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A Christmas Carol. Stave Five: The End of It

December 24, 2012 3:16 PM
By Andy Boddington in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

East Midlands Liberal Democrats (courtesy of LibDemVoice) is delighted to bring you A Christmas Carol, a contemporary re-imagining of Charles Dickens' classic tale, told in five staves (as Dickens called them). The fifth stave, The End of It, follows. You can catch up with the story so far here: Stave One, Mensch's Ghost; and Stave Two, The Ghost of Avarice Past; Stave Three, The Ghost of Arrogance Present; and Stave Four, The Ghost of Austerity Future.

As sketched by Bodz

"Osborne, you are late!" Cameron said sternly. The wretched Chancellor mumbled an apology. But Cameron was in no mood to listen. He leaned his head a little to one side, alerting the Chancellor to an all too familiar figure in blue sitting beside him.

"Your Majesty," Osborne gasped.

"Welcome, Chancellor," said the Queen. She awarded him her customary non-committal smile.

Osborne felt an elbow jab in his left ribs. He turned to Nick Clegg. "Hat," Clegg hissed. "Take off your hat!"

Osborne had not been aware that he was still wearing a stove pipe hat. He blushed red as he removed it. "Bah! Starbucks!" he muttered.

"Starbucks?" the Queen replied. "It might be better than the coffee you get here," she said with a regal air of disapproval.

Cameron blushed and quickly turned to the business of the day. "It will surprise no one that our main agenda item is the economy. I name George to speak to this. He will no doubt assure us that Plan A is on track, if delayed, and Britain will maintain its Triple A rating."

"Prime Minister, Your Majesty," Osborne began, adopting an air of pomposity that caused several members of the Cabinet to roll their eyes. "Our attempts to maintain a Triple A rating have been based on a policy of avarice, arrogance and austerity. This must change."

The entire cabinet turned to face Osborne. Cameron frowned at him. The Queen ever so slightly raised her eyebrows. Ken Clarke shuffled his hush puppies.

Osborne ploughed on. "Plan A - let me now call this Plan Apocalypse - must be abandoned."

Cameron's frown deepened. There were mutterings and mumbles around the table. Jeremy Hunt snorted and Gove could barely stifle a guffaw.

Osborne faltered. For a moment, he wanted to run or hide under the table. But he recalled all too clearly the awful words of the Ghost of Austerity Future. Osborne spoke them out loud:

"On every street corner, in every town and village of Britain, people beg. Tell me why? Young people no longer have a hope of job. Tell me why? Too many people no longer have a decent place to live. Tell me why?"

Gove giggled. "He thinks he's bloody Geldof!"

Cameron glared at Gove and snapped at the Chancellor. "Osborne, please get a grip."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," the Chancellor replied. Nick Clegg scowled at him. "How dare you steal my best lines," he muttered under his breath.

Osborne continued. "I'll tell you why we have these problems. It is because we have slushed money into the vaults of the banks and the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor."

He was in his stride now. He thumped the table.

"We must introduce a universal Fair Wage. I'll go further. This Coalition must declare Fair Benefit for all that need it. We should afford this. We can afford this. We should even put beer duty down!"

Osborne leant back in his chair and awaited responses from his colleagues. Clegg smiled. Gove began giggling out loud. Eric Pickles shouted: "The chancellor has taken leave his senses. Give the job to someone sensible - like myself!"

"But I want the job," Jeremy Hunt squeaked.

"Order, order," Cameron shouted but he was ignored. Eric Pickles was having a flaming row with Jeremy Hunt about which of them would be the best Chancellor.

Within moments, the Cabinet had descended into chaos. Everyone was standing and raging at each other. Fists flew, glasses were broken and chairs toppled. As William Hague hid under the table for safety, the Queen stood and walked towards Osborne and Cameron who were having a blazing argument.

"Mr Cameron," she said. "In sixty years, one has never witnessed such a disgraceful affray." The two men paled and she smiled. "I have been to a thousand dull meetings and I wish to thank you for giving one some entertainment at last." And with that, she swung her handbag and clouted Osborne in the eye. "One has such little fun usually," she said casually, before sweeping out of the room.

Cameron stood immobilised in shock. Osborne slumped to the ground in a faint. "Is he dead?" squeaked Gove. "Bagsy his job!"

Some while later, Osborne woke on a snow bound platform. "It was all a dream. Again!" he sighed. "And now I'm back in bloody Corby." But as he gazed around he saw that he was not in Corby and the platform was busy with people boarding a train.

He grabbed his hat and umbrella and dashed along the platform. "Where am I," he asked the first official he found. The station attendant laughed. "Had a little too much today?" he laughed. "This is Leicester, and this is the last train."

"Last train," the attendant shouted. "Last train to the west and Manchester. All aboard!"

Osborne scurried onto the train and sighed with relief as he settled into a first class seat. "What a nightmare," he thought. "Thank goodness it was only a bad dream. A very bad dream. I'll never drink Starbucks coffee again." And after a while he was drifting in and out of a fitful sleep.

"Tickets please. Tickets please!" Osborne started awake as the female train conductor looked at him impatiently. "Oh, sorry," he muttered and handed over his ticket.

"This," the conductor said sternly, "This is a second class ticket. And you might just have noticed that this is a first class carriage."

"Oh, I'll pay the difference," Osborne pleaded, pushing forward his credit card. "Sorry, sir," she said. "We have orders to clamp down on drunks and ticket cheats. Far too many of them at this time of the year."

"But I'm not drunk," he pleaded.

She sniggered. "Then where did you get that black eye?"

"But, but," Osborne sobbed. "But - I'm the Chancellor of the Exchequer." The conductor looked at him with scorn. "And I'm Mistress Pain. Now are you going to give me your name, or do you want me to have you arrested and handcuffed?"

Osborne thought for a moment. It just had to be another dream. Another spectre. But did not the Ghost of Mensch say that there would only be three? He decided to play safe and be submissive. He held his arms forward, crossed at the wrists.

"I'm Georgie Porgy, Mistress Pain," he squealed, "Please handcuff me."

"Right, that's it," the train conductor said. "I'll be getting the Transport Police to meet the train at Nuneaton. And that's the end of it!" She stormed away.

"Bah! Starbucks!" Osborne cried. He pulled his hat tight over his head, folded his arms and slumped back into his seat.

"Bah! Starbucks!"

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem living in Ludlow, Shropshire. He writes on communities, planning, the environment and history.