As ministers draw up plans to replace striking border control staff with civil servants, critics claim the stand-ins will lack the basic ability to be hand-gnawingly rude.
“Passengers entering the UK expect a certain level of haughtiness from our members, and we deliver it in spades”, explained union secretary Brian Hough.
“You can’t teach someone that kind of off-hand disdain for their fellow man overnight, not unless they’re from London, anyway.”
Managers at the UK borders agency have been flooded with volunteers to stand in during industrial action, with the opportunity to giggle at people’s passport photos proving surprisingly popular.
But unions have warned that showing even the merest hint of humanity could lead to conversations about the weather.
“While we pretty much let anyone in these days, it’s important to leave the punters with a lasting grudge against the way they were treated”, insisted Hough.
“The thought of standing in front of our officers and not making sarcastic comments for fear of a cavity search is enough to put most people off travelling.”
Border staff to strike
Ministers have assured the public that civil servants will have adequate training in sneering and deliberately mispronouncing foreign-sounding names, as well as patronising passengers who attempt to travel with bottled water or toothpaste.
“We’ve introduced a blue ‘nothing to discuss’ channel at Heathrow to fast-track regular business travellers”, explained Theresa May.
“They’re used to being abused by the system. Staff in this lane won’t make polite conversation or mention your suntan while they’re checking your paperwork, it’s a far from complimentary service.”
May thinks fears of a day of chaos are overstated, telling reporters, “Anyone who is worried that they might crack a smile under pressure can come and see me. Just like our borders, my door is always open.”
“I can’t be sure how many civil servants have gone through our passport training, but most have got the hang of not really looking at them properly.”
“All we need to do now is get them work a little slower, and stop offering people biscuits.”