The 68th and final chapter of “The Cafe with Five Faces, what the walls heard, 2018-2019”, available here as a FREE READ as the customers give their final (for now) condemnation of Brexit and the December 2019 General Election – it’s as un-pretty as one might expect!
This particular Friday the thirteenth, that of December 2019, was probably the bleakest Friday the thirteenth ever. Many would say ‘definitely’. It was the day when the British electorate somehow managed to green-light something which our venerable and esteemed former Speaker, John Bercow, has, correctly in my view, decreed the biggest national mistake since the Second World War.
By way of analogy, imagine all the turkeys in the United Kingdom having a December vote in which the choice was between a traditional turkey Christmas and a progressive, forward-looking vegetarian festive season. For some reason, the head turkey was in favour of the former, as he had an escape route, and by various means such as avoiding interviews, evading scrutiny and hiding in fridges, he managed to persuade a sizeable minority of those eligible to vote that he was right and would get it done. As a result, due to an archaic electoral system which deprived many of a real voice, the turkeys did indeed vote for Christmas and suffered the inevitable consequent demise.
Now the head turkey in question, slavishly supported by his hench-fowl, the likes of Priti Chicken and the in-bred Eton mafia, and financially backed by blinkered, mega-rich cronies, who were also safe from the damage their actions and policies would lead to, tell the rest of the poultry population, “We won, so shut up”. Faced with the prospect of being devoured or seeing one’s country flushed down the pan, we say…
“No, we won’t shut the fuck up because we care and we know we are right and with the evidence to prove so.” Mike completed my train of thought in his usual, rather unsubtle, but flawlessly accurate and direct manner. Well, he had to do something while waiting for me to pour three beers for him and his regular Cape Town compatriots.
The resulting glasses were very quickly half-drained, Mike’s to lubricate his vocal cords and those of James and John to prepare their hearing for the anticipated onslaught. They were, of course, not to be disappointed.
“What a difference a year makes,” the vocal one continued, forlornly. “Twelve months ago, give or take, I was sitting in this very spot, defending the Tories and complaining about how misunderstood ‘we’ (and there were air quote marks to accompany this word) were and that ‘we’, as was the case then, really did care for people and that no one gave ‘us’ any credit for it. This year, ‘they’, as I can no longer be associated, have finally proved me wrong and that they actually just don’t give a shit about anyone who isn’t giving them loads of money.”
“Unless they’re called Donald Trump,” James interrupted, “in which case, every word is hung on to as though it is Gospel.”
“Sad, but unequivocally true,” concurred Mike. “I confess to feeling politically lost, even homeless now the Independent Group for Change has folded. I mean, here I am; I studied International History and Politics up to degree level so I do know what I’m talking about; I was a member of the Conservative party and an often active supporter for fifty years, and now the damage done by the far-right neo-fascist rump of the party which has weaselled its way into office means I’ll never be able to vote for them again, even if I live another thirty years. There’s no way whatsoever they can do enough to excuse or even mitigate the harm they have already inflicted on the country in just a few months.”
James and John could not argue. Mike was full of bluster, yes, but he had an unerring knack of hitting the nail on the proverbial. Beer was downed in unison whilst thoughts were mustered for a renewed whinge.
“What we basically have now, of course,” the orator continued, as we knew he would, “in Britain and America and, no doubt, in many other places, is government by the rich, white men for the sole benefit of the rich white men. As one of my Armenian friends pointed out recently, it’s just as it’s always been, which is incredibly out of place with where the twenty-first century should be. What we also have at the moment, to counter the misogyny and male lunacy, is two of the best prime ministers in the world serving, dare I say, in more fringe countries: Finland and New Zealand. Both women, obviously.” He cast his mind back a few months and added, “Not that Theresa May was a huge success, of course, but, in her defence, she was blighted by the cancer Brexit and the demonic European Reform Group.”
