Read Bertie and the Hairdresser Who Ruled the World Online
Authors: Mike A Vickers
Unsurprisingly, the political establishment was horrified at his reappearance and viewed this trend towards active local democracy as a direct threat to their cosy lifestyles and troughing ways. At first James was the only Independent MP in the House and had a tough time. Parliament was a place where original thinking had long been discouraged. Spank-happy leather fetishists they could just about tolerate, the Speaker sensibly invoking the general principle of stones and greenhouses, but a combination of both independence of mind and political persuasion were regarded with deep antipathy.
And then the inevitable happened. An unusually high number of by-elections had, astonishingly, all returned Independent MPs, cutting into Viv's majority and eroding his power steadily. Commonly referred to as the IMPS, James now found himself as unofficial leader of a loosely affiliated group of six Independents who owed no allegiance to any party and were pledged to reflect the wishes of their constituents. As was pointed out regularly in the political press, the only whip he now enjoyed was Celeste's!
Inevitably, and to much chortling amusement, as Gloucester's IMP, he was now widely and aptly referred to as the GIMP. Some of those who'd also suffered from Hugo Chaplain's malign influence re-entered Parliament as Independents and looked to James as their saviour. By some bizarre quirk of fate, all became known by their geographical location. Peterborough's independent adopted the somewhat unfortunate title of PIMP, Shrewsbury became SHRIMP, Blyth became BLIMP and Crewe, CRIMP. Poor unfortunate Loughborough very definitely became LIMP, and finally there was the other one no one could ever remember because Exeter simply didn't alliterate. Although the subject of much ridicule in the corridors of power, and universally vilified in the House, the IMPs were held in great respect by their constituents, many of whom developed a thriving interest in politics once they knew they actually had a say in proceedings.
The other parties did not like this.
James found life suddenly very agreeable indeed. He and Celeste had been happily married for two years. Wife, lover and mistress still, she controlled him with consummate skill, providing a rock-solid home life which helped him cope with the pressures of Westminster. Sustained by her love and the unqualified support of his constituents, he had gained a reputation as an excellent Parliamentarian, either voting for, or against, the Government in accordance with the wishes of his constituents.
The other parties did not like this, either.
Being an IMP, he was no longer at the beck and call of the executive. His status as
persona non grata
meant his mobile phone remained mercifully silent. Mornings were usually spent in the constituency, dealing with local matters, conducting consultations and attending surgeries. He canvassed views utilizing an interactive website which explained the arcane mysteries of Westminster in layman's terms. This website was much visited and whenever he held meetings, James found his constituents intelligent and well aware of the implications of upcoming legislation. James debated and answered questions, then his constituents voted on whether they felt he should or should not support the Government and James trotted off to the House to oblige them accordingly.
And boy, did the other parties
not like this. Not one bit!
Viv's Government had enjoyed the usual hundred days' honeymoon period before slowly sliding into a morass of ill-conceived legislation and financial scandal. The trouble was, as it had been with the previous government, the calibre of his MPs. This was questionable to say the least, and the lure of fiddling their expenses, hawking their services to vested interests and awarding themselves obscene pay rises proved just too much of a temptation. The gravy train was up and running bang on schedule again, with stops at Greed Junction, Backhander Halt and Dirty Money Depot. The public had shown their disgust in the usual way, firstly with another lively egging campaign, then following this up by returning IMP after IMP at each by-electionÂ â and slowly but surely, Bell's slender majority shrank. People liked what James was doing. Only he and his little band of IMPs were effective in tackling voter apathy and general political despondency. The main party MPs were again exposed as career politicians, their absolute priority being to continue their careers, usually to the detriment of their constituents. These characters possessed second-rate brains but excellent visionÂ â both eyes firmly fixed on the main chance.
With James and the IMPs blazing a trail of honesty through the House, these inadequacies were highlighted time and again, giving leather-loving bondage boy James ample opportunity to take the moral high ground on honesty and probityÂ â something which always tickled the press, exasperated his former colleagues and entertained the public. Suddenly, politics was fun again.
