True Tales from an Austere Kingdom – the general election
There is surely no greater time to be alive than during an election campaign.
Elections are always a rewarding business. Last election, as one of the twenty voters in my constituency, I found myself constantly flattered by the two candidates, both eager to secure my vote. I was wined and dined by both sides, but I was finally persuaded to vote for the nice Mr Keynsham when, on the night before the election, he treated me a feast at the Talbert Inn, at the end of which he passed me an envelope containing a hundred English pounds.
This experience set me to thinking – with so much favour to be had from one vote, how much could be made if I had two votes, or even three?
With this in mind I came up with the perfect scheme – I invented two brothers, William and Robert, in whose names I transferred sufficient of my property to entitle them both to vote.
An added advantage of the scheme was that the non-existent Robert and William could be ruthless landlords, knowing that they were exempt from the law, by the simple fact of never being around when the police called to chasten their excess. My brothers soon gained reputations as fearsome landlords and the rents on ‘their’ properties rocketed.
I was already in good profit when, after years of waiting, the election was finally called, and, blessedly, there were no less than three candidates contesting the seat, a seat of which I held 15% of the vote.
However, I was cautious not to expose my fraud, and avoided the obvious risk of trying to secure favours from the same candidate three times over. Instead, myself and each of my brothers decided to make our vote available to one of the candidates, for the appropriate reward.
It became a frantic month, being thrice wined and dined, I felt at times like the mistress to three princes. Every night I was taken out, offered gifts, the finest wines to add to my cellar and an ‘executive pass’ for the local strumpetarium.
“My vote,” I stated firmly, three times over “cannot be bought, I am a man of principle. Why,” I added, “even if you offered me three hundred pounds I wouldn’t be swayed.”
“Two hundred pounds,” the response was identical from all three candidates – evidence if it were needed that in many ways all the parties are the same.
“Two-fifty,” I said, and we shook hands. Though I’d like to congratulate myself on my negotiating skills, I’d clearly hit upon the going rate in a three-way contested election.
All was going well until it came to the discussion of payment. It seems that election etiquette involved the ‘rewards’ to voters being handed over at the candidate’s election dinner the night before polling. All very well in normal circumstances, a bagful of cash and free nosh and wine thrown in for good measure. A politician will never persuade me to vote for them with promise of future handouts, I am not a fool, if you want my vote give me cash in hand, dinner on my plate, beverage in my glass and strumpet on my knee.
However, my ruse involved me courting three separate candidates on the same night, meaning three enormous feasts, three sackfuls of plonk and, lord have mercy on my pecker, three dosings of strumpet.
I arranged to meet Keynsham for an early supper at the Talbot, citing the need to leave early ‘for business reasons’. I told him I’d be more than happy to vote for him again, and tried to get away without the meal, but he’s a stickler for convention and I had to plough my way through a four course supper, including roast pheasant and an ugly-looking pike, before I finally felt the envelope being pressed against my thigh.
Luckily the White Hart was just a few yards down the High Street, and I managed to find my way without too much difficulty to where the second candidate, Mr Mibland, was holding his pre-election dinner.
Alas, I was most surprised to find just myself, Mibland and two other diners, people I had seen in church occasionally but never spoken to. They said very little, as if they were in church still. Keynsham’s dinner, by contrast, had been quite the affair, with a party of over thirty. Even though the majority of them couldn’t vote, the crowded atmosphere made for a jolly party atmosphere, a complete contrast to the mood in Mibland’s camp.
The food was rather austere, just roast beef and apple pie for pud, without so much as a blessing as starter. The discussion was equally dry, Mibland showing total disinterest in scandal and gossip, instead insisting on rabbiting on about the poor and how they needed jobs and housing.
Finally the conversation turned to a topic I’m passionate about: tax avoidance. I was already heartily agreeing with Mibland before I realised what he was actually saying. He was against it, and was wittering on about how the most popular dodges could be prevented. I was gobsmacked, what sort of politician was this? No starter, no strumpet and higher taxes – how on earth did he expect to get my vote?
Eventually I finally felt the hard-earned touch of the envelope pressing against me and hastily made my excuses and left.
I raised the issue of Mibland with my next host, Monsieur Barrage, from the Send Them All Home Party, at the excellent George Inn.
“It’s hardly a surprise,” he said, “he’s not fit to be an MP. He didn’t even go to public school.”
“Didn’t got to public school! But surely you’re not allowed to run for public office if you didn’t go to public school.”
“Apparently you can.”
“That’s absurd, you could end up with anyone in power.”
“You could, if you don’t vote wisely.” He slid an envelope of money to me under the table.
“Oh, I shall vote wisely, you can be sure of that.”
I decided that my brother Robert would meet with an accident before he could get to vote – as a gentleman I could hardly take Mibland’s money and then vote for another candidate, but I was certainly not going to vote ‘for’ him.
It was a long evening. I ate and drank slowly, as my stomach was as crammed full as my wallet. The fare at the George was superb, a dark ale brewed on the premises, a three-fish starter, venison, steak, and four servings of pudding. It was so delicious I almost forgot I had absolutely no desire to eat another thing in my life and crammed the tart, trifle and pie into my face hoping I wouldn’t actually explode.
As my stomach slowly recovered from its third and last meal, I sat and conversed with Barrage until late. I was particularly interested in his ‘Send ‘Em Home’ policy, his proposal to send all ‘alien’ residents back to their land of birth, along with any offspring they might have burdened the British state with along the way.
“But isn’t your wife non-English-born,” I said, trying to word my sentence as inoffensively as possible. Barrage’s wife, a buxom German lass, had been at the pub to greet me when I arrived, and hadn’t spoken a word of English.
“Oh yes, good hearty strumpets the Germans,” he said.
“So wouldn’t your Bill send your own family back where they came from, or didn’t come from in your daughters’ case.”
“You’re missing the point,” Barrage said. “The Act will require a new post of Alien Inquirer, and as instigator of the Act I would be perfectly placed to take the job.”
I began to understand.
“Why, people would pay thousands to stop their loved ones being shipped back to bongo bongo land,” I said.
“Not just Bongo Bongo Land, think of all the directors of the East India Company who married Indian girls, and the Ambassadors and military commanders who married overseas.”
“A fine idea,” I said, “very lucrative, but so much work. You would need an assistant to help you.”
It was a good evening, even if it did result in the busting of my trouser and the death of a brother, I could easily invent another brother if necessary. I might need to, I’m going to have a lot of work on. Thanks to my support Barrage won convincingly, and I am assured that the post of Assistant to the Alien Inquirer is mine for the taking.
Democracy is such a splendid thing. I simply cannot wait for the next election.