This is my first entry for a while. I've been so busy with work and electioneering I haven't had the time for writing, and frankly I've not felt up to it. I've had my first stage eye test; so far they've detected nothing obviously wrong which is a good sign, but they've not classified me as a potential malingerer and warned me against presenting myself with the same symptoms within a year or risk a Community Court hearing, which makes me wonder... I've been given some eye drops to use; what they're supposed to do or how effective they are I don't know. I've also discovered how much I hate self-administering them.
There's also a second stage examination due, whenever that happens. In the meantime I'm trying to use as many eyes-free solutions as I can, but coping that way isn't as easy as it's made out to be. Despite those measures my eyes often feel tired after a long day; as if they've been filled with hot sand, or poked with knitting needles, or my vision goes through blurry spells.
I have good days and bad days. But if it gets any worse I'll have to see if it's possible to be treated in the Zone under the IMS health plan. The trouble is that would mean me committing to staying here, losing whatever theorectical freedom I have to move on. But then who'd employ someone with a possibly degenerative sight problem?
The tears of eyestrain running down my cheeks are telling me this is getting too much for me. I'd better stop for now.
Shit! Pompey's Division Two promotion push has derailed. The 0-1 loss against Blackburn Rovers making it impossible to reach the playoffs now. Sport, as everything else in life, was hit hard by the Crises. During those turbulent times the upper class events, Henley, Wimbledon, the Ascot races, and suchlike were held behind a wall of security. Now the security, as well as the events themselves are far more discreet; the reduced sponsorships and wealth far less ostentatiously flaunted, though still very much in evidence.
It was football, the most noticable and popular sport, which was chosen to be 'democratised' after the collapse of the Premier League. Formula 1 also had financial problems, but it was allowed to fail. Our national game couldn't be allowed to fragment so the Sports Commission oversaw the reintegration of the traditional four division structure with most of the previous teams involved; though not all of the them survived the Transition.
We were so close to getting a draw that could have kept our hopes alive if other results had gone in our favour; but we didn't hold out and the other scores didn't go our way. If our season hadn't been so disrupted by weather related postponements and the team worn down by playing so many catch-up games in such a short period of time in late April perhaps things may have been different.
Needless to say the natives weren't happy; but instead of taking their frustrations out on the few away supporters who could afford to come down to Fratton Park, some of the disgruntled fans went out after Connies, Compies, and any buildings connected with them they could find. It was just a minor bit of aggro; a couple of windows broken, a few running scuffles, and then a quick exit: Nothing to report or be reported; the local OMS saw to that. As yet there are no reports of any arrests being made. I wonder if is this another straw blown along by the gathering wind of discontent? And might a disintegrating haystack be heading our way?
I spotted another one today on the ride home. When I first saw the crowd I thought a tuk had ran off the road and crashed; they may be more frugally fuel efficient than the cars they supplanted but despite their supposed safety features I still regard them as bloody death traps. Then I realised what was going on. It's something to do with one of the large billboards mounted on a high wall; self-powered, wirelessly updated solarfilm screens which are cheaper to produce than old-style paper posters. With there being so little to advertise these days, and the promotion of unnecessary consumption officially discouraged, they spend most of their time displaying uplifting inspirational slogans, public information, or health promotion messages. So what has caused this knot of bemused people to congregate there, watching the board? And why are others quickly walking away as if frightened? Hurrying away from a possibly infected place, or not wanting to be seen near a crime scene.
The Consensus propaganda vignette begins again. It shows scenes of happy, industrious people; many dressed in the Connie uniform of ute-suit and flacks engaged in various busy community activities ending with the ubiquitous FORWARD TOGETHER! Then a molten red weal of a slash rips down from the top right of the picture, carving its way to the bottom centre before rising at another 45° angle up to the top left. Some people may not understand the connotations of that animation, but the frazzler who had wurdled it obviously knew the symbol resonated through the popular culture of the past, in both a vintage science fiction series and the fact of a real-life resistance against an occupying tyranny.