James enjoyed bumbling around his constituency meeting people. He opened new shops, awarded prizes at village fetes and led sponsored walks for charities, and wherever he went he was invariably met with a grin and a wink. Elderly ladies, in particular, always seemed far more interested in his private life than his political effectiveness. He now expected a little teasing before matters turned political, but no longer found such good-humoured comments offensive and managed to fend off all enquiries as to the specifics with a knowing smile. What would have been a perversion too far a few years ago was now accepted as a lifestyle choice. Well, it was in Gloucester, anyway!
If James was at home, nobody bothered to call him after lunch. They knew he would be indisposed. It was well known he spent most afternoons âmeditating', as Celeste once told the press. This fooled no one, of course. The entire country knew exactly what was going on, and âmeditating' was fast becoming a popular euphemism.
âShall we go home and meditate, dear?'
âI'm going to meditate your arse off!'
âIf you think I'm going to meditate in the back of that crappy little Vauxhall Corsa, think again!'
This caused untold problems for British Buddhists.
Celeste, too, had become something of a celebrity, despite her very best efforts to avoid such a catastrophic career move. She preferred to live a quiet life at home in the country. She sometimes missed London. Well, the shows at any rate, but little else. It was definitely a young person's place, dynamic and bustling, but Gloucestershire was drop dead gorgeous and the people fantastically eccentric, which made up for its occasional cultural poverty.
Media interest remained unabated after the election and she had to fend off tiresome enquiries and turn away interview offers on an almost daily basis. Lenses poked over the hedge and took long-range snaps but no paparazzi had the courage to get any closer. Bertie's fearsome reputation was sufficient to discourage even the most determined hack, but she was thankful that these irritations had finally declined in the last year or so, leaving her to pastoral tranquillity.
It had all been far too exciting, but now the three of them had settled into domestic bliss, a hackneyed phrase but in this case actually true.
Thoroughly contented after his nutty snack and made drowsy by the warmth, Bertie was taken unawares by a short snooze, so Celeste returned to her book. She relaxed in perfect comfort, despite the unusual nature of her outfit. She wore a high-necked blouse, double-breasted with shiny silver buttons; a stiff Victorian-style corset; a calf-length pencil skirt, pleasantly tight about her hips; nylons and towering stiletto court shoes. Impractical on a lawn, certainly, but at least the turf got aerated regularly. All this sun-heated black leather exuded a deliciously earthy aroma which she found delightful. Her uniquely burnished red hair glowed like molten copper, the wavy tresses held back tightly by a simple studded strap, the ponytail flowing down over one leather-clad shoulder in a torrent of liquid ginger. This was her signature look, and despite her best efforts to avoid such a fate, she had graced the front cover of not a few magazines, from gossip rags to coffee table classics. Laboratories across the country scrambled to produce a hair dye that replicated the colour but somehow still couldn't quite get it right.
Peace settled like a balm over the garden. Constricted delightfully by her stylish costume, Celeste smiled in utter contentment. All was well, all was calm, all was under control. James was on his way home from Westminster for a well-deserved weekend of meditation and the outrÃ© costume she wore had been carefully chosen as a welcome home treat. She had something special lined up for him, a task for him to complete. He'd attempted this task a number of times before and had always been unsuccessful, inevitably because his excitement got the better of him, but she'd been training him diligently and was confident her wonderful slave and gorgeous husband would come through with flying colours this time. If notÂ â well, there was always the whip to help him concentrate. And, of course, the whip would still be used as a reward for success.
Frankly, thinking about it, they were both in a win-win situation whichever way it went.
Man, life was just dandy. What could possibly go wrong?
