14 November 2019
‘Crisis? What Crisis?’
Winter of Discontent II (2023)
By Lynda Goetz
The Wrights perched on stools around their kitchen island. John Wright’s heavily lined face looked weary as he peered at the Ludo board in the dim light of the two candles. He was reminded of his childhood, which was not something he really cared to be reminded of very often. His son Dave looked equally tired; his daughter-in-law’s lips were drawn into a thin line and his teenage granddaughter had a face like thunder. Suddenly she swept her arm across the board, knocking all the different coloured tokens onto the floor where they scattered into the dark shadows of the poorly lit room.
“This sucks! What sort of life is this supposed to be? I am 18 and I’m stuck in this stupid house playing ridiculous board games with my parents and my grandfather! I can’t even look forward to going to university! What on earth made you vote for the Brexit Party? What were you even thinking of? I wish I’d had a vote!”
“Well,” retorted her father sharply, “even the Lib Dems weren’t daft enough to suggest lowering the voting age to 14! What would you have voted anyway? For the bloody Tories, I suppose?”
“At least if they’d had a majority something positive might have happened, instead of the total stagnation of this country we are currently enduring!” Helen virtually screamed. “Nothing bloody works; there’s no electricity for half the week; it’s impossible to buy fuel; rubbish is piling up in the streets; schools and universities are shut half the time and if you need to go into hospital God help you!” She stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind her. The candles guttered.
The old man shrugged. “She does have a point”, he muttered savagely, heaving his once-bulky frame off the uncomfortable but fashionable stool. “I probably shouldn’t have stuck with Labour, but old habits die hard and they did say they’d try and do a deal with the EU – even if they followed that up with a second referendum. That was really only to keep that Scottish bint happy – and look where that got them. Scotland is now on its own and not even a member of the EU. It’s a total mess!” He moved to get a glass from the cupboard, but caught his foot on the splayed legs of the sustainable wood stool which fell over with a clatter.
“She’s wrong, I didn’t even vote for the Brexit Party” muttered his daughter-in-law. “I voted for Jo Swinson’s party. We needed a strong woman who wasn’t cowed by all those arrogant Brexiteers; someone who was able to say that Leaving was a mistake and who wasn’t going to shilly-shally around and try and please everyone like Corbyn was trying to do!”
“What, Elaine, you are telling me now that you didn’t vote for the Brexit party? I thought we were agreed that was how we’d vote? The Lib Dems! I can’t believe it! All this time you let me think…” He too got up from the counter and in his haste sent his own stool crashing to the ground. In the shadows the dog cowered even lower.
“It wasn’t worth risking your anger. I was entitled to vote however I wanted to. It wasn’t your decision to make.” Elaine spoke quietly, but with purpose. “I thought we should Remain and she was the only leader saying so unequivocally. It’s just a pity that voting for her gave us a hung Parliament with the SNP and then the Lib Dems supporting that idiot Corbyn and his Marxist chums.”
Suddenly the lights came on and the three were left blinking in the brightness. The fan above the cooker hummed into life briefly, before Elaine hit the switch. Next door the television also came to life and music denoting the end of some show or other could be heard. Helen reappeared.
“To think”, she said wonderingly, “our history teacher intimated that the ‘Winter of Discontent’, was a ‘myth’ constructed by Right-wingers and the media to brainwash people against socialism. Not only was it a real event caused by the Labour Government, but here we are 44 years later re-living it. Unbelievable!” She picked up her phone. “Oh my God! Seriously, don’t die this winter, Grandad. Apparently the grave-diggers in Liverpool have gone on strike. I didn’t even know they had people whose job that was!”
“I’ve no intention of dying, just yet” grumbled the old man, “although as you said, given the state of the NHS these days it could easily happen. Don’t think we had any idea how much it cost to keep all that going. Should’ve paid the doctors better to stop ‘em going to Australia. Too late now. Can’t understand most of ‘em these days. All foreigners. No rich buggers left to tax either. They all left the country. So much for Jeremy’s promises”
In the next room the familiar music of the BBC news could be heard. “The BBC news with Samira Ahmed. Here are the headlines. In Russia, Vladimir Putin announced that they would be further curtailing oil and gas supplies to Europe. In Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, whose honorary fellowship of Cambridge University was finally revoked last month, confirmed that 10 more students died today in clashes with police. In Bolivia, 64 year-old Evo Morales was returned to power after an unexpected popular uprising against the military which had ruled the country since Morales fled to Mexico in November 2019. Our Prime Minister offered his congratulations, as did the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua. At home… Oh, we are interrupting this bulletin to take you live to No 10 where the Prime Minister has convened a Cabinet meeting to discuss whether or not he should respond to China’s nuclear threat. Laura, over to you.”
The family rushed into the adjoining room. On the television, Laura Kuenssberg, smartly dressed in a fuschia coat with a scarf around her neck, could be seen in front of No 10. She looked older and more tired than they had ever seen her, if that were possible.
“Tonight, we heard that China has threatened the West with annihilation. Knowing that our Prime Minister has never been committed to the use of nuclear weapons or indeed military action in general, it is perhaps unsurprising that China’s first target should be the UK, even though Jeremy Corbyn seemed convinced of this Government’s friendship with the country. Obviously we cannot know what is happening in Cabinet, but we can speculate on the likely differences of opinion at this time. Given that there is only a very limited…” Everything went dark. Family differences were forgotten with the dawning realisation of what a hung parliament had in fact made possible.
(With acknowledgements to Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson and a student called Dominique Samuels, who apparently appealed on Twitter for information about The Winter of Discontent, for the inspiration for this piece.)