THE METROPOLITANS — Episode Forty

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A saga of everyday life in the Big L and a wry look at contemporary culture

By Tony Carden

 

Episode Forty

 

‘PM!’

‘Ah, yes, Sir James. Good to see you.’

‘And you, too Mary.’

‘What can I do for you?’

‘Well, …um…ah…you see.’

‘I’m sorry, I don’t.’ Mary gestured at her security escort waiting by the door. ‘I haven’t got all day.’

‘It’s about the upcoming vote, see.’

‘And what of it? It is a necessary part of getting my Plan implemented.’

‘But what of those against? Cotton’s Labour is bound to use this as an opportunity to bring down the government.’

‘I’ll call a vote of no confidence. That’ll pull the troops in line.’

‘It’s not that simple. The whips have surely told you?’

‘I’m kept informed, yes.’

‘If the DUP vote against we could lose the vote. And what then?’

‘They wouldn’t!’

‘But they hate your plan. They hate you. The AG’s legal brief has blown everything out of the water. They might think that Cotton, a confirmed Leaver, might deliver something better.’

‘They’re bluffing.’

James burst out laughing.

‘What’s so funny.’

‘Sorry, Mary, it’s the idea that the DUP might be bluffing.’

‘They’d regret bringing down the government.’

‘But don’t you see they consider your present Plan as anathema to everything they believe in?’

‘What? The backstop? It’s a mere technicality.’

‘There’s another matter.’

‘There always is. It’s not enough to have just the one problem.’

‘There’s this demand to renegotiate the backstop with the EU.’

‘Bah!’ Mary dropped her voice. ‘Do you know what John said to me when I became PM?’

‘Something about bastards?’

‘He did remind me of that, yes. But it wasn’t that. What he said was “The first requirement of politics is not intellect or stamina but patience. Politics is a very long run game and the tortoise will usually beat the hare.” These problems are ephemeral in the context of what needs to be achieved here. That is to honour the wishes of all those who voted in the referendum.’

‘He also said, “Life is full of surprises,” just remember that.’

‘The vote is scheduled. We must all do our best to make sure we get the desirable outcome.’

‘You’d better get your ducks in a row before the vote, then.’

‘What ducks’

‘It’s a metaphor.’ James gestured idly towards the pillars that led towards the chamber.

‘What’s a metaphor?’

‘It’s like an analogy.’

‘What’s an analogy.’

‘A correlation.’

‘What’s that got to do with ducks?’

‘Just get the vote through.’ He paused and rubbed his chin. ‘‘Why don’t you just leave the ducks out of it?’

‘There were never going to be any ducks involved, see.’ She gave him a triumphant gaze. ‘We’re going to win this one.’

‘Will you be stepping down if you lose?’

‘What?’ She visibly straightened her posture. ‘Are you suggesting I should resign?’

‘No, of course not, Mary. You know I’m on your side in this. It’s just that I can see a train wreck coming.’

‘You’ve turned traitor. You should be out there batting for my Plan, not badgering me about backing down. What’s come over you?’

‘I think my biggest problem is that I can see both sides of the argument.’

‘Well see mine. This lady’s not for turning.’

‘That’s what Thatcher said—and what became of her? Defenestrated by her own party. Her own party.’

‘Times have changed, James, you’ll see.’ She gestured towards the chamber. ‘They’re too lily-livered; they’ll fall in line, you’ll see.’

‘I bloody hope so.’

‘Now, if you’ll excuse me.’ Mary signalled to her escort and they joined her. She led them out.

James turned away only to bump into Christoph.

‘Having a wee word with the PM there, were we?’

‘Hello Chris. I haven’t seen much of you lately. How are things?’

‘You know exactly how they are.’ He gestured at the door where Mary had just left. ‘She’s finished, you know. This whole WA business is doomed. She’ll never get it through Parliament. Not after all the gaffs she’s made. I mean having the government being held in contempt. The AG’s document is risible. It’s dead in the water.’ He stopped and gazed intently at James. ‘She’ll go if she loses, won’t she?’

‘It’s not for me to decide.’

‘You’re the custodian of the soul of the party. For its sake alone, she’ll have to resign.’

‘She’s a determined woman.’ James chuckled. ‘With a canny husband.’

‘What? That soak of a trumped-up plumber?’

‘I should point out that that plumber, as you might like to call him, is worth a great deal more than both you and I combined.’

‘He’s a tradesman.’

‘Yes, he knows his plumbing, but over and above all that he’s a businessman.’

‘It still makes him a plumber.’

‘I bet he hasn’t fixed a leak in twenty years.’

‘You’re on. Dinner at Claridge’s?’ Chris stretched out his hand. James shook it.

‘I’ll enjoy our meal, you know.’

‘I’m sure we both will.’ Chris gazed around. ‘Got to dash. ‘We’ll set a date for our repast.’ He rushed off.

‘Well, that’s a man in a hurry.’ James twisted around to see Ralston grinning at him. ‘Did you send him away with a flea in his ear? He’d deserve it.’

‘How is life on the backbenches?’

‘A terrible sense of déjà vue.’ He became conspiratorial. ‘Did I just see you speaking with the PM? Have you managed to get her to change her mind about the vote?’

