The Blurt Of Richard Davies

When What Could Never Happen Here, happens here... It took a civil war and the fracturing of the United Kingdom to force the issue, but finally someone did what needed to be done to sort out the mess we were in once and for all. With the incompetent politicians replaced by the Consensus government, the Federation as we are now called is being led into a green renaissance. We may not be wealthy, but we're getting by, and from here the only way is up... While many people have been browbeaten into believing it, Richard Davies - an executive journalist recently promoted in one of the new media organisations - knows the propaganda to be an empty lie. But as a long-delayed General Election heralds the end of emergency rule and the start of the Democratic Reset he'll find out just how difficult it is to do the right thing in a world gone wrong. The Blurt Of Richard Davies: Today's fiction is a warning of tomorrow's nightmare. Read it while you are still able to.

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18. Chapter Eighteen

The Crises - Interlude. It all seemed to be going well for a while. Within days the King's Council composed of the non-political Great and the Good, was up and running. Soon it subdivided into further committees, each one headed by a member of the Royal family. In general people welcomed a life without politicians, and as the first decrees of the Economic Reconstruction Directorate began to show results - for example the first tranche of construction jobs to make a start at rebuilding the riot-torn hearts of the inner cities - a mood of relative national well-being began to arise.

As planned many of the junior Royals were able to withdraw from their positions on the Council as more public figures were co-opted as committee members. With the hated government sacked the insurgents lost much of their raison d'être. Soon the streets calmed to an uneasy peace and the army was able to return to barracks, leaving a paramilitary National Police Force in control of public order.

Once the initial framework of the Council had been established it began to make its presence felt. The UK was for the time being renamed the Federation of England, Wales, and Ulster to recognise the current reality of the situation. It would revert back to the United Kingdom when Scotland was reunited with the rest of the Union.

The Union Flag was retained in its current form. Partly as a practical economy measure, to save the costs of making new flags, but also as an affirmation Scotland remained an integral part of the Union - even if it was under an illegal occupation for the time being - and one day it would be returned to the fold. Though no one explained exactly how or when it would be achieved.

In an attempt to further solidify national cohesion Wales was granted increased but limited autonomy to defuse any possibility the Nats there might decide to follow the Alban example. The worst excesses of the social security cuts were suspended pending a reorganisation of the entire system.

Other measures to foster national reconciliation and ameliorate the worst of the hurt that had been inflicted were promised. There was no formal ceasefire in the class war, there being no official leadership of the insurgents to negotiate with. But it was made known to influential community leaders that the new government wanted peace, and a break from the policies of the past they tacitly admitted had gone too far. A Partnership For Peace was available for those willing to lay down lay down their arms. It would be a new dialogue between the government and the governed, but in return a halt to the violence and an acceptance the areas under rebel control must revert to the law of the land was expected. By and large the informal and unpublicised peace accord was agreed.

With the civil war all but ended and the risk of a nuclear war reduced for the time being the new Council could concentrate on fixing the dire economic situation. For a while everything seemed to go as well as could be expected for an organisation thrown together under the stress of an emergency. With widespread support and the goodwill to make the best of it there was no reason why a cautious optimism shouldn't be justified.

Over the next seven months a hybrid economy based on a contingency plan for recovery from - ironically of all things - a nuclear attack was implemented, with the state taking 'temporary' control over those sectors deemed vital to the national interest. The Royal Decree gave the Council sweeping powers to requisition the necessary labour, materials and funding for their national reconstruction projects. They weren't too fussy about whose resources they used or how they obtained them. Anyone who tried to obstruct them was dealt with in a peremptory manner.

State planning and direction, absent for decades, were once again in evidence. This time, we were promised, the lessons had been taken to heart. The state would never again allow the core industries and services upon which the nation depended to become worn-down through privatisation, underinvestment, short-term thinking and rampant profiteering on essential services. It wasn't a case of back to the 1940s because relatively the UK was in a greater need of reconstruction now than it was then; but forward to a new society in which the state would provide the secure basis upon which the private sector could build. This was the model which had until recent times kept mainland Europe prosperous; and if any evidence was needed as to how badly unrestrained free-market policies had failed, well; just look around you...

