with AJ Kirby 

Home Defence UK
A Symptom of a Greater Malaise
                                The prodigal Dave washed his face with his cold, cold hands then looked back into the mirror. He had the pallor of a corpse, 
                                laid out in the morgue. There were bodybags under his eyes. A murderous criss-cross of red fissures pickled the end of his nose. 
                                Somewhere, buried, was a portrait that showed him fresh-faced and dashing, like Colin Firth.

The Ghost of Margaret Thatcher said: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’ And answered her own question with a loud, dry-throated 

Dave said: ‘Leave it, woman. Don’t start, eh?’

She clicked her tongue. ‘Sometimes, Diddy, you’re worse than Denis.’

                                                                            And Dave said: ‘Sometimes, Mags, you’re worse than a ruddy mother hen. Clucking away. Pecking at my head all times of the day and night. Is it any wonder I 
                                                                            look so lost in the TV debates if I forever hear your chelping in my ear?’

                                                                            ‘Fine,’ said the Ghost of Margaret Thatcher, ‘I’ll leave you then.’

                                                                            It wasn’t an idle threat. Dave always saw Maggie in mirrors. She would appear behind him, riding the prow of some Falklands-scarred battleship like some sick
                                                                            mockery of an angelic figurehead. Generally he saw her plain as day. As plain as the skidmarks old Nobber Clarkson left on the Chipping Norton village green after
                                                                            he gunned about the place in his souped-up Capri. As plain as The Sun now Brooksy was no longer editor. But now Mags was fading from view as swiftly as Dave
                                                                            could say ah drat, I’ve left my daughter Nancy in the pub. I knew there was something…. 

‘Please don’t be like that, Maggie,’ he begged. ‘I’ll try to… I’ll make cuts… To my attitude.’

The Ghost of Margaret Thatcher sniffed. ‘Diddy, you said that last time you had a little strop and I threatened to do one.’ Tutted. Rolled her eyes. ‘I could be having a much happier 
after-life you know.’ 

But in the mirror, Dave saw the apparition of her become starker. She was coming back into the room, like the butt of all the jokes after the hypnotist clicks his fingers. He knew she 
was bored, living amongst the stiffs. And he also knew exactly how to play her: appeal to her practical, has-to-be-doing-something-at-all-times nature. Get her elbows-deep in a 
project. Never was she happier (other than when she was snatching milk: even now, when the light speared through the dressing-room window just so, he could see the suggestion 
of a milky moustache on her upper lip. It made her look like Hitler in negative).

Dave bit his lip then spoke: ‘Will you… Uh… Could you… Well, do you reckon you could make a sow’s purse out of the pig’s ear of my face?’  

And Maggie clapped her hands. ‘Oh Dave! I thought you’d never ask.’ She clucked thusly for some time, but eventually became all-business. Maggie reached over his shoulder and helped him apply some of SamCam’s make-up. Concealer, mostly. Sometimes Dave Cameron thought that he wasn’t built like other men. He wasn’t made up of 65% water - it was 65% concealer. That was him, the great concealer.

                                                            Dave sighed as Maggie’s octopus arms worked him back into the land of the living. Life, he realised, was coming to resemble a Florence and the Machine song (Only if for a
                                                            Night, from the album ‘Ceremonials’):

                                                                ‘And I heard your voice as clear as day,
                                                                You told me I should concentrate,
                                                                It was all so strange,
                                                                And so surreal,
                                                                That a ghost should be so practical.’

Dave was still whistling the song, even as Maggie helped him on with his tie and threaded his cufflinks.

Suddenly she stopped him in his tracks. ‘What the Sam Hell are you whistling for, boy?’ 

Sometimes she could sound like a right drill sergeant, thought Dave, miserably.

‘Well?’ she barked.

He shrugged. Tried to explain about Florence and the Machine. 

She cut him off at the pass. ‘Shut up, you snivelling fuckwit. Haven’t you learned anything? It’s always vom-inducing when a politician – a middle-aged, upper-class 
politician – starts banging on about the music of today.’ To help him understand just how pissed off she was, Mags did the little rabbit ears around the music of today with her (only slightly worm-eaten) fingers.

Dave hung his head.

Maggie tssked. ‘Whistling of all things. Diddy-dear, this election is in the balance. Chances are, we’re going to have to hoist our knickers down and get into bed with Cleggy again, or some other Tom or Dick. This isn’t the time for playing silly beggars.’

                                                Dave sniffled a sorry.

                                                ‘Get your goddamned head up,’ snarled Maggie. ‘Remember who you are.’ 

                                                The Ghost of Margaret Thatcher loomed larger in the mirror. Now she was right behind Dave. Close up he could see the decomposition was worse than he’d thought. Her face
                                                reminded him of one of the ghosts in that excellent Bill Murray vehicle, Scrooged. It looked as though her nose was about to fall off, as though a small bird – a spadger perchance –
                                                might peck a hole in her skull and crawl out of it. She reached out with an – eeeeeeeewwwwwwww, Dave thought – much worse than only-slightly-worm-eaten, set of fingers and began
                                                to massage his shoulders in the manner of a coach in the corner of the boxing ring. Dave was her prize-fighter and he’d taken a lot of punches. But he had to get back on his feet and 
                                                roll with some more. 

Dave attempted to method-act pride and bravery in the mirror. He puffed out his chest. And his cheeks. Never had he seemed more puffinly.

‘We need more, Dave,’ bloodcurdled the ghoul at his shoulder. ‘Work it, baby. Give it some attitude… Not your usual attitude… Real attitude. Get lively.’