‘Yes, and I can’t tell you.’

‘Pity. She’s going to lose it, you know. There’s a good number of us who can’t support the government on this. Not after the AG’s legal opinion.’

‘So, I’ve heard.’ James frowned. ‘It could bring down the government. You bear a big responsibility in voting against.’

‘She’s brought it on herself. She didn’t listen to me, insisted that her Plan—note, her Plan—was the right way forward.’

‘And what would you suggest, then? Go back to the EU? Negotiate a longer exit period? The Norway option? Just stay in? The ECJ seems to think we can unilaterally revoke the decision.’ James waved around at the entrance hall. ‘There’s no majority for any solution.’

‘The AG’s report didn’t help.’

‘I suppose not, but that’s no reason to go against the whips.’

‘This is bigger than party loyalty.’

‘I don’t think it is.’

‘You say that because you’re party chairman. I bet you’d think differently if you were in my position.’

James walked around and stood facing in the same direction as Ralston. ‘No. I don’t see myself changing my mind.’

‘Trust you to make a joke of this.’

‘And to you, to make a crisis out of a difficult situation.’

‘You know, I envy the stupid. Not the marginally stupid, the truly stupid.’

‘I’m intrigued.’

‘The truly stupid don’t know they’re stupid and their ignorance makes them perpetually happy.’

‘How do you feel about the goofy?’

‘I like goofy people. They make me laugh and I could do with some humour now.’

‘So it’s dinner then?’

‘I was afraid so.’

 

 

*   *   *

 

‘Yes, yes, of course. I’ll talk to Jill about it. Bye.’ Andrew tapped at his mobile to end the connection.

‘Ask me about what?’

‘Oh, hello, Jill.’ He jumped up from the sofa and went over to her and gave her a hug and a kiss. ‘I was busy talking to my mother and didn’t hear you come in. We were discussing what our plans might be for Christmas. The good news is, they’re asking us to go up over the holiday period. My mother says you could do with a bit of fresh Rutland air.’

Jill broke away from him and went and sat down on the sofa. ‘I saw Tim earlier.’

‘How is he?’

‘He asked when you and he would be having a boys’ night out. He says he feels neglected.’

‘Well, it seems in your sibling rivalry for my body, you won out.’* He grinned and came and sat down next to her. ‘I’ll give him a call and fix something up.’

‘He also mentioned Christmas.’

‘And what did he say about it? Has he decided to ignore it? I wouldn’t put it past him.’

‘Andrew don’t be flippant. No, he’s been talking to Mum. She’s keen for the family to get together at Christmas like we always do. And that includes you. She doesn’t want what happened to stop us getting together for the celebrations.’

‘I see.’ Andrew fidgeted a bit. ‘That complicates things.’

‘We should go to my folks. Mum and Dad should get to know you better.’

‘And what happens if it turns out like our last visit?’**

‘Tim tells me that Dad now greatly regrets his behaviour. He was shocked and simply reacted badly.’

‘That’s not how I see it. We were turfed out of the house.’

‘We chose to leave.’

‘Well, whatever. But it doesn’t change things. Do you really want to risk that kind of behaviour again?’

‘They’re my family.’

‘Your father made it perfectly clear what he thought of me.’ Andrew got up and wandered around the room. ‘I think we should go to my parents. They’ve really taken to you. Look how well our visit went.’

‘I…’ Jill got up and went out.

‘Jill?’

Andrew stood for a moment before rushing out after her. ‘Jill!?’ He found her in the bedroom. ‘Are you alright?’

‘No.’

‘What’s the matter. It isn’t the baby is it?’

‘No.’ She patted the bulge in her stomach.

‘Oh, what a relief. For a moment…’ He stopped and looked at her. ‘It’s about Christmas, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, of course it’s about Christmas, what did you think it was about? Tim’s love life?’

‘Why are you getting angry at me?’

‘Because you’re just too bloody analytical that’s why.’

‘What? Is that a fault?’

‘Yes. We’ll go to your family at Christmas because they are kind and friendly, whereas mine are…’

‘You don’t want to go to my parents?’

‘Of course, I do. But I want to go to my family too.’

‘Why don’t we split it?’

‘Mister analytical says split the difference.’

‘Now who’s being flippant.’

‘We can’t be at both places at the same time.’

‘We could if we split up.’

‘No.’

‘What if we did Christmas at my folks and New Year at yours?’

‘Mum would be devastated. I think she sees Christmas as a way of putting things back together again.’

‘Ah.’ Andrew scratched at the side of his face. ‘Maybe we could go to your folks then for Christmas and mine for the New Year.’

‘Do you think they’d be OK with that?’

‘Well, I’m sure they’d understand if I explained why.’

‘No! You can’t tell them what my father did.’ She waved her hands around. ‘They’ll get the wrong impression.’

‘I’ll have to give them some reason.’

‘Tell your parents you’d already committed to Christmas with my family.’

‘That would be lying. I can’t do that.’

Jill swivelled on the sofa and lay out taking up all the space. ‘Well think of something.’

‘Let’s not go to either.’

‘We can’t do that!’

 

* See Episode 4

** See Episode 35

 

To be continued…

 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

You can contact the author at:

[email protected]

 

 

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