But as well as the creation of a 'temporarily' state run economy, a bold gamble was placed with the creation of a London Economic Zone. Stretching all the way from an enclave in the City of London and further east down the estuary towards Thamesport, as well as being planned to eventually cover much of southern Essex, it was hoped that the LEZ - able to set its own economic policies, and create many of its own laws under the nominal supervision of the Council - would do for the UK what Hong Kong had done for China in the last century.

But not everything was rosy; Scotland remained under the control of the Alban junta. During the first weeks of the occupation there was talk of the international community organising a sea blockade, but the talk soon fizzled out when the Albans demonstrated a North Korean copy of a Sunburn missile fired at an old hulk towed out to sea especially for the display. The newer Chinese versions of the missile were said to be stealthy enough to evade detection by even by the latest generation of naval radars. Perhaps the Albans had been able to get hold of some of those as well, or maybe not. No-one knew for certain or was in any hurry to risk a high-value capital warship to find out.

The UN agreed to an arms embargo, financial sanctions, a prohibition of importing Scotch whisky, and a total ban on flights to and from Scottish airports. Apart from the flight ban the measures were soon circumvented, and in time even infrequent long-haul charters to Alba from Russia and China began to take to the air. Money trumps principles every time and there was plenty to be made dealing with the Albans. Within days of their successful seizure of power, cargo ships supposedly en-route to other ports diverted to Alba to join the missile launching freighter which had anchored in the Firth of Forth for safety. If there had been a window of opportunity for a decisive strike against the Albans it had surely closed by now.

Their stocks of food and materiel were quickly replenished with a seaborne supply line becoming established. Occasionally, and well out of range of the Alban missiles, a ship was intercepted and impounded at the nearest port; just to show willing. But to the scowls of those who still cared, the majority of the deliveries remained untroubled.

Soon even the issue of Scotland receded from the forefront of the public mind. We had a nation to rebuild, and truth be told many people were only too pleased to be rid of the squinnying Jocks. They'd wanted their independence and now having made their bed they could lie in it for a while. It'd serve the buggers right and teach them a lesson. The fact it had happened this way was a humiliation for us but let's face it, the country had been allowed to get rotten to the core, and at the moment we were in no fit state to reclaim Scotland. But when we'd rebuilt Britain we could see about regaining what is rightfully ours, and on our terms; then the ringleaders of the coup would hang for their treason... But until then the Scots would just have to wait and suffer.

And suffer they did. Within days refugees began to arrive by sea in Ulster and the northern coasts in whatever craft they could lay their hands on. Others took their chances by land. Before the Albans completed their 'protective defences' there was a reasonable chance of getting out providing that you didn't meet a mobile patrol; that soon changed once the Alban militia had established themselves.

People wonder how a ruling group numbering no more than a few thousand can impose their will on a population of millions. In the first couple of years of the Consensus the question could equally have been asked of us, but in Scotland's case the answer was cold-blooded, brutal terror. All it takes is the example of seeing someone who refuses to cooperate being publicly maimed or shot, or threats made against your family and suddenly everyone obeys. The Albans introduced a form of conscription, and one of their first acts was to create a border patrol force, as well as land mining the area north of Hadrian's Wall. The fences, barbed wire and concrete watch towers soon followed.

A compulsory biometric identity database was introduced. This became the basis of a sophisticated rationing and control system; the state's electronic leash around everyones' neck. Yet more people, seeing the way events were heading, risked everything to escape. Others, especially in the moderate nationalist movement, decided their best hope of survival lay in active cooperation with, and declaring their loyalty to, the New Order.

Given a free vote now there would never be a hope in hell of a legitimately founded independent Scotland being approved so they may as well throw their lot in with the new government. Safe behind their fortified border, with their position assured by the threat of nuclear force, the Alban junta and their North Korean backers were free to pursue their project of creating an authoritarian criminal state who's main industries would be drug trafficking; money laundering; a secure data haven; and a centre of cyber warfare, spamming, scamming and hacking. If you wanted your dirty deeds done dirt cheap then Alba was your place to do business.

