It had been three years since that fateful day back in 2001, and Michael’s predictions had surely come to pass. The world had indeed changed. A bizarre state of war now existed, pitting us seemingly against fear itself and had soon spread from its initial battleground of Afghanistan to Iraq, but ultimately, it was solidly entrenched here, at home.
The dubious existence of the Guantanamo Bay holding installation was the focus of much controversy but it was simply the visible tooth of a much larger monster. The mechanism of fear was now working overtime, relentlessly overplaying the inherent wartime fears; images of robed terrorists murdering us in every which way.
Posters began to appear warning people that they may be renting flats or selling cars to terrorists, but it was the more insidious nature of the relatively new war in Iraq, which was dominating the consciousness of the nation.
The population almost split over the rights and wrongs of the matter. What began with questions of whether this man was a threat and was if worthwhile taking him down, soon evolved into more fundamental ones, questioning the very nature of modern warfare.
As the noon sun shone through the window, the rays seemed to capture the dust from the air. Breaking the beams was Ken Taylor, the recently appointed Shadow Minister for Sport. He was speaking with Lewis Samuals, one of the Opposition’s key campaigners.
They had been arguing over how to proceed with the Prevention of Terrorism Bill for the last three days. Three votes down, the whips were already out, but to little avail. Ken had an almost seductive quality at times. Single and quite happy be so, he merrily waded through life with various partners and other less savoury companions.
Of course, this was not widely known, but it certainly kept him out of the top jobs. However, he did not seek fame, he simply enjoyed the thrill of politics. And this may well be his crowning achievement, though only time would tell. The pair had finally come up with a plan, risky and by no means guaranteed to work, but still they were determined to try.
The door creaked open and in strolled a slightly different Michael. There was a faint air of political savvy about him now that was clearly shown in his confidence as he walked in. “Good Morning:” He proclaimed to the two waiting vipers.
“Morning Michael. Please take a seat.” Ken invited as he sat opposite. Lewis remained standing by the window. Ken was already puzzled by Michael’s demeanour. This was hardly a regular meeting. With Ken and Lewis both loyal hardliners with the Opposition, and Michael, a relatively inoffensive member of one of the other parties, this was quite improper.
“So, what brings up together this afternoon?” Michael quipped.
“Let’s get straight to it then,” Ken began. “As you are no doubt aware, we need some support with our direction on the Terror Bill…”
“You don’t say.” Michael interjected, with Lewis turning to look at him for a moment, but soon turning back to stare out of the window.
“Yes. We need your vote,” Ken curtly stated.
“What do you want?” Lewis piped up.
“I want a seat on your bench.” Michael stated, as cool as could be under the circumstances.
Ken and Lewis exchange a quick glance. “Pardon?” was Ken’s astounded reply. This was certainly not in their plan, but it was hardly a kick in the teeth, Ken thought.
“You heard me. I want to switch, and I want your guarantee to me, that I’ll be the candidate for my seat in the next election.” Michael began, “And, of course, that’s the trick isn’t it.” He finished with a slight laugh.
The atmosphere in the musty room had changed. The uncertainty about his loyalty had been exiled, replaced with an almost giddy anticipation. This man would deal, and with assets that most would consider to be untouchable.
“You do realise that it would almost spell the end of your career?” Ken softy explained.
“Or the beginning a new one…” Michael quickly replied. He had clearly been waiting for this.
Lewis, still standing by the window, was now facing Michael. “You’re one hungry bastard, aren’t you?”
Michael simply replied, “No, just bored.”
Only days after what was to become that fateful meeting at Westminster, Michael was in the limelight for the first time. Standing behind a podium before about fifty reporters, he nervously composed himself as he prepared to deliver his speech.
Standing to his left, Miles Underwood, a young P.A., discreetly representing the opposition to which he was about to announce his new allegiance. Miles too, was a hungry young man, though in his early twenties, had the vigour and stout assurance of a man twice his age.
A man on the brink of civil service stardom, if he played his cards right. But today, he did not think too much of it. This was just a nice P.R. exercise that would give them a few headlines, win a vote and probably finish this Holden guy’s career.
You could almost see him chewing as he stood in the background, bored by the endless machinations of the powers of which he represented. He had done all this and he wanted to move up. A career path had already been planned out for him, he was going places, but not without a price he feared.
With a screech of the microphone, Michael began his speech: “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” He had planned to begin, but thought it might be too much! “Thank you. It is with a heavy heart today that I must announce my resignation from a party which I have served loyally for the past four years.” He began, reading form his script.
He continued. “This is not to slight my party in any way. They are a strong, stout political machine who have good intentions and some means to bring them to fruition, but ultimately, I have come to feel that they are not serving their constituents as well as they would like, as well as I would like to.” He paused, “It is with that thought, that I have chosen the bold, and many will say dubious step, of taking up the invitation to join this Party, which I feel can offer me more tools to make good on the promises which I made in good faith upon my electoral victory.”
The camera flashes which had littered his speech so far burst into a solid flurry as he again paused. “No, I feel that I will be better able to serve my constituents and indeed the country as a whole.” Holden continued, “Thank you,” as he quickly turned with Miles to leave the podium, avoiding any direct questioning.
As the pair made their way up the steps back into Party HQ, Miles was taken a back by the attitude of his new ward, almost impressing the jaded P.A. “What did you think?” The smiling Holden asked Miles, as they marched through the musty lobby.
“Not bad.” Miles dryly responded, seeing something intangible in this disloyal MP, which filled him with a sense of excitement of which he had little experience. It may have been pride. Why, was a mystery, but Michael Holden was clearly not your run of the mill Member of Parliament.
Meanwhile, in the dimly lit, day time shadowy office of Ken Taylor in the heart of Westminster, Lewis Samuals and Ken both watched the live speech on a news starved twenty-four hour news channel, and with a sense of trepidation, Ken gave his verdict:
“Well,” he began as he rose to pour himself a drink. “He doesn’t pull his punches.” He continued and he poured what appeared to be a straight Vodka into a highball glass. “Got straight to business.” He concluded, now pouring an equally generous measure of fresh orange juice into the glass.
As the cool headed Lewis looked on to his friend, who he had for a long time suspected may be something of an alcoholic, he dryly stated, “It’s going be an up hill battle for this guy, but I think he’s got what it takes.”
Gulping back a mouthful of his makeshift Screwdriver, Ken said, “I hope you’re right. I just can’t see it.”
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