An homage to fantasy politics in our leader’s last days as PM.
The music struck up, a sprightly tune played on drums and tubas, and she thought you must dance to this. You must! And her host looked on in bemusement and observed wryly that ‘we haven’t had one of your sort here in 30 years.’
‘Yes, but we didn’t need your trade back then,’ she said.
She needed it now, though. Oh yes, she certainly needed it now! And for that, she would dance and caper, in the hope of eliciting sympathy and, if things went well (which they rarely did), a trade deal. Hadn’t she smoothed the ground? Hadn’t her colleague been here just recently, pressing flesh and patting backs? What was his name again…
‘Bicycle guy,’ her host helped her out.
That was the one.
‘Yes, it’s been 30 years – 30 years! – since one of you was last here,’ said her host. ‘But I don’t want to dwell on the past – we want to look to the future.’
‘Yes, yes, the future, of course,’ she agreed. ‘Not the past. Anything but the past.’
And the sun moved across the sky, and some observers claimed that it had set, but this was just fake news. The sun never sets on Empire!
For wasn’t this what they’d voted for, back on the island? A return to those glory days of endless sun, of global clout, of something for nothing? Those had been happy times, hadn’t they? No need to harmonise standards, no need to build safe buildings, no need to trek to that dull, grey city of glass and concrete and flags and conference rooms and interpreters, where tiny countries treated you like equals… That was what they’d wanted free of, and this was what we could have instead! And didn’t it just make you want to dance!
And this wasn’t the only place she’d tried. Across the sea, on the sub-continent, she’d donned the traditional dress and visited the temples and spoken of cultural links and shared values. She’d danced for them as well.
And they’d watched her dancing and said: ‘How about some visas?’
But she only danced faster, jerking and swerving as if dodging accusations like arrows, and said: ‘Visas? Heavens, no! Why would you need to come in person? You might find the environment a bit, shall we say…hostile? No, no, there’s no need for you to come. Just send us your trade!’ And she jiggled and wiggled as if her arms and legs were pulled by strings, as if controlled by unseen puppeteers, and she kept smiling – always smiling, even if inside she wanted only to cry.
‘And besides,’ she went on, ‘we’ve given you Games! Such wonderful Games! What more could you want?’
And it was true – the Games were always fun.
But they kept trying to bring things up.
‘What about the deportations?’ they said.
‘Nothing has changed,’ she sang. ‘Nothing has changed!’
‘The people who helped rebuild your island,’ they said. ‘The ones who came after the War.’
But she would just dance faster, so fast that she could feel the wind rush through her hair, drowning out the noise of their complaints. Why were they being so obtuse about everything? Couldn’t they understand she wanted their trade but not their people?
Back at her desk it had all seemed so straightforward. These historic links only needed to be repaired! What matter that they’d been neglected for decades? Surely the friendships that had built them still remained.
‘Let’s strengthen the ties that bind us to each other,’ she exhorted.
‘These things take time,’ they said.
‘You have until March 2019,’ she said.
And why should it take longer than that? Miracles could be worked in that time – things that nobody would think possible; indeed, things would happen which many experts had insisted were not possible. How silly those experts must be feeling now!
But these old friends of hers, with their historic ties, would surely step in at our hour of need. They would stick with us through the bad times, just like we’d stuck with them through the bad times (most of which we’d caused for them in the first place).
‘Enter into free trade with us!’ she sang as she danced. ‘We’re more than friends! We’re family! We’re open for business! We’ll trade with anyone!’
And in the shadows the sheikhs nodded sagely as the desert thundered.
‘Do you need weapons?’ she sang. ‘Do you need innovative jams?’
‘We need clarity,’ they said.
But she no longer seemed to be listening. She was weakened by the dance; she was in a state of near-collapse. But still she capered on! The drums beat, the tubas blew, the flutes and whistles trilled. And her hosts watched her dancing off into the wheat fields and the sun set behind the hills.