What is your tube, and how do I get on it, asks Mr Pettifog at partners’ tea last week. Misery Line, Hampstead branch, replies Old Unreliable wittily. I generally use the lift, he adds, taking a ginger hobnob from the tray.
A puzzled silence descends on the room. Eventually, Bright Spark speaks. Do you mean YouTube, she asks? Yes, that’s what I said, replies Mr Pettifog.
Was there something in particular you wanted to see?, asks Young Hope. It’s mostly videos of cute cats, he adds.
Oh, I just wanted to see if someone had recorded something, Mr Pettifog replies.
Young Hope and Bright Spark quickly look at one another. Bright Spark renews her cross-examination. Was it something you recorded?, she asks. No, I wouldn’t know how to, replies Mr Pettifog smugly. Then something you said, but someone else recorded?, asks Jim Rough-Diamond, joining the cross-examination tag team.
Oh, I don’t know, replies Mr Pettifog, attempting an air of mild boredom. Does anyone want that last cucumber sandwich?, he adds, trying to deflect attention from his earlier question.
While this is going on, Young Hope has opened his iPad and searched on the YouTube site. An Anglo-Saxon expression escapes his lips. Could this be the recording you were interested in?, he asks, quickly making a remote connection to the tea room’s flat-screen TV.
Everyone in the room turns towards the TV. It shows a panel discussion at a conference. Three middle-aged, white men in business suits are sat at a table. Mr Pettifog is one of them. On the wall behind the table, the logo of World IP Professionals is clearly visible. A voice can be heard, apparently a member of the audience who cannot be seen on the recording. The voice asks: how can you reconcile the government’s decision to go ahead with ratifying the World IP Arbitration Treaty, which is subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, with the Prime Minister’s statements that the CJEU won’t have any jurisdiction in the UK after Brexit?
Mr Pettifog is the first to reply. Well, he says, we don’t trust a word that this government says, do we? (The audience laughs, and he warms to his theme.) And anyway, they’re too stupid to realise that ratifying the convention leads to CJEU jurisdiction. And so are the tabloid newspapers, and the oiks that write articles for them. (More laughter, some of it nervous.) They won’t be interested in this kind of subject, it’s far too intelligent for them.
The recording ends, and Young Hope switches off his iPad.
Jim Rough-Diamond is the first to speak. Oiks are too stupid to realise?, he asks.
It was a private meeting, subject to the Chatham House rule, replies Mr Pettifog sulkily. Whoever recorded it was clearly in breach of a legal duty. Can’t it be deleted from your tube?
Young Hope shakes his head. Mr Pettifog turns white, then hastily leaves the room. Partners’ tea resumes.
[Note: this is an entirely fictional story, inspired by a real-life incident, but with completely different facts, people, motivations and outcome, and written for humorous purposes only. No, really.]