Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Perilous U-turn? by Andrew Culture

At a date in the near future, the world is wallowing in the deepest financial recession since time began. Expressing moral disgust at the government for bailing out large banking institutions the British public are staging the largest revolt since the Poll Tax riots that shattered the foundations of the Conservative government of the 1990s. The prime minister is on national radio, sighing deeply and receiving call after call from angry and desperate members of the public, each with a sorry tale to tell. After nearly an hour of this verbal abuse the Prime Minister sighs deeply, and is momentarily unresponsive to anything said by the callers. He ignores the increasingly desperate sounding presenter. In his low strong voice the Prime Minster starts mumbling, as if reassuring himself after waking from a nightmare,
“I know, I know, I know, I tried, I know,” he’s heard saying, while in the aural foreground a thick accented Yorkshire man loses his temper and squeals like a banshee while accusing the leader of the country of personally destroying his life. In line with a string of previous callers this Yorkshire man is furious that his company is going bust for want of bank funding. Echoing millions of British voices he wants to know why the banks haven’t held to their word. How can these financial institutions be allowed to block small business funding when the funding given to them by the government was handed over on the very condition that they passed on the support? Just as he was reaching a Zenith of abuse the caller is cut off, the presenter offers the palliative that they appear to have ‘lost that caller’.

The producer sits wide eyed behind the control room glass, signalling wildly to the presenter that there is a seemingly endless line of people ready to abuse the premier. Another caller comes through, and the agitation rises to a fever pitch and personal threats of violence are made against the still silent Prime Minister. Hearing the voices of the callers as if he were in a coma he thinks back to an extraordinary meeting he had with the Queen a few days before. Despite spending decades as little more than a tourist attraction the Queen sternly reminds the Prime Minister that she still holds ultimate power over government. With a grim face and eyes as cold and hard as steel she warns that unless the situation improves she will find her hand forced, for the protection of her people. She makes the ultimate threat, she will dissolve parliament. She is not alone in her grave alarm, for the first time in many years her people are listening to her increasingly frequent public addresses, and nodding in agreement at her surprisingly aggressive rhetoric. Interrupting yet another livid caller the Prime Minster yelps like a stuck pig and stands up suddenly, sending his chair wheeling back across the studio, knocking over a stack of books on a far table. In the control room the producer has also sprung to his feet, behind him stand the solemn figures of the deputy Prime Minister and the station controller. The controller can be seen whispering in the deputy’s ear with some urgency, the deputy has his head bowed and is slowly shaking it from side to side. The Prime Minister paces the room, clenching his fists and raising them up and down by his sides like an ape on parallel bars. Cutting off the current caller the presenter pads the dead air with recaps of what the previous callers had to say, while looking desperately for guidance from his producer. His producer is oblivious to his presenter’s desperation, he is looking the other way, making a cut throat motion to his controller and shrugging his shoulders so high it looks like his head may retract into this rib cage.
“BLAST IT!”
This outburst from the Prime Minister takes everyone by surprise, for what seems like an incredibly long amount of time all is silent in the studio, in the control room, and in every radio fed room in the country. Listeners at home hear an almighty crash as the Prime Minster kicks over a low table, sending branded mugs of lukewarm coffee flying across the room into the heavy studio door. Throughout the country millions of buttocks simultaneously clench. Families, lovers, work mates and even the studio staff look at each other with stern concern in their faces. Like a bully that has pushed a victim too far, everyone feels momentarily sorry for the Prime Minister. An apathy laced with fear, for what may happen if the bullied child pulls out a knife?

The nation listens as the Prime Ministers heavy footsteps grow louder, announcing his return to the microphone.
“You’re right, you’re all blasted well right. This is a stupid horrid mess. It’s a mess that I’m going to put right!”
Clearing his throat in order to lose the quiver in his voice, the Prime Minister starts to talking calmly and firmly, and for the first time since the show began he sounds like a confident leader addressing the nation,
“We will not continue to bail out the banks, we will show grace and reverence to the very reason our political party was funded, the people. When I leave this place I will return to the Houses of Parliament, to the Treasury, and we will make amends. Barring the money given to banks to guarantee the savings of the public, we will recall every penny we’ve given the greedy bastards!”
He pauses, waiting for response, one not forthcoming from the few people gathered around him in this dimly lit studio complex.
“We will take back this money, and we will give it back to the people. We have some figures to finalise, but I estimate that by the end of next week we will be in a position to give every person in Britain a bankers draft for £25,000. You the public may do with this money as you wish, and think carefully on your plans. After this process has been completed I will tender my resignation.”

The presenter makes well rehearsed excuses about being out of time, and the programme goes off the air, leaving a nation reeling. A week later each person in the country does indeed receive £25,000 to do with as they wish. For a few weeks everyone lives in what feels like a golden age, teenagers cruise the streets in brand new cars, jewellery shops sell out of stock, and hundreds of thousands of people pay off their mortgages. It takes some time for people to realise that the Prime Minister may not have acted in the best interests of the nation, but has acted with all the spite of a harshly disciplined child. Due partly to the overwhelmingly positive mood this cash injection instils in the nation the first few cracks go un-noticed. Over the course of a month nearly 100,000 heroin users die of overdose. People that frittered their money away become violently jealous of anyone that still has a surplus of money. Those that dutifully paid their money into a bank despair as the bank goes out of business, sucking their cash lifeline into a large black hole of epic debt. In the following weeks the financial fabric of the country rips and comes apart completely. British inflation starts to out pace even Zimbabwe. Britain is excluded from the European Union and barred from the common market. France becomes so terrified of the madness spreading that the Eurotunnel is sealed. Inflation continues to skyrocket and starts to dwarf the rises seen in Germany during the 1930s. Within a few months anarchy is new master of Britain. People cower in their homes, listening out for slowing footsteps from behind barricades, dreading the day the footsteps pause outside their home. Just hours before Buckingham Palace falls to the mob, the Queen disbands Parliament and the country descends into fractured and bloody civil war. A perilous u-turn indeed.


This story was inspired by Prime Minister Gordon Brown taking phone calls from the public on the BBC Radio4 programme 'You and Yours' on the 10th March 2009.