Such fiction wouldn:t be made or 'cast now, and the factual use of the symbol in the occupied europe of World War Two would be ignored as a mere historic detail, if remarked upon at all. Yet there is still a residual cultural memory left, and enough people remain aware of its meaning, for the the fact of its appearance now, of all times, to cause a stir.
I'm certainly aware of its significance: Jolted out of my stunned surprise by the sight of someone else 'cording the scene and the realisation I'm missing an opportunity to video this act of protest before the local Compie Media Crime Squad arrives to shut down or remove the offending screen, I fumble for my scroll and vid several minutes of the billboard running through its cycle; ending each time in the livid ripped scar of a defiant V.
With two weeks to go until polling day James literally trips up. Well it's his own stupid fault, him wanting to be seen as more athletic than Lois Merck. The day before she'd had a media-op demonstrating her proficiency at the rehabilitative wheelchair fencing she does; and she is very good at it: She's not quite competition standard but is close enough to it to have given the Fed paralympic team she was duelling with some hard fought bouts.
Her determinedly predatory quality shone through as intended; some inner vril energising her sinewy form. Such was her relentlessly aggressive style her opponents appeared to be quite relieved when it was all over. As soon as James saw her in action he felt he had to respond with his own projection of vigorously healthy athleticism, so he invited the media in to view one of his punishing sessions in one of the Column's gyms.
It was all going well until the moment when he lost his footing while trying to max-out on a treadmill; his trip had him slamming face first into the floor in front of everyone. He wanted to get up again and keep going but it was clear that he had rattled himself. The gym's first aider insisted James was checked out in the building's medical centre.
It turned out banging his face against the edge of the treadmil had fractured his cheek bone near his eye socket. It wouldn't need corrective surgery but it would be very painful for a while; that side of his face would be swollen and bruised for the next couple of weeks. Yes it can be concealed to a certain extent with make-up, but despite the campaign being ostensibly about policies rather than personality or image, having your leader looking as if he'd been the loser in a sparring match doesn't help the cause. At least there isn't an eve of poll leaders' debate scheduled for this campaign; that notion never really took off, so at least he won't need to worry about not looking very telegenic.
Once the alarm of the first reports of his mishap had passed we had to think of a way of minimising the damage to his image; that's not easy when your man is doing his best to come across as a buffoon. In the end we used the line he'd been pushing his personal limits, and as you do sometimes while doing so, had come a cropper. It may win him some sympathy, and the Connies can hardly condemn him for striving to improve himself. He should be alright by election day, but that black eye of his will still be yellow by then.
One week to go until polling day. For those of us involved in the election it is a nerve wracking time. Those not involved could be forgiven for wondering if there was anything happening at all as it's all very low-key. There are no candidates out on the streets glad-handing people; after opportunistic physical attacks on politicians became a trend in past elections, none of them are prepared to take the risk, even when surrounded by a ring of bodyguards. Instead there are only the party PushCreds and the occasional frazzled public screen to be seen - which the Connies are still unsuccessfully trying to blame us for. The election features in the news of course; but many people are choosing to ignore the whole event as much as possible.
There's a feeling of ennui about the process, a wearyness of hearing about it. People are fearful of confronting the facts of our predicament now or thinking about what the future is likely to hold. They dread the proposals any government is likely to have in store for them. It is far easier to try to put it all out of mind; to allow those who are interested to campaign and argue online.
Most of our meeting today is taken up by a report from the Organisation Group. While we've been dogfighting up in the creative blue sky they've been involved in the pitched battle below, a long, dragged out slugging match against every bureaucratic obstacle the Consensus Party can throw in our way.
For example it's been a never-ending struggle to get our supporters registered to vote. The local Connie groups have taken a perverse delight in challenging many voter registrations, so much so we suspect the process is not only routine, but it has been automated. The NRP have had to devote a great deal of time and resources to countering those objections. No doubt the diversion of effort was what the Consensus Party had in mind all along. But with voter registration now closed the Organisation Group can concentrate on anticipating which other spanners might be thrown in our works between now, polling day, and the immediate aftermath of the vote. We've been going through various scenarios and developing counter strategies.
