Saturday, 8 May 2010

The Deal

Friday May 7th, 9pm

London. Rain.

The atmosphere is tense in London but also heavy with boredom. We are caught in a political limbo. Our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has lost his footing and is starting to slide down the mountain. He and his family are squatters in their own home, and will most likely be evicted by Monday morning. He knows that history is being made, but not by him. Someone else is holding all the cards.

Britain is crawling towards what will probably be our first coalition Government in over thirty five years, only this time the cameras are rolling. Everyone is glued to their TV. This has been the first truly televised election, as the Labour administration succumbed and allowed live TV debates between the leaders of the three main parties. We could only tell them apart by the colour of their ties and the slight nuances in their accents. One of them, Nick Clegg, came out from nowhere to wow the audiences with his stylised sincerity. Suddenly, though his party came third in the actual election, he is holding the balance of power. It's a post-modern tale of the little guy catapulted onto the big media-dominated stage. And it is also a race against time. 'I love you Liberalism, but I've only got 48 hours to save my career and gain the power I crave'.

But now that the most important and intriguing action of the election is underway, we are not allowed to see. The real deals are being made behind heavy oak doors, by civil servants we have never heard of, wearing grey suits, high on adrenalin and lack of sleep. There are no pictures of planes flying into buildings, nobody is vandalising McDonalds. We have forgotten that Athens is burning, that the markets are plummeting, that somewhere high above us the sky is still full of volcanic ash. We are sat semi-comatosed on our sofas, watching tired TV anchors talking straight to camera, reporting on what we already know. There is nothing to report. I blink at the screen, slowly bringing my glass to my lips. I have a deadline tomorrow; I should really be getting some sleep.

Saturday May 8th, 10.30 am,

London. Grey skies

The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are rumoured to be in 'talks'. Between them they would hold a majority of seats in Parliament, and are desperately trying to find some common ground, after telling us all they had none. The LibDems were sold to us as the party of social justice, promising electoral reform, environmental responsibility, public services and fairer taxes. The Tories never pretended to be much more than the upper-class peddlers of neo-conservatism that they so obviously are. The liberal 'twitterati' are up in arms about the way the dice are being shaken. #Hashtag after #hashtag is being produced, as if Nick Clegg might actually be sat in the back of his limo, reading the messages on his i-phone, being persuaded by these online opinion leaders, that actually this deal with the devil is not such a good idea after all. But within minutes #dontdoitnick has morphed into #dontdoitblix and #dontdoitdick until it becomes the inevitable #dontdoitrick. Democracy is rick-rolled as the internet turns political protest into a meme. Labour supporters say 100,000 Retweets are needed to achieve electoral reform. Skeptics like me are ROFL.

Saturday May 8th 2.45 pm

London. More rain.

A flash-mob demo has started in Trafalgar Square, in the name of electoral reform and Proportional Representation. Irritated tweets are arriving from demonstrators who can't see or hear the speakers because they are being obstructed by Morris Dancers. When given the chance, the true tribes of England march on Parliament, with bells and ribbons and sticks. The demonstrators find their way to the building where Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are planning their bargaining strategy. Calls of 'Come Out Nick!' ring through the air. Eventually the Liberal leader emerges on the steps and tells the protestors he is on their side. But he suggests they go home and carry on their campaigns somewhere else. He has got a deal to broker. He doesn't need this right now.

As The Queen stands by her phone, waiting to be 'activated' like a character in a computer game, the salesmen continue their pitches. Everything is still to play for. But also the game is long-since over. The real Faustian pact was made back in 2003, when Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, simultaneously cementing the 'special relationship' with the Bush administration, and securing his lucrative career in the 'peacemaking' business when it was all over. Blair's mercenary, cold-blooded, wild-eyed ghost has haunted this election, along with those of thousands of Iraqi people; he came back to remind us there aren't any good guys left. So it is now down to whoever offers the best package at the lowest price.

I don't know how the story ends. I have to submit my copy before the men in suits close the deal. Their hands are grubby from rooting around in the mud. I can see them now, wiping them on their trousers before looking each other in the eye and shaking on it. 'Nice doing business with you’ they will say, before heading back out onto the street. Maybe the demonstrators will be waiting for them again. Except nobody will be Morris Dancing, or tweeting. This time the people might be ready for a fight. We have nothing to lose.

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