A room. A discreet space, neutral, anodyne, comfortably anonymous, a positive symphony of taupe, yet possessing an impressive panorama. Perched high in the heart of the City, famous buildings could be glimpsed through the tinted windows, both historic and modern. The dome of St Paul's nestled in the shadow of new glass and steel towers, thrusting, shiny and brash. London was fast becoming
The room was thoroughly isolated, both physically and electronically. Men sat around a central table. Gloomy men. There were more furrows on their brows than in the fertile fields of Lincolnshire. They perceived their power, so effortlessly gained and compulsively clung to, was beginning to slip. They felt under attack, under pressure as never before. They were not happy with the way events were unfolding. There had been grumbling. And sighing. Lots of sighing.
In short, they were having a good old-fashioned man-sulk!
There were four in the room. There should have been five but one had inconveniently suffered a cardiac arrest the evening before and was at this moment the worried half of a man/machine entity beeping away merrily in the London Heart Hospital. Perhaps the thought of this meeting had contributed to his current indisposition. It said much for the compassion of his colleagues that not one had considered enquiring as to his state of health. None of them would dream of wasting time visiting their sickly colleague.
These five men were grandees. King-makers all. Men In Grey Suits, or MIGS. And they held on to their power like a tramp holds on to his mangy dog. The MIGS transcended such mundane concepts as politics. They were inclined neither to the left nor right nor centre. They were, in fact, inclined only to look after themselves, and formed an unofficial cabinet which controlled Britain. Each was a commercial baron, a merchant prince, a captain of industry, moguls rich beyond avarice and cunning beyond measure.
These five men had recently got heavily into debtÂ â but not in the same way as that experienced by millions of struggling families throughout the rest of the country. They had connived with corrupt officials to force through subtle changes in legislation, thus creating an environment which encouraged unsustainable personal debtÂ â and then their companies had moved in smoothly to service that debt, increasing their wealth exponentially through payday loans, high interest short-term loans, credit card loans, in fact loans of every kind. They had effectively become the masters of Britain by financially enslaving the population.
In addition, as if that wasn't enough for any man, these five also either directly owned or indirectly influenced nearly a quarter of Britain's assets, including all the power companies, two of the ratings agencies, a hefty chunk of the insurance and pension market, a tenth of the FTSE top one hundred companiesÂ â and every DIY shop in Basildon. James once owed unknowing loyalty to these men in a roundabout sort of way, being part of the establishment himself, although at the time he was entirely unaware of their influence on his career. James's old boss, the ex-PM, he of the broken nose and formidable perspicacity, even he had to bow his knee to these men, and now, after two years, they still burned with rage over the changes instigated by James, changes which subtly shifted power within the heart of British politics. The big parties they held in the palm of their hand, had done for decades, but these new IMPs could not be controlled in the usual way.
The four had been discussing the state of their alliance. It was neither a lively nor inspirational conversation. Far from debating their way forward and formulating plans and strategies, they were becoming mired in recriminations. Petulance. Dismayed that their influence was under attack and being slowly but steadily eroded, they had been lamenting the loss of one of their more effective organs, the Joint Services Operations, Non-Military, and its supremely competent leader, Hugo Chaplain. The loss of JSON had been a sore blow. How could anyone in power be controlled if there was no one to collect the dirt? Bell was easily malleable, as any senior politician always is, having been associated with numerous questionable actions in his frenzied desire to reach the top, but these damned IMPs were vetoing much of his legislation, legislation designed to support the MIGS and their policy of continual enrichment. Dammit, some of them were even finding their rate of accumulation was declining. They still getting richer all right, but at a much slower rate, and that was simply not acceptable. Not acceptable at all. And like all arrogant egotists, they took to whining like spoilt kids when matters did not go their way.
A mobile phone rang, silencing the conversation. The ringtone was Pink Floyd's âMoney'. The man listened without speaking, his face slowly darkening. âYou imbecile! Are you telling me I cannot rely on you to control the situation?' he ground out. âWell you're the Prime Minister, do something about it. Now!' He slammed his mobile onto the table in disgust. âMy defence contracts are no longer secure. That's billions in jeopardy,' snapped Sir Thomas Woolley. âBastard PM can't even get a simple vote through Parliament nowadays.'