But despite it all Janes remains unperturbed, exuding his same unruffled confidence that it will all come good on the night. He seems buoyed by the whispers all is not right in the enemy camp, their underperformance to date prompting a undeclared rearguard leadership struggle by supporters of Hazel Dunn. It isn't admitted of course, but Dunn is being seen more often as the face of their campaign, with Merck less so; she being thought too intensely shrill for the public mood of the moment given our progress. James is cock-a-hoop about it but I find his attitude more and more irritating. Yes we are closing the gap, but not quickly enough, and I'm still concerned the Connies will throw in a last minute surprise. Even if they decide against a spoiler I still predict James will be feeling crestfallen a week tomorrow.
Thirty-three hours to go until the start of polling. At the final speech of the NRP's campaign I'm sat at the back of the Column's Great Hall; James deciding to close the circle by finishing where we began. Had circumstances been different I might have been on duty with the wurdling squad, responding to blurts and forum comments, countering the Connie smears and misinformation. I've spent plenty of time online in recent days doing just that as things have come to a head, and I'm on standby now should I be needed. But I also need to consider my eye health. James insisted I had some downtime.
In any case it would appear it's all winding down as the time counts down the official midnight deadline for the end of electioneering. From then on it will be Reflection Day. The idea is a common one in european elections and has been adopted by the Electoral Commission. The day before the polls open being set aside from politicking so people may pause and consider the issues before they cast their ballots. From midnight on there will be no further debate on the open web, with the ripping and snarling continuing in the dark; as if it will make much difference at this late stage. In any case the 'sist seems to have it all well under control, judging by the last quick update I saw before arriving here. Sometimes it appears our Maggie is engaged in a constant wrestling bout with Lois, as we've named the loose agglomeration of Connie wurdles; both Artificial Intellegences hissing and scratching in a titanic but ultimately futile cat fight; ignored by the majority of any human spectators who appear put off by it all. So I don't feel as if I'm burdening others by not being there; I've done more than my fair share, and suffered as a result of doing so.
We spent the early evening thrashing out James' final speech. It'll be a short one, as much the ostensible thank you to everyone who helped with the NRP campaign as a final rallying call. It's a difficult tone to set, neither being presumptuous or conceeding, too low-key or too much of a final triumphallist flourish. It'll finish on a high note, but not a bombastic one.
For a change James seems to be taking notice of our suggestions, even adopting most of them without question. Is he already learning to delegate decisions to others in advance of taking power? He appears to be preoccupied by something, though what it may be he's not said. He seems to be more subdued, contemplative even; overawed by what he has achieved, turning what was planned to be a shoe-in into a close run contest. The advantage still rests with the Connies, but it's not beyond the bounds of possibility he could be Prime Minister in less than sixty hours time. Maybe that thought is what is weighing on him; the fatigue of responsibility already settling on to his shoulders.
So now to see how well he delivers what we've written for him. There are points during the speech where he can ad-lib though I've been firm with him to keep it to a minimum, and to use only those preprepared forms of words which have been fully checked out. Once the final text had been agreed James goes to his private soundproofed office to practice his delivery. He's strange like that; doesn't want anyone to hear it until he comes right out and says it for real. Fortunately his approach has worked for us up until now. It needs to work just one more time and then he can make as many faux-pas as he wants to. My only concern is if the Consensus Party decide to try and wrong foot us with a last minute smear to which we must respond. We stand ready to put out a rebuttal statement as required; but what might not work so well would be James sounding flustered, unprepared, and scrabbling to get a grip.
We know Lois Merck is due to begin her wrap-up speech at the same time as ours, and we have a team monitoring it. So far there are no indications there will be a last-minute grenade thrown; they probably considering it would do them as much harm as we; but you never know... I'll feel happier come the stroke of Big Ben's midnight chimes when it is all over.
