: with annual inflation in three figures, his stipend did not stretch very far these days — would it be a truffle omelette or bratwurst for supper?
‘The IMF says your unemployment rate is off the chart.’
She’s like a dog with a bone, thought Boris.
‘I would not give much credence to that,’ hissed Mizzle. ‘Frankly, they get it wrong every time.’
‘There is work on the farms for everyone,’ put in Outlander.
‘But that is slavish labour! Your balance of trade is katastrofe.’
‘What do we need trade for? All an Ingerlishman craves is bangers and mash and a nice pint of bitter on a Friday night. We are fed up to our back teeth with exports.’
‘I think that should be experts,’ corrected Mizzle.
‘Expert, texpert, choking smokers,’ wheezed Outlander, who had warmed to his theme: ‘the words of the immortal Lennon!’
‘That sounds not like Vladimir Ilyich,’ said Freya-Ilse.
‘You’re missing the point. Just think of all the bilge that’s been written about tobacco. As though a fragrant cloud of sweet Virginia could do anybody harm. Ludicrous!’
‘But my body is a temple.’
‘Yes, the Temple of Doom,’ hissed Outlander under his breath.
‘In Norway, we ban cigarettes and all relative products, even snoos, the chewing tobacco.’
‘That’s exactly the type of nanny state we don’t want here. Look! See what it says!’ Outlander jabbed the side of the box, which bore the following legend: Nicotine promotes virility and relieves stress.
Freya-Ilse broke into a fit of coughing brought on by the fumes from Outlander’s umpteenth Silk Cut. Boris might regret the slashing of duty on tobacco and beer, but he had never liked sin taxes and it had been the quid pro quo for the continuing support of Mighty Blighty. Alcohol fueled acquiescence to even the most reckless state initiatives, so a sovereign a pint seemed a cheap price to pay. The restoration of guineas, crowns, and farthings had been unanimously approved by digi-ref, as had the return to Winchester measures: bushels, pecks and quarts.
‘But what about real estate?’
‘Going through the roof,’ said Boris.
‘But a fifth of your houses is lacking them!’
The BBC was much more pliable. But the troika needed a token foreign reporter, like the Norwegian, to keep up appearances. After all, who would read her? A few half-witted fisherfolk in the fjords? The God-fearing burghers of Bergen?
Punches and Judys, as members of the enforcement service now were known, prowled up and down the aisles in sugarloaf hats and jesters’ motley, keen to squirrel out loathsome individuals who schemed to shackle Ingerland once more to Brussels.
A cabal of such resisters, captured meeting in the sewers beneath Ludgate two nights before, was being herded into the arena. The Punches and Judys began pummelling them with slapsticks, the crack of breaking bones exciting roars of approval from the mob. Finally, only one was left alive: a bearded geography teacher from Stoke Newington, found in possession of a samizdat Guardian. The teacher fell to his knees and begged for mercy, addressing his plea to the box, in which a distracted Boris was still pondering that night’s supper. Annoyed by this impertinence at such a vital juncture, Boris glared down at the hapless victim.
‘Mercy is a slippery slope,’ hissed Mizzle.
The digi-refs that legalised cockfighting, bearbaiting and restored the gallows at Tyburn had been the creation of the Star Chamberlain. Public hangings of Europhiles convicted of sedition took place on an almost daily basis. These drew large crowds, as did the executions on Tower Hill, where Euro-Quislings lost their heads, subsequently impaled on spikes along Tower Bridge as a warning to others.
‘We are beasts without clemency,’ whispered Freya-Ilse.
‘It’s our country and we have our way of dealing with traitors,’ barked Outlander.
Boris turned his thumb down. The mob roared its approval. Slapsticks rained down on the unfortunate victim, who was then tossed into the Pond to deafening applause.
‘He got his just desserts,’ said Outlander.
‘Spotted dick,’ corrected Mizzle.
‘That was strictly a private communication between me and my doctor!’
Mizzle flashed a smile, terrifying in its cordiality. ‘Being of French origin, “desserts” will be excluded from NMA and replaced by “spotted dick”.’
