"It looks bad this morning, Nigel. Bashar's getting a bad press over the co-laterals, and apart from Putin he's lacking media-friendly support"
"We need to call Tony's people. It will cost Assad a few bob, but Blair's his only real hope now"
"Will he do it?"
"If the price is right. It cost whassisname in Kazakhstan about $13m to get Tony's team onside ..."
"Nazarbayev. And doesn't he boil people alive in butter? The cruellest despot north of the Equator? Liberals shot in the streets and dissidents tortured and mutilated in squalid prisons?"
"That's the fella. Charning chap, actually, and knows his claret; Tony and Alastair hosted him last week. Yes, Bashar needs to call Tony, get Tim Allen on board from Portland. Tony can get Adonis and Purnell to visit Damascus for some 'fact finding' to add a bit of parliamentary weight and Campbell and Peter M can do the media round"