John decided someone else should have a turn and took advantage of Mike reconnecting with his glass. “I have to say you’ve got more balls than me, being so openly critical, because I’ve seen you making the same comments on Twitter, saying things I wouldn’t dare say publicly. Aren’t you at all concerned that you’ll get targeted by the Johnson Youth?”
“What’s the Johnson Youth?”
“You know, those online bully boys who threaten violent retribution if you dare criticise Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Vacant and co. You know, the 2020s British version of 1930s Germany.”
“Sad how little progress we’ve made as human beings in the last ninety years, isn’t it?” questioned James, rhetorically. “But wouldn’t Johnson call them off, seriously?”
“Of course, he wouldn’t!” retorted Mike. “Actually, he can’t win really. If he calls them off, everyone will know they’re under his control; if he doesn’t, they’ll do me in in his name anyway. The joys of being prime minister.” There was a pause. “Having said that, it could just as easily be the svengali, Cummings. He seems to possess Rasputin-like influence over a weak leader. Hopefully, as in 1917 Russia, it will be the beginning of the end of the regime, although, preferably, not a communist one!”
“Who are you blaming for it all now?” asked James.
“Long list,” declared Mike. “The root cause is the heinous European Reform Group, an assembly of over-privileged prats who wanted, and still want, and worse still, expect to get, everything their own way. Then it was David Cameron for trying to appease them. In the referendum, it was the media for making fascist Farridge and blundering Boris seems like harmless lunatics, and Corbyn for showing no leadership whatsoever, plus, of course, a series of massive lies from Leave EU, which, somehow, they were allowed to get away with, and a feeling in some quarters, that a vote for Leave was a protest vote against the government, which, of course, it never should have been. And then there were rumours of foreign money and interference from whatever sources. More recently, it was the fault of the Lib Dems and Labour for granting Johnson a general election when we were so close to getting a Final Say referendum. The election was only about Brexit anyway and the pro-Remain parties won it by a familiar margin of 52-48. The final reason was our outdated political system which allowed a party with less than 50% approval to win a thumping majority which will permit them to run riot over our European values for the next five years. And, to be honest, given the state of the opposition, it’s more likely to be ten long and painful anni horribiles. And excuse me if my Latin grammar is a little off-piste.”
“Well, you did ask,” John pointed out to a shell-shocked James. “And let’s be honest, that was a bang-on, if rather lengthy, summary.
“I think now I’ll be leaving this sinking ship known as formerly-Great Britain,” Mike announced to a stunned audience of three (in my case, it consisted of a nightmare vision involving an ailing cash register), “that is, of course, if I can manage it before the widely and deservedly derided Priti Evil, Priti Vacant, or whatever the pretty bitchy home secretary’s name is, closes the borders.”
“Seriously?” James and John were in harmony with their concern.
“Seriously. Someone responded to one of my online comments recently that I couldn’t possibly be a Tory. But deep down, I still am; a genuine, moderate Tory of the Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine mould. No Tory should accuse me of stabbing the party in the back as I feel as though I’ve been stabbed front, back and both sides by their betrayal. I can honestly say that I’ve finally been driven out of the Conservative party, as it now seems to present itself to the world, by the likes of Johnson and the pitiful ERG. They just don’t seem to believe in liberal democracy any more. No wonder Putin is gloating so much.”
“What does Putin have to do with it?” demanded James, as I tried to count how many pejorative adjectives had thus far been used to describe the ERG, all of them warranted.
“Some time last year, he gleefully declared liberalism had become obsolete,” Mike answered. “My response at the time was to call him a wanker, not to his face, obviously, and note that, as a communist, he should be an expert in what being obsolete means. But now, with both Trump and Johnson in the world and in positions of power, he may well have a point. I mean, Britain has a government so mean, they are actively preventing vulnerable children being reunited with their families, and so extreme, they’ve branded a group of climate change activists as having an extremist ideology and therefore classified them as terrorists! Call that liberal democracy? What a sad joke.”
“Talking of jokes,” James began, in tones of mild incredulity, where the modifier ‘mild’ was surplus to requirements, “I hear they’re giving a knighthood to Iain Duncan Smith.”