New Model Anglish was intended to restore the language as it had existed up to Norman Conquest; its aim, the elimination of all borrowed words and non-phonetic spelling. So far NMA had only been applied to place names, transforming “England” into “Ingerland”, with “Lundun” as capital.
‘Numquam Orbis excelis ad Astra Argentum,’ put in Boris, who liked to garnish his discourse with Latin as often as possible and would retain a licence to do so up to the full implementation of NMA at the start of 2027.
There was another malcontent among the spectators: a frail old lady who got shakily to her feet and raised a Tracy-Eminesque tapestry, on which she had painstakingly embroidered “Ingerland is my Prison”.
Two Punches and a Judy charged along the row. They tore the banner from the old lady’s fingers and trampled it on the ground. She was marched off to the recently restored Newgate Gaol.
The mob launched into a stirring version of “There’ll Always be an Ingerland”. A troupe of dwarfs, clad in berets and striped Breton vests, were cavorting around the arena carrying coffee cups almost as large as themselves, into which they dipped turd-shaped croissants. These reminded Boris yet again of Outlander’s goodies. He wished Mizzle would return to his lonely bed and leave them to their horse-trading.
An expectant hush had fallen. Boris heard a faint droning in the distance. He looked up at the sky, but only a few stars winked back at him, the rest banished by the neon glare of the great city. Bending his head, he fixed his gaze once more upon the spectacle.
A hooded man was rowing a boat across the Pond. In the stern stood a bedraggled figure in a striped convict’s uniform that was too large for him. Closer inspection revealed this to be Cameron, the erstwhile prime minister. The Battle of Waterloo may or may not have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the referendum most certainly was. How galling for Boris to see Cameron Minor, the not-so-bright, eager-to-please fag, who had polished his boots and brewed his Orange Pekoe, leg it up the slippery pole and assume the highest office in the land. How sweet to take up arms against the mediocrity flying high above his station and see him get his comeuppance. Except that had not been the plan at all: maximum publicity followed by an honourable pipping at the post had been Boris’s plan all along. Victory in the referendum had surprised him as much as anybody. With it came the realisation that the mob he had courted with such flattery would make him its creature — just as he had made it his.
‘Poor Dave,’ sighed Boris.
‘He’s getting his spotted dick,’ put in Outlander, a fast learner.
A menacing drum roll greeted the boat as it neared the edge of the Pond. The mob were hurling beer cans and bottles, many of which landed harmlessly in the water. But some found their target, and the hapless Cameron reeled from their impact as voices bayed for his execution. Boris shrugged and refused to turn his thumb down. A great show trial was scheduled for Monday, one of several events planned for the build-up to Independence Day. This humiliation was just the prelude. Having reached the shore, Cameron was bundled into the back of a Black Maria and driven over the Kensington Garden paths onto the Bayswater Road, and so back to the Bloody Tower. The thwarted spectators were consoled by the appearance of a magnificent woman dressed in a billowing red and white satin dress who strode to the centre of the arena. This was Mizzle’s consort, Brunhilde Mist. Her operatic tones filled the amphitheatre, startling the swans and ducks on the Pond:
“Rue Britannia, Britannia rue ze vaves,
Britons never, never, never vill be Slavs.”
Boris could hear the droning again. It seemed that much closer. The extraordinary power of the diva’s lungs put paid to any hope of pinpointing the precise location, but the noise seemed to be coming closer. He was about to mention this when there were a great flash and an ear-splitting blast, taking out long sections of the four rows immediately below the box. Tickets for these went for quite a premium, but the elegant spectators in their crinoline dresses and linen blazers were shrouded by the columns of acrid smoke billowing upwards, out of which escaped screams and anguished cries. The shockwave from the blast lifted Boris’s throne severalfeet into the air and deposited it on its back. His legs wriggled like an upturned stag beetle. The chemical stench made him retch. His head seemed to have shattered.
‘Are you all right?’ demanded Mizzle, standing over him, his face blackened by the blast.
‘Better not let the Frontier Force see you like that,’ wheezed Boris. ‘They’ll slap a deportation order on you.’
‘This is no time for your customary levity! We must find the scum who did this.’
The Star Chamberlain’s robes were in tatters. Behind him cowered Outlander, with a deep gash on his forehead from which blood was oozing.