The international community didn't like it but there was little that they could do to change it. So soon after the events in the Gulf and off Sizewell no one was eager to go to war again. The Albans were canny enough to keep the oil and gas flowing, provided they got paid for it, so against the backdrop of a world of disrupted energy supplies, far out of the public gaze, a little publicised dirty compromise was struck. The Albans got their Danegelt in exchange for not rocking the boat and keeping the pipelines flowing.

The tacit recognition of the regime extended further. Exchanges of people who found themselves trapped on the 'wrong' side of the border at the "Partition' - as the subtle airbrushing of history began to rename the coup - needed to be arranged. And talking to the 'other' party, even through intermediaries, implied a status quo was becoming tolerated if not accepted. Quietly, some academics and diplomats discussed if Alba was any less a legitimate state than the scraps left of Israel; itself founded on the basis of terrorism and forcible seizure. Or if their involvement in criminality was any worse than the Swiss banking sector. The realpolitik of international relations began to soften the harsher rhetoric. Alba existed, and for the sake of regional peace it would have to be engaged, however unpalatable that may be for some members of the European community.

In any case, the Federation was itself a source of contention in the European Union. Some EU states blamed the 'difficult' member for our own demise and for being so negligent as to allow the Alban crisis to develop as it did. Some of the more Machiavellian tendencies considered that Alba with its energy reserves would be more of a valuable trading partner than the broken, bankrupt Federation. And there was a continuing irritation with the erosceptic direction the Council was taking within the Fed, as well as the manner in which the Transition had occurred.

The Europeans felt the UK should have asked for EU peacekeepers to be deployed in her cities; and if only the UK had agreed to deeper economic and political integration rather than constantly trying to frustrate the inevitable progression to an ever closer union, perhaps this crisis might not have occurred?

On top of that there was the way in which the King had directly intervened in the affairs of state: There was no precedent for this. Constitutional Monarchs were supposed to stay non-political figureheads and confine themselves to opening prestigious projects; not get involved in politics and worse, threaten to reconstruct the entire state apparatus into a more democratic form. The horror of it!

The people of the former UK had always been deeply eurosceptic; there was a widespread feeling within the Fed that the EU hadn't given us the support we were entitled to expect during the Secession War, and they'd stabbed us in the back over the Alban issue by dealing with the Scots. It was clear we were steadily growing further apart from our European neighbours.

The complaints from other members about the effect that the Fed's neo-communist reconstruction policies would have on their economies by undercutting them with cheaper labour was the final straw. To public acclaim, the EU were told by the Council that if they had any problems with the direction that the Fed was moving in, they could just hold their peace, and watch us get on with it. Complying with a stream of ever more ridiculous EU directives had hindered the Federation's economy and helped get us into this mess. Now we were trying to drag ourselves out of it by our own efforts, interference by the EU would not be tolerated. A sovereign nation would decide its own laws. If Europe couldn't accept that then it was time to arrange an amicable distancing; with some economic ties being maintained but no further participation in the political project.

In the end the hastily drafted arrangement codified in the Treaty of Ravenna suited everyone. A new category of 'Associate Member' was created for the Fed. In exchange for the economic freedom of becoming a semi-detached member of the EU the Federation agreed it would continue to abide by most of the principles enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights and some decisions of the European Court, but would be  exempted from any further political integration. In addition, the Federation undertook to hold binding referenda every ten years as to whether it would maintain its associate status, or seek a return to a fully-integrated membership once more.

With the European issue resolved for the time being the Fed was free within limits to do as it wished. Fuelled by state spending the economy began to stabilise, then very slowly to recover, though it would be a long way back to even the level of the previous year. If we weren't a nation at peace with ourselves there was at least the realisation if we didn't take this final chance to make this work we really would be doomed.

 

If the future wasn't hopeful at least it was tolerable. For a few short months it really seemed possible we could finally sort out the nation's deep-seated problems at long last. Then came the shock news from Buckingham Palace; and worse still, Lloyd Farrell felt himself receiving another Command from the Lord.

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