“Beggars belief,” said John, predictably, as his catchphrase hadn’t yet been heard on this particular day.
“Humph,” grunted Mike in disgust, equally in accordance with assumptions. “You might as well give one to Frederick West.” Likening a peace-time politician to a mass murderer was, in my not-always-very-humble opinion, a little extreme and not particularly fair, but one can only wonder what on earth this particular recipient has ever done to deserve it. Supporters of the Labour party would probably quote the fact that he wasn’t seen sufficiently fit to lead the Tories into a general election as being meritorious of some recognition, but no one get knighted for that, surely! There again, these are weird times indeed.
“Well if the Americans can actually elect a president who believes aeroplanes were used to defeat the British in 1776, one has to say anything can happen,” said James.
“No wonder we lost,” muttered John. Three pairs of eyes moved in his direction to make sure he was, in fact, joking.
“You have to feel sorry for the Trump in some respects,” Mike said, as disbelieving eyes swivelled towards him instead. “I mean, imagine getting your dream job against all expectations and then finding out you’re completely shit at it.” Astonishment turned to derision.
“Johnson will be another,” added James. “Years of plotting and conspiring and lying and cheating to get a job he simply doesn’t have the ability to do.” Derision turned to concerted sighs of despair and disillusionment.
“It’s weird mirroring, isn’t it,” asked Mike, initially seeming to assume we all knew what ‘it’ was. Exophoric referencing isn’t always easy to follow. He clarified, “The Trump wants a wall to keep the Mexicans out and Patel wants a wall to keep the Europeans out.” He reconsidered. “Or perhaps those Brits seeking freedom in. What’s the supposedly free world coming to, I ask you?”
“I don’t know about keeping the Mexicans out of America,” commented John. “I reckon the Mexicans might eventually contribute to the cost just to keep Trump, the white supremacists and the gun lobbyists out of Mexico!”
“Fair point,” admitted Mike. “I wish they’d built one to keep Steve Bannon in, for sure.” He sighed deeply. “I really thought the Trump had no chance of getting re-elected in 2020, but if the UK can vote in Johnson, then anything is possible! Even if the Trump does pursue further warmongering in the Middle East just to detract from his endless inadequacies.”
“Three more beers, Kal,” John said, in an attempt to lift the despondency.
“Are you going to be here in the New Year?” James asked of Mike. “Or are you planning on leaving the UK as soon as?”
“No, I’m off to the delights of Moscow first,” Mike replied with an ambiguous expression, which left one wondering if this was a good move or bad. “A country which, despite my previous comments, almost looks like a liberal democracy these days when compared to Johnson’s toe-the-line rabble. Or perhaps I should say Cummings’ toe-the-line rabble. He’s the unelected bureaucratic bastard of dubious political heritage who seems to be in control.”
“Couldn’t you think of anywhere else to go in one of the coldest months of the year?” asked John, shivering at the mere thought.
“Well, I had an option of Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, the second coldest capital city on the planet, so I could almost be charged with common sense by opting for Moscow.”
“Surely no one could accuse you of that!” James tried to look innocent and serious but failed dismally.
“At least if the Brextremists get their evil way and dare to celebrate the demise of the United Kingdom on 31st January, I won’t be in the country to witness the sad shambles,” Mike pointed out.
“I can see the advantages in that; no one wants to see Farridge and Johnson beaming as though they had actually succeeded at something!”
“On the down side, I believe I’ll be living on the sixteenth floor, safe in the knowledge that if there’s a power cut, I’ll probably die climbing the stairs.” Mike shuddered and hoped Russian engineering wouldn’t let him down. “A bright way to start the new decade that would be, some might say!”
And so, the lights went down on another year at my café, but with the beacon of democratic hope which had illuminated the previous Christmas period now extinguished. It was a bleak end to 2019 with the promise of a dark decade looming ahead.
Aren’t books supposed to end on an optimistic note? Blame the turkeys, I say…