View from the Bridge: 8
by John Morrison
8: Hold the front page
It's election day in Milltown and the inhabitants, reeling after six weeks of lies and braggadocio, are still wondering which bunch of hoodlums to vote for. The Town Drunk, for example, is weaving his way towards the polling station, ready to do his civic duty: spoiling his ballot paper with puerile invective and a yellow crayon.
Since there is nothing on the ballot paper to suggest that you can put your 'X' against 'Democracy', 'Fascist Junta', 'Banana Republic' or 'Enlightened Dictatorship', the only choice seems to be between one load of Identikit politicians and another. Or, for those who eschew politics altogether, there's always the Green Party.
The opinion polls suggest a Labour landslide. A lot of Milltown voters will think "It's a foregone conclusion; there's no need for me to vote" and risk letting the Tories back in again. It's a chilling notion, not least because most Tory MPs, having read the writing on the wall weeks ago, have already negotiated well-paid sinecures with profitable multinational companies.
The pollsters and pundits managed to get it wrong in 1992, so Milltown folk won't take the result for granted until John Major climbs onto his soap box for one last time and addresses the nation. "Remember all that guff about 'a classless society' and 'a nation at ease with itself'? Well, it was just a joke: we're Conservatives, for God's sake...".
"Here", says Beer Bore, well into his fifth lunchtime pint at the Flag, and prodding some hapless drinker's chest with his fore-finger, "How many Tory ministers does it take to change a light-bulb?" His victim shrugs his shoulders indifferently, so Beer Bore carries on: "None: the official line is that not only is the bulb working fine it's actually getting brighter all the time".
* * *
Milltown folk wake up on a sunny morning - a 'new dawn' indeed - to find the political map has turned red in the night. The results exceed the expectations of even the most optimistic of Labour supporters. Who knows what finally clinched it: Labour policies, Tory sleaze or Andrew Lloyd-Webber's petulant promise to leave the country if Labour won?
Willow Woman went against her better instincts (which were to plump for the Natural Law Party and the obvious fiscal advantages of yogic flying) and cast her vote for Labour. The last straw came when her grandmother had to go into hospital for a heart-swap operation. Unfortunately her heart was swapped for the transmission of a 1974 Ford Capri. Despite the hospital's crack team of fund-managers predicting a good outcome - "perhaps a small after-tax profit" - Willow Woman decided it was time for a change of government.
As we watch the TV pictures of Tony Blair posing outside Number 10, the feeling in Milltown is one of guarded optimism. Then again, we are the same gullible folk who imagine that pouring boiling water on a Pot Noodle is going to transform a mixture of brick-dust and E-numbers into a tasty and nutritional snack.
The editor of the Milltown Times realises a lifetime's ambition by poking his head around the door of the editorial office (a broom cupboard equipped with a kettle and a Remington typewriter) and yelling "Hold the front page..." at his startled sub. The momentous events of the last twenty-four hours have not gone unnoticed here at the town's journalistic hotbed. "New headline", he barks, "Milltown Man Spoils Ballot Paper".
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