The ceremonies are about to begin so now would be the ideal time for me to avoid the inevitable boredom for a while and give myself another dose of eye drops in the gents'. That's my reason and I'm sticking to it. Besides there's no excitement in it for me; I know what is going to be said. Once my eyes have stopped their watering and my vision cleared I can always slip back in to the hall for the final hurrah, after travelling by way of the media terminal located in the antechamber just to be sure nothing has arisen.
My eyesight temporarily restored, the monitoring guys give me the thumbs up as I pass them. There's nothing happening as of yet, and if something which needs to be responded to does then they know where to find me. The knot of security staff hanging around outside the impressive banqueting hall entrance take a cursory look and wave me on, knowing me well enough by now. An usher quietly opens the massive door just enough for me to pass through; I retake my seat in the dimmed room just as James is reaching the crux of his address.
The spotlight is shining on him, and he's just getting into the meat of his speech; I notice at once he's departing from the script. "...we've been so successful it's even been said by some of their tame commentators that the scope of action of the next Consensus goverment will be limited as a result. I wonder if these pundits have the keys to a time machine? Because as far as I'm aware the election hasn't been held yet! Nothing has been decided, and won't be until Thursday!
But doesn't that show what contempt they have for you? They still expect you to vote for them, even after all they have done to you. That's how little your opinion matters to them; how much they take you for granted! Now of course you can docilely line up and vote for them if you choose; it is your right to after all, but you'd be bloody fools to do so when you consider the alternative on offer!
Unlike the Consensus Party, we in the NRP don't take your support as a given. We don't regard you as a form of state property constantly at the Council's beck and call; we respect you as free individuals, capable of making your own decisions and not having them dictated to you by the nanny state.
We believe that the right - yes the right! - to live as you choose extends to not being forced on pain of starvation to perform make-believe work for make-believe wages! Community Credit isn't a new idea; long before the Consensus imposed it on us it existed in another form; back then the autocratic coercion of an individual's labour by the state was known as Communism. Our forefathers fought to keep it at bay; they even risked an all-out nuclear war to do so! When it finally collapsed under its own weight they thought it was dead and buried for good. What would they think now if they could see how that zombie ideology has crawled out of its grave and sneaked up behind us while we were't looking!
It was then and it is now a cruel, wasteful, inefficient, destructive system. It wastes resources, wastes effort, and now it and the Consensus are wasting your energy; your lives! You all know only too well that there aren't enough hours in the day to earn the ComCred you need for a reasonable quality of of life, yet you are expected to do, compelled into doing more purposeless make work!"
There is a charged atmosphere now; a trembling anticipation his next words may have a decisive impact.
"A reasonable life... Yes it seems hard to remember such a thing, especially after a decade of Connie rule; but we used to live them once, and we can live them again! And central to that ideal is the NRP's ironclad commitment to abolitish Community Credit. Instead our vision is of a future where you can work in real jobs creating real wealth and not be forced to waste your time being Busy Doing Nothing for a measly state dole! Dignified, productive lives not squandered on humilliating drudge! (sustained applause.)
Lois Merck yesterday said quite openly and without a hint of shame that if the Consensus' modern day serfdom were to be abolished it would be a gift to the lazy and the Fed would grind to a halt. I say this to you Ms Merck: You are spouting a load of utter drivel! There are other more accurately descriptive words I could use, but I'd best refrain from saying them in public!" (The hall erupts into a spontaneous roar of encouragement; James is flying right on the ragged edge of what we've written for him, but so far it seems to be working. Don't fumble it now man...)
He resumes twisting the knife in. "She makes a great deal of how she has overcome her physical disability; but she's yet to surmount her mental handicap of bigotry. Who is she to judge others? How dare she condemn everyone except herself and her Connie partners in crime as slackers who constantly need to be prodded to work lest they fall into slothful ways? Who are they to tell you, whatever your situation, that you're not doing enough to justify yourself in their eyes? What have she and her ilk ever done apart from ferment ill feeling and dictate to others what they should do? What have these parasites ever done apart from being the problem holding us down? (His words are all but drowned out by the cheering. He's going solo now, no notes, no key points, but a speech straight from the heart. Had this speech been delivered earlier in the campaign I'm sure the Consensus Party would've made numerous complaints to the Electoral Commission, but now it's too late.)