Dave tried. He really tried. But deep down he felt foolish. Like he was only playing at being a powerful man. 

Maggie gripped his ear between her claws – eeeeeeeewwwwwwww they were claws now, not fingers at all! – and squeezed. ‘Now listen here, boy. Don’t you go dead fish on me. 
Wipe that motherfucking expression off your fizzog right now. You don’t want to look like you go with the flow. You know what goes with the flow? Well do you?

‘Dead fish,’ he said, quietly, in a voice so small it was as though he’d swallowed a voice.

She released his ear and slapped him on the back. ‘That’s right. Correctamundo. You’re getting it now. Remember who you are. Remember the prophecy.’

There had been two extraordinary, almost supernatural things about Dave’s life. The second was Maggie – the angel and demon on his shoulder rolled into one. She had first 
insinuated herself into his life the day after the old crone’s body was finally laid to rest. He'd just about breathed a sigh of relief at being rid of her shadow and there she was, in 
the mirror, bold as brass. 

The first was the prophecy.

Way back in ‘87 Dave had been inducted into the Bullingdon Club. (Induction was a rigorously despicable process, involving all manner of humiliation; at the time, Dave had wanted to run for the hills. Now, looking back, he saw it built character. The youth of today could do worse than go through such ritual brutality, and so on and so forth.) Dave had been shown into the hallowed halls of the Bullingdon Club HQ by an old stager named Spofforth Syndicate. Syndicate was as old as Oxford University itself, or so it seemed, and what he didn’t know about the true path of power wasn’t worth knowing.

                                        The final stop on Syndicate’s whistle-stop tour of the Bullingdon Club HQ was the cellar. And there, among the honeycomb racks of priceless, ageless wine, Syndicate produced the ‘big
                                        reveal’. He told the young, snotnosed Dave, the real foundation stone of the Bullingdon Club is not getting rat-arsed. Nor is it polishing your skills by trampling on the hoi-polloi. No, we are 
                                        the guardians of an ancient secret, and it is our duty to ensure all sworn brothers… blah blah blah.

                                        Dave was hardly listening. He was more interested in the writing on the wall. For there, scrawled, daubed in a text which might have been as ancient as the cave paintings at Lascaux (Dave 
                                        had holidayed there the previous year – his first vacation sans parents – and he’d brought back practically every bottle of vin rouge in the whole of France, in order to properly stock his 
                                        own cellars at the shared student digs). There was something which might have been wrought using the penman’s own blood - a fateful prophecy.  

                                        It said:  

                                            ‘No man born of woman shalt bring together the clans of this nation.
                                            Under a flag, blue,
                                            But a leader shalt come forth from the boughs of Bullingdon nonetheless.
                                            And lead us to tax-breaks if we’re millionaires.’

                                        Syndicate approached the awesome text and sighed. Sometimes I believe our prophecy is in actualment a curse. For how can a leader 
                                        be born not of woman? Are we talking about a… a baboon acting as PM? Or a… a… goldfish?  

Dave, however, was made of sterner stuff. Or he was then, in the full rudery of his youth. For he said: ‘Maggie’s no man, is she? And she brings us all together 
under a flag, blue.’

Syndicate regarded Dave with a new respect, shining in his old-as-stone eyes. ‘Thou speakest the truth, brother.’

                                                    Dave felt excited. Almost priapically so. And it wasn’t just he’d so swiftly cracked the Bullingdon Club Code (thank Christ and Jeffrey Archer he’d been forced to read the
                                                    Scottish Play at Sixth Form college – well, he paid his ‘fag’ to read it for him anyway). No, there was more to it than that. 

                                                    For there was one last remarkable thing about our remarkable Dave, other than his ability to speak with dead people and his talent for cracking age-old codes. And that went all 
                                                    the way back to his birth.

                                                    You see, Dave’s father didn’t like women. He wasn’t gay, of course he wasn’t, no right-thinking Cameron could ever be. And he kept self-flagellating tools under the bed just in 
                                                    case he ever thought that way about a fellow man again. He just didn’t care for the fairer sex. 

                                                    And yet, he conceived a child. 

You see, Dave’s father was an avid twitcher and one of his favourite Avian friends was the puffin. For ne’er was there a beast upon this earth more suited to that phrase ‘neither fish 
nor fowl.’ Otherwise lonely, Dave’s father one day found himself stumbling into a passionate affair with one of the snub-nosed beasts during a glorious Pembrokeshire Spring. And 
when a child was begat, that child was Dave.

                                                      Dave was born of no woman. Not of the human variety at any rate.
                                                      He was the man built to lead.

                                            ‘That’s it, Diddy,’ said Maggie at last, her voice softer now. She had been appeased. She winked at Dave in the mirror, rabbit-punched him on the shoulder then told her boy: ‘Go out 
                                            there and give ‘em what for.’

                                            And, dear reader, Dave did. He strode out of his dressing room, walked confidently down the corridor, turned a corner and there, there was the glare of the TV spotlights and there, there
                                            were the other party leaders, stinking malcontents all, ready to ‘do battle’ in front of the nation to win hearts and minds. But none of them knew what Dave did. And boy, did he
                                            condescend. And boy, did he bite sound. And boy, did he puffin-face. 

                                            But none of that mattered. Because Dave could count on the votes of the dead, and on the votes of the animal kingdom, and on the hand of fate, at his shoulder., pushing him,ever so
                                            gently, towards a glorious future…. 

The Bullingdon Club Code

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