The gentleman financier was perturbed. This was unusual – he seldom worried except when the Bentley gave trouble starting in cold weather or one of his children needed to be vaccinated.
His wife, the archetypal Mrs Longsuffering, was used to his moods – or ‘preoccupations’ as she preferred to call them. Under normal circumstances, any financial concerns he may have had would be amply dissipated after his country had shaken off the tyrannical shackles of the European behemoth with its rapacious, unrelenting greed and love of regulation only bettered by a regimental sergeant major. And yet, a pencil-thin worry line had unaccountably appeared above the bridge of his aquiline, patrician nose.
He awoke at four a.m, reviewing in his quite prodigiously organised mind the events of the last few days. He was politeness personified, and was regularly seen tramping amiably around his mostly rural constituency, blessedly free of council estate wastelands where rotting bicycles and unlaid concrete paving stones competed for position amidst unmown grass and empty beer cans. Rumour had it that he was frequently accompanied by an elderly lady and a small boy, similarly attired to himself. His days had been spent in civilised debate, for the most part, uninterrupted by hecklers, both the growling and the shrill. He greeted mothers with babies who smelt almost permanently of vomit and food banks, elderly retired colonels, complexions made florid by more than a passing acquaintance with Uncle Johnnie Walker and sullenly mutinous young men in need of a haircut who lacked both manners and political acumen, with an equanimity born of having attended some of the most prestigious educational establishments his country could offer. His opponents bayed like distant bloodhounds, but they troubled him less than a spot of dandruff on his Savile Row suit. For the most part, they were invariably and almost universally complaining that that their tuition fees were too high and their grandmothers had had to spend several hours lying unattended on hospital trollies. Their bile had been thickened by hours of sociology seminars conducted by purple-haired lesbians hankering after long-forgotten days of secondary picketing.
He would rise shortly, exercise the dogs, eat a healthy breakfast – Cook knew what he liked – the narcissists dream of voting for himself slightly tarnished by a new poll released only yesterday which, unthinkably might return a no-name opponent with the eagerness and political ability of a basset hound to the House upon whose benches he had languidly reclined some months previously.
Meanwhile in a constituency flanked by two prisons, one for men, the other women – both possibly having transgender facilities – a candidate of a different stripe was naggingly troubled, mostly, by the possibility of a ballot box beating. Almost all the polls suggested a downhill cruise to yet another victory. He lived in a modest dwelling, cycled assiduously, grew root vegetables and the homeless man in the opposite doorway had been given a Harris tweed jacket. His immediate neighbours appeared to consist of a twitter of chic little outlets with curious sounding names, many of which appeared to sell some kind of expertise, providing brand partners with tailored, communicative and strategic representation. His speeches were carefully choreographed by a squadron of acolytes who scripted his remarks to the few, not the many, and who only allowed him to speak to the benign and the certain whose commitment to the cause was full-throated and unwavering. What could possibly go wrong? Yet, there were clouds. Not storm force, but bigger than a clenched fist, presaging a downpour which he, with all his legendary activism and skill, seemed unable to dislodge from an otherwise sunny mental horizon.
Isaac Asimov once wrote a short story where an entire democratic process for the election of a President was pared down by a computer to the opinion of one solitary voter.
If. Just imagine…