He pauses to allow the quiet to return. "So rather than put up with a constrained Consensus goverment, why not get rid of them once and for all? Because you don't have to live this way! Just have faith there is a future for you beyond a constant struggle to keep existing in a grotty little box and ever working yourselves into exhaustion. And on Thursday that future will be yours to grasp! All it takes is for each of you to find the confidence within yourselves to throw off the Consensus yoke, so have the courage once you're in that voting booth to reclaim your lives!
I know that after all this time of having someone else making most of the decisions about your life, the thought of being in control of your own destiny may be daunting for some of you; but I tell you this: The day after tomorrow you will find yourselves in a unique position of authority. You may never find yourself so powerful again if the Consensus have their way. So don't let the opportunity slip from your grasp. Seize it! And together we shall awaken from this nightmare!
You face an uncompromising choice. The Consensus Party can offer you nothing more than what you are enduring now; quite possibly even a further fall in your standard of living as they grind even further up their narrowing dead end at full speed. Isn't that something to look forward to? Spending the rest of your lives grubbing away for a mere subsistence! That's not living but a living hell! You can opt for that or the future of limitless potential we offer! The decision is yours; and I'm confident you will make the right one.
So clear your desks Council, we're on our way! Your day is past but ours is just beginning! We're taking our lives and our country back! And there'll be no stopping us! With that, James finishes to a thunder of support.
I wasn't expecting what happens next: As the applause continues, instead of leaving the stage by the expected route, James jogs down the steps leading to the floor from the dias. He starts shaking hands with and embracing the IMS employees sat around the tables with their families. Light turquoise glittery striplets flutter down from the darkened heights of the ceiling, spotlights begin to twirl, and from the many speakers of the sound system issue the opening chords of a rock song. It takes a moment for me to recognise it, then of course it becomes obvious what the record is: It's 'Word Of Mouth' by Mike and the Mechanics; the song adopted as an unofficial anti-Connie anthem; the soundtrack seeping from many a frazzled public loudspeaker.
What in hell is James doing? I wish the stupid git had consulted us before he approved the song and the cringeworthy tickertape. And what was he thinking with that contrived dive into the audience? There's no better way of alienating potential voters, especially impoverished potential voters, than indulging in such a gross display of wasteful, excessive, exuberant hubris. Didn't he or his other advisors ever study the 1992 election campaign when the Labour Party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory?
There were many and various reasons why Neil Kinnock didn't get his hands on the keys to Downing Street, but one of them was the election rally held in Sheffield shortly before polling day. In surveys taken soon afterward potential supporters said they were put off Kinnock because he came across as too arrogant, assuming the election was all but won. That particular rally was seen as too swaggering, too Americanised, and far too remote from the people the Party claimed to represent.
Psephologists were later to calculate that if just five thousand undecided voters in the most marginal constituencies had voted Labour then John Major would've been moving out of Number 10. Such is the narrow margin dividing success from faliure. Just a few votes changed here or there in certain seats have the power to swing an entire election.
It can never be known whether a humbler, more low-key rally might have made a difference to Kinnock's chances; that question must be left to the What If? of history. Now I'm beginning to wonder if these last moments of the NRP campaign aren't history repeating itself. Has James made the same mistake, tripping at the very last hurdle by making an utter prat of himself?
I can see the reasoning behind the choice: The clapalong pounding beat, the subversive but safe lyrics about not trusting sources of official information, though it's a slightly incongruous song for a campaign run by a wannabe media mogul, but yes I can understand the thinking; it's a good upbeat anthem to finish with, but it's the wrong choice setting the wrong tone. Not least because despite tomorrow being Reflection Day with its pause in campaigning; somehow the meme will spread by word of mouth that the song chosen should have been more aptly, "All I Need Is A Miracle".
