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Alice in Electionland

Election time in Wonderland! Alice leapt out of bed when the alarm rang, excited and eager to start studying the policies of the various parties, to try and understand what their different ideas and promises might mean to her, to her gang of friends and - most importantly - to the country as a whole. A few years ago, elections (and referendums - Alice knew her latin grammar, so she used the correct gerundive plural, not the false friend ‘referenda’) had come along almost annually; this time, it had been nearly five years since the last buzz of electoral excitement.

After gulping down her breakfast, Alice stepped out through her front door onto the streets of Wonderland. She was looking for some politicians.

Last time around, the man with the blue rosette was a shambling bear of a man, with untidy blond hair; the public had loved him then, with his beaming face and boyish enthusiasm for almost everything. But he was nowhere to be seen. Across the road, Alice could see a scrum of people wearing the blue rosette, so she went over to see what was going on. She wormed her way through to the centre of the throng, where she found a small man, with a big blue rosette stuck to his suit. He was small, but his suit seemed even smaller, with trousers barely reaching down to his ankles. Alice shrugged; she’d rather listen to what he had to say than critique his clothing (although she did notice what looked like a tiny pair of very expensive  shoes below those short trousers).

“We blue party have been governing Wonderland for a while now,” he was saying, “and I know everything hasn’t gone as smoothly as we would have liked. But we have a plan to make things better.” He carried on speaking, actually being quite detailed about what he could and couldn’t do, and how his plan was beginning to work, after all the difficulties he had faced. But as he was speaking, Alice saw the crowd all drifting away, until in the end there were only Alice and his own acolytes listening to him. He looked around himself, unhappily; it wasn’t meant to be like this. Alice felt a bit sorry for him - he seemed like a good man, and he seemed sincere - he admitted he couldn’t do everything, and that events could always interfere with things. But Alice wandered off, and left him there, disconsolate.

Further along the street, there was a huge throng of people, dozens deep, surrounding a dull-looking man wearing a red tee-shirt with the words ‘my dad was a toolmaker’ emblazoned across the front of it (and, although she couldn’t see this immediately, across the back as well).

“We’ll give you everything you want,” he said, “and we won’t raise your taxes to pay for it!”

“None of them?” asked one of the crowd.

“Well, not all of them.”

“But some of them?” persisted the questioner.

“Look, there are a few we definitely won’t raise. Stop asking me difficult questions about the others. I don’t make decisions; I wait to see what most people think, then I realise that was my policy all along. Is that so difficult to understand? Oh, but there’s one I can tell you about. If you pay your tax to educate everyone’s children, but then pay to educate your own yourself, I’m going to tax you on that as well. Good wheeze, isn’t it? Much better that all children have an average education, rather than that most have an average one and some have an excellent one. That blond-haired man we helped to get rid off used to talk about levelling up. Pah! Levelling down is the way to go!” And he strode off, followed by the huge crowd. As they passed Alice’s house, he looked sideways at it. “That’s too big for one family - we’ll have to deal with that.” And off they went, singing a rousing chorus of the Internationale as they marched on, red banners and rosettes everywhere. Alice was dumbstruck, as she looked at the house that had always been her home. And as one who believed in the importance of education, and of free choice, she was worried.

She couldn’t believe her eyes at what she saw next. Bouncing down the road on a space hopper was a man with not just an orange rosette, but a completely orange jump-suit.

“We’re going to be the official opposition,” he shouted. “Orange party winning here!” He waved a bubble stick, and made some pretty orange bubbles.

Alice just shook her head in disbelief, and wandered on. Then she had to do a double take. In front of her was a man she recognised from last time. But last time, he had had a purple rosette; now, he sported one in pale blue.

“Vote for me!”he shouted. “Then I’ll win next time.”

An interesting concept, thought Alice.

“It’s all the foreigners’ fault, anyway,” the man went on. And he marched on down the road, followed by a surprisingly large crowd, lots of them wearing tweed jackets and bright red trousers - and ties, of course.

Alice’s mind was beginning to spin by now. Then she glimpsed two more, fairly small groups. One of them, led by a couple wearing sandals and dungarees, with green placards, were shouting - “Vote for us! Then you can live in a cave with no heat or light. But you can feel virtuous!”

And the other band was led by a bald man, and most of his followers were men in what looked to Alice suspiciously like checked skirts. She couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but their placards seemed to say “We’re better than you - all we want from you is your money!”

Alice had had enough. She went back home, and closed the door firmly. She hadn’t seen any of her friends; she guessed they were all hiding from the madness. That seemed the best course.

She had an idea, to cheer herself up. She telephoned her friend, who lived across the narrow sea. “It’s awful,” she began. “What can we do?”

“Je ne peux pas t’aider’, replied her friend, “c’est pareil içi.”


So, dear reader - if you’ve got this far - are you any the wiser?


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