Election time might seem a long time away for most of us – the next national vote will be in the May of 2015 – but for those mysterious people actually working Britain’s political machine, it is heading towards us like a bus full of unconvinced voters, unimpressed thus far and travelling at speed.
It is in the midst of this machine that we find political offices full of hapless interns, tired but smiling politicians and graduate journalists working for small local news stations, trying desperately to grow their twitter followings.
An MP walks into one of these political offices somewhere, wiping the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand (taking her set smile off with it). Straight-faced, she makes a joke and asks for a coffee. An excitable intern gets the coffee wrong and doesn’t get the joke at all. In the background a photocopier whips out minor accusations on glossy leaflets for an ever-dwindling squadron of elderly party volunteers to deliver to a neighbourhood of people who really aren’t impressed by this constant tit-for-tat of politics, but always seem to vote for whoever most often shoves such leaflets through their letterboxes.
It is an east London office. Two scathing councilors from her own party are due in a quarter of an hour, incensed by a change in government policy regarding grit bins. At council level these things often get surprisingly fraught, even if nobody outside their microcosmic world can quite work out why (MPs included).
For now she sits and leafs through a local gazette. It started up not long ago and is put together almost exclusively by young and ambitions graduates of Journalism who have yet to work out what the essential point of journalism is. She spots a double typing mistake in an article about the criminal activities of a top builder in London. The gentleman (who owns a booming firm specializing in the installation of street furniture such as grit bins) has not, it scandalously transpires, been ‘laying his faxes’ properly. She wonders what a street paved with faxes would look like. Eyeing the floor of her office, she realizes that she knows exactly what it would look like.
As she drops the open gazette down beside her overly milky and therefore cold coffee, a knock on the door rattles a small sign hanging thereupon which reads, “Don’t forget to wash your cups!”
She calls out in greeting and two crimson-faced councilors come in. From the other door – which leads to the photocopying room and the kitchen – comes the intern. The intern takes another set of coffee orders and the councilors sit down. The MP smiles towards them.
Later, at a coffee evening with aforementioned volunteers, she laughs about her meeting over a much better coffee served to her by an ageing stalwart of the party. No councilors have turned up and she can joke with her volunteers in the knowledge that nobody there is inclined to gossip. As it turns out, she had managed to very convincingly fob the councilors off by explaining that the changes which Parliament had to make to Britain’s grit bin legislation were necessitated by the reckless behavior of people like Mr. Grimes of Tower Hamlets, whose tax affairs have been hidden in a small legal loophole since his company set up back in 2009.
The councilors were unconvinced until the intern (who at this point proved himself to be really quite useful) reported that an opposition councilor had ties to the gentleman’s business. They left very happy indeed.
The MP didn’t particularly care for such partisan and petty wrangling and her beaming volunteers agreed. Politics, though, is politics and when the currency is scandal and outrage, business must be done where it can be. She took another sip of her coffee – which was still nice and hot – and told her volunteers about her plans to put a question to the Prime Minister on Monday. She would detail how the opposition’s incompetence was nowhere more clearly visible than in her own constituency, where the council which they run had ignored this shocking tax evasion to continue unabated for five years, only finally interrupted by her own extensive efforts to alert Parliament to the scandal for the benefit of her voters who, frankly, deserve better.