At least we can be thankful for small mercies, it could've been worse; James might have chosen 'Silent Running' or even Genesis' 'Land Of Confusion'. Nice sentiments about working with the hands we're given and a passable rallying cry, but a crap song nonetheless.
James is still busy congratulating everyone in sight but I'm in the wrong frame of mind to wait for him to work his eventual way over and give me one of his celebratory back slaps. In any case I don't want to watch it all unravelling. Some sections of the audience don't know whether to clap along in time with the music or just applaud; that's making it seem all slightly disjointed, disorganised, and worst of all, amateurish. I've had a couple of drinks too many, I'm feeling grouchy and my eyes are still giving me gyp. I've got a lot to contend with in the next few days and I'm travelling back to Pompey tomorrow, so I think it would be a good idea to finish what I'm drinking then head for my bed in the emergency dormitory.
Pausing at the media desk to get the first reaction it appears James' speech has at least had the desired effect. The Connies' initial response is one of dumbstruck shock and anger at the sentiments James articulated. All Lois Merck had said up to this moment in reply is to describe the NRP as James' vanity project. No doubt they'll respond more specifically to James' barb when news reaches them, but by then it will be too late. I just wonder how much of the good work his speech did is being undone in the hall right now. I consider trying to contact James and tell him to cut it before he makes a complete plank of himself but there's little chance the message would get through in time, or of him taking much notice anyway. What is done is done, and frankly I'm done with it all.
Undressing in my hastily constructed cubicle the melancholy is already settling on me like an invisible leaden blanket. Perhaps it's the drink affecting me, or the thought of being used as a human currency; the victorious Consensus bargaining with the Zoners about how many and who among us are offered as an appeasing sacrifice, a preliminary to a resumption of businesslike but strained relations.
No doubt James has escape plans in hand in case Prime Minister Merck is in one of her really nasty moods, but the rest of us probably won't have the luxury of being able to choose exile. If we're really lucky the NRP will be allowed to function as a rump, ineffectual opposition just to keep the illusion of a democracy alive; but the cost will be a clipping of IMS' wings, and some of the lower level staff facing spurious charges of breaching electoral law. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself one of those unfortunate staff.
I suppose I should wait for thirty-six hours to pass and the official results to be declared before becoming depressed but I can't see the point in delaying the inevitable; I might as well begin the post-election blues now.
We were so close; yet that remaining gap might as well have been a chasm. For a short time it semed as if we could just stretch that bit further to briefly touch what we had been trying to grasp, but in the end wern't we all just deluding ourselves? It was after all just a process; one choreographed from the beginning by the Consensus with their inbuilt, unfair advantage. Still we put up even more of a fight than they expected. I wonder though if all we've really done is inadvertently provided them with an endorsement of their all but certain to be gerrymandered election?
For a fleeting moment even I thought there was a hope; the slight possibilty we might actually prevail, squeaking in with the narrowest of margins despite the odds stacked against us. But just as it seemed his final emotional address of the campaign - the speech I helped write for him - was about to make the decisive impact on the wavering voters he goes and blows it all with that stunt at the end. The stupid, complacent, overconfident fucking idiot!
Still what is done is done now. Collectively we in the campaign group gave it our best shot, and I can add this to my CV as an example of my creative faculties and organisation ability, though it will do me little good when I'm knee-deep in the water of a stagnant East Anglian ditch! Still at least I can take some measure of comfort and pride that I gave it my all.
As I sink into the dark morass of sleep a final thought flares into life and is blown out like one of those old-style matches. James' ad-libs tonight; his choice of language, the general tone of his speech and his demeanour all seemed as if he was absolutely certain of winning the vote. But then aren't all politicians full of themselves? Time will tell if his faith is misplaced. Or it could be me reading more into it then there actually is. I feel so tired...