Listen I don't know much about politics – I have, actually, made an active choice to not like politics anymore, because knowing about it, even a little, is currently filling me with this sort of unerring sense of dread. I mean I know they say "knowledge is power", that knowing the size of the beast helps you to slay it, but in this instance with British politics I do truly think knowing about it, knowing exactly how it is all going wrong, is actually quite a terrible idea. I'm just going to revert back to childhood and read the Beano again, it's easier – but yes so I don't know much about politics. But I do know people. And I do know that five people – Theresa May, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Stephen Crabb – are running for leadership of the Tory party right now. And I do know Boris Johnson officially pulled out while I was writing this piece, the dick. And I do know they all have Wikipedia portraits. And... that's about it? Yeah. That's about it.
So isn't it time to decide who is the most suitable Prime Minister for this country, based only on looking at their Wikipedia profile picture for three, maybe eight seconds? Yes. That is the exact sort of incisive political commentary we need right now.
Theresa May is knocking on your door to tell you the upkeep of small common patch of grass outside your house, between the pavement and the road, is your responsibility. "I don't understand," you say. "I thought the council mowed that." It's more complicated than that, Theresa May explains, more sticky. Everyone else in the neighbourhood looks after theirs. Theresa May lives two streets away from you. You look at the identical patches of grass outside everyone else's house. Short clipped grass, a smattering of daisies. Nothing wild. "I have a letter, here, if you don't believe me." You watch her leave through the net curtains. She doesn't knock on anyone else's door. She's here again the next evening, during X Factor. "I just wanted to check the progress with our little grass problem," she says. You were looking online, you said, and— "No. Not online. I showed you the letter." She is somehow getting more curt with you. "Well, what do you want me to do?" She rolls her eyes. "I want you to sort it. It's an eyesore." She's there again the next night, and the next. She walks home the long way from work to assess the grass patch. You've moved the TV to the back room, turn the lights off out front. When the short sharp knocks come you turn the volume down and pretend you're not in. The dog barks. The fucking dog. "Hello, Theresa—" She's holding a dog's turd in her bare hand. "Your responsibility, I'll assume?" You don't— "I found it on the verge. This is now a police matter." Two tired policeman have to come to your house, mate, sorry, it's just a routine thing, but we've got to investigate them, sorry, they know it's late. Listen she says you called her a "twat slag" and spat in her garden. "That's not true!" you say. "It's not!" They have to file the report, civil rules. Theresa May has turned your neighbours against you. You see their glares in the morning. The council writes you a letter about your dangerous dog. The police drive slowly past the verge every two days. You sign off work sick, spend a couple of weeks back home with your mother, clear your head. The dog is at a friend's house. Reluctantly, you decide to sell the home you love. Bids are slow. You eventually settle for £15,000 below market value. A few months later, you Google the name of the buyer. Boot up Facebook. Friends: 169. And there, at the top of them: Theresa May. Theresa fucking May.
Liam Fox is your girlfriend's dad who is really into the army. Your girlfriend is taking you home for the weekend and is nervous. "My dad is..." she trails off. "He's... he thinks handshakes are really important." Over a cramped train table littered with Percy Pigs, you practise your handshake on her. "Can you grip a bit harder? It needs to be authoritative." Pull up to the sprawling cottage her parents live in. Liam Fox greats you in a striped, short-sleeved shirt. "This must be the one I've heard so much about!" he says. He crushes your hand like a fucking vice. "Come in." At dinner, your girlfriend whispers to you. "He wants to take you to the pub, tomorrow," she says. "Some alone time." You sit and watch him drink a single pint of Bombadier. You can hear every tick of the grandfather clock, metres behind him. He looks at you. "What's your favourite war, then?" he's asking. "First or second? Trick question: the best war was the Spanish Civil War." Over the weekend, her mum starts to love you. She bakes cakes and great pies. She somehow knits you a wonderful, cosy jumper. "You simply must join us for Christmas," she says. Liam Fox coughs. "Ah, uh... we'll... it's early, obviously. We'll talk about it nearer the time." November comes, your girlfriend has fallen slowly out of love with you. You muster up the courage to ask. "So did we... did we get any further on Christmas?" Oh, she says, she thought you knew. Daddy booked them all on a skiing trip. All bought and paid for months ago. A family thing. "Of course," you say, flexing your tight little hand. "Family."
Michael Gove used to live three doors down from you when you were a kid but your mum always warned you off knocking at his door over Hallowe'en. "Mr. Gove doesn't like to be troubled," she said. "He doesn't like... things." You always saw him in his garden, humming to himself, idly, before going inside to make tea for his mother. "That poor boy's only friend is his mother," your mum used to sigh, at the curtains. "What he'll do when she..." She notices you're in the room, behind her. "Never mind listening to me. Do you want sausages for tea?" When the ambulance finally comes, Mr. Gove is distraught. "93, she was," your mum says. "Never left the country. Never left that boy alone. He never married..." she notices you in the room. "Oh, Christ, again. Do you want fish fingers for tea?" After that, Mr. Gove goes strange. He builds a miniature railway in the garden, installs a plate glass window above his door with the Flying Scotsman glazed onto it. "He always did like trains," your mum says, softly. "But now it's gone... weird." You grow and get older, more confident in your body, but Mr. Gove remains the same. He gets thinner and more hollow as you fill out and become grown. Sometimes you see him, in the early hours when you're coming back from some sixth form house party, sweat slicking your fringe to your forehead, the same black hoodie you've worn all summer tied loose around your shoulders, and you see him, pottering home from the shops with the morning paper and a pint of milk, wearing a railroad engineer's cap. "Hello, Mr. Gove," you say, eyes pink against the light. And he looks at you – looks through you, not like he's never seen you before but like he's never seen anyone before, that he's never beheld another human, that he's an alien made of smooth long bones and globules of ligament, new to the planet, new to the solar system – he looks through you and he whispers, "choo, choo."
Andrea Leadsom's sensitive son has just been diagnosed with asthma and so she has inexplicably been allowed to take assembly at your school to tell you all about it. "If you ever see Charlie without his inhaler," she says, "you all must tell the teacher." She gazes at you with dead, yellow eyes. "You of course understand that Charlie's asthma is now your responsibility," she says. "If he has an attack during playtime or general horseplay, I shall be suing the school and the state." She has promised you all treats if you can answer the three-question asthma pop quiz she's printed out for you to take at the end. Question One: Asthma affects the... A. Lungs B. Legs C. Airways. You don't understand the question: isn't it a little of A, a little of C? The PowerPoint was confusing. Andrea Leadsom pats you on the head. "We have a clever clogs, here, don't we!" she says. She reaches into her treat bag. What could it be? Mini Rolls? A treat-sized chocolate bar? A full-sized chocolate bar? It is none of those things. It is a small red box of raisins.
BORIS JOHNSON, WHO FUCKING PULLED OUT THIS MORNING, BUT WITH EVERYTHING BEING FUCK-A-DOODLE RIGHT NOW HE COULD BE IN AGAIN BY THIS AFTERNOON, WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ANYMORE
Boris is the boy your mum makes you invite to your house to play even though he always breaks your toys because he's too rough. "Mum," you say. "It's not fair. I don't even like Boris!" Your mum's had enough of it. Boris's mum is in her Thursday salsa 'n' nattering class and she sees first hand the impact Boris's friendlessness has on her. "You're playing with Boris Johnson, and that's the end of it!" That afternoon, after school, the two of you sit in silence while Boris – inexplicably wearing shorts even in November, an abundance of hormones making him a good foot taller than you, three times your weight – sits and watches you play Megadrive. "My turn," he says, his sticky hands grabbing at yours. "Mine!" He throws Sonic into the Chemical Plant acid three times in one minute and busts you both down to one life. You spent 45 minutes getting here, pirouetting through loop-de-loops, avoiding Robotnik. He has no rings to protect him. His large dumb hands claw at the B button. "You have to jump, Bori—" It's too late. Sonic is impaled on a spike, bounces down to his death. Boris turns to you, huge, the dull sheen behind his eyes menacing in its emptiness. "Bimily bomily," he whispers, "Bimbily bob bob."
Stephen Crabb knows something but he's not saying what. He runs the burger van near to the moors where they found that bone. "Yes," he says, his apron smeared with specks of grey-brown, hand on an old washcloth, rinsing out a mug. "Can I help you?" You are the police, you say, and you are investigating the disappearances. Did he see anything unusual or untoward on that Thursday in March? "I don't know what you're talking about," Crabb says, irritably. "I'm just about to put my shutters down, Officer. I'll have to bid you goodnight." Down in the village, where the night is blue and thick, locals huddle in the pub to tell you about him. "He can't breathe out of his nose since that rugby accident broke it," they say. Always thought he was a prospect, in the town. Close to moving to Sale, having a go at being the best. The smash ended that. And he receded into himself, didn't he, his father never there – there but never truly there – and when he died Crabb took the funds from the sale of the bungalow and opened up the truck out by the way. "Passing traffic, mostly," they say. A lot of motorbike accidents up round there. A lot of lorries come through, the drivers hungry in the deep flickers of the night for a hit of something grey and meaty and comfortable. Crabb lives out in the caravan out round the back of it. Hunts on his days off. The man who runs the gear shop in town says he comes in a lot. "Serrated blades, mostly," he says. "Sometimes some tactical stuff." You take a flask of coffee and camp out. The light in Crabb's cabin don't fade until you do, your lids heavy against the silent, ceaseless night. In the morning, you try him again. "I've tellt you before, I've seen nowt!" he says, abruptly. You just want a burger, you tell him. "That's four pound." You ask for cheese. "Four-fifty." Retreat to your Audi and eat the patty alone. It's grey around here, grey and green and earthy. The wind whips and retreats. No trees for miles, just low, dense bush. The perfect place to hide something you don't want people to find. In the distance, a gauzy line of fluorescent coats trek in time down great swathes of the moor. Dogs sprint and huddle around streams and rivulets. You sense it, but policework isn't built on sense. It's not a crime to be odd, to be a little lonesome. It's not a crime to charge 80p extra for fried onions. You huddle deeper