Chad Butler surreptitiously peered round from the wings to get a view of the gathered.
‘Christ,’ he blustered. ‘They look so young.’ He looked back at his secretary. ‘They get younger each bloody time.’ The newbies were like naive, excited lambs, bambis, being led to the slaughter. His job was to toughen them up for the battle. They had to hit the floor running.
Claire raised her eyebrows but said nothing.
‘Bloody good to see some brown faces,’ Chad observed, turning his attention back to the pleasingly large gathering of newcomers, who were nervously chattering among themselves. ‘And women. We need some of them. The selection committees are doing a good job. That’ll put us in the driving seat. Just as long as they know which side their bread is buttered.’
Chad pursed his lips, frowned and gathered himself, checking flies and tie. ‘Right – show time.’
He strode out towards the podium, walking purposefully with a scowl on his face. He noted the voices dying away and could feel the eyes on him but he did not look up or feel pleased. This was nothing more than what he expected. If it had not been that way he would have been concerned. Respect was the first commandment. His reputation went before him. When he reached the podium he arranged his notes, then, slowly looked round at the audience meeting all their eyes one after another with a hard, steady gaze. He wanted to set out the relationship right from the start; he wanted them to feel his power.
‘Listen well,’ he said with an edge of menace, dispensing with any introduction or greeting. His manner was well-practiced and oozed authority. ‘Take notes if you need to. This is no game. This is real. This is about power. I’m here to tell you how it will be. If you want to get on you will do as I tell you.’
He paused, his face frozen in an intense frown verging on a glare, as he gave a few moments for his presence to impress itself on them. He wanted them to feel the muscle and fear.
‘Forget everything you have been told,’ he growled menacingly. The only rule in this place is loyalty. Get that! If you want to get on you learn the mantra! We sing from the same book. Throw your own views out the window. Your views are my views.’
‘Rule number 1 – you do as you are told. In order to gain power we exude unity.’
He glowered round at them and could visibly see them shrinking in their seats – just as he liked it.
‘You cannot do anything without power. Everything revolves around power. You have been selected. You can be deselected. Everything you do is to help us gain power. Nothing else matters. If you show loyalty you will be rewarded.’
‘It is not your job to create policy – or to have a view.’ He pointed round at them. ‘If you play your cards right, that time might come.’
He paused again and nodded knowingly.
‘Right! Now the mechanics.’ He banged his hand down on the podium for emphasis. ‘You will learn these by heart!’
‘Never answer a question. Always have a prepared speech that you trot out whatever you are asked.’
‘Never admit a mistake. Always blame someone else – preferably the opposition.’
Chad glared round at them fixing them one by one.
‘You are paid to lie. You lie for your party. Lying is good – if it is necessary for the good of the party. This is politics. It is not a question of right and wrong. It is a question of winning and losing. We are here to win!’ He banged his fist down hard on the podium.
‘Always check the briefing to keep up with what you believe.’ He nodded slowly while they absorbed this. ‘You believe what is written on the briefing – nothing more or less.’
‘Never commit anything to writing that has not been vetted by this office.’
‘If accused deny everything. The party does not make mistakes. Deflect all criticism. You will find the phrases to use in your daily bulletin.’
‘Learn the language to describe the opposition. They are the enemy. We have to defeat them at all costs – whatever it takes. Remember – they are extremists. They have communists in their midst. They support terrorists. They destroy the economy. Their policies are absurd and will break the country. Nationalisation will cost a fortune. Nationalised industries are inefficient. They have not costed out their policies. It is all airy-fairy. Nowhere have these policies worked. Think back to the three day week. Look at Russia, Nicaragua, Cuba – is this what we want? They do not live in the real world. Socialist policy has always failed. And it always will!!’
‘They want to control everything.’
‘They want to take away your freedom.’
Chad shuffled his notes. He did not need them. They were a prop.
‘Put aside your conscience and compassion, they must not hamper your decisions. This is a battle. There are no holds barred. We go for the jugular. This is only about one thing – power.’
‘If we don’t do this to them, they will do it to you.’
Chad made sure that they were all in agreement, studying their faces for the faintest hint of dissent. Now was the time to root that out.
‘You will always agree with the PM.’
‘You will learn the following phrases – we must live within our means – we need to support the wealth creators – tax cuts bring in more taxes – if the economy grows we can afford to put more money into the public services – we must drive out inefficiency – we have put billions more into health, education, police – or whatever – there are ten thousand more nurses and 5 thousand more doctors – we are not privatising the NHS – competition is the key to reducing prices – there are enough dentists – Brexit will provide us with opportunities for us to flourish.’
Chad grimaced and surveyed the room.
‘It does not matter if these things are true. If we all say the same things often enough the people will believe it.’
‘However – we may have changes of policy. You must be prepared to change your position through 180 degrees in 30 seconds flat if that is what is required. We will lie, cheat and prevaricate on command. You will evade, deviate and obfuscate as required. You will be combative and convincing.’
Chad settled his hands on the podium and leaned forward. He peered intently at them.
‘We have files on you all. We know about your sexual deviances and your proclivities. That’s fine.’ He allowed a small smile to play over his mouth though it failed to touch his eyes. In his book the more perverse they were, the better. ‘You play how you like.’ He looked up and the hint of a smile faded. ‘Just make sure that you are not caught. We can only cover up so much.’
He gathered his notes and prepared to walk off but turned to them for one last volley.
‘Remember – this is a game. It is all about winning. That is all that matters.’
‘If you play the game, we will help you. Firstly you will get promotion and secondly we will find a place for you after this is over. You will find open doors, opportunities and a life of opulence. You future will be assured.’
‘If you mess us around we will mess you around. We have fingers in many pies. Our reach has no bounds. Doors will be shut.’
With that carrot and threat hanging in the air, he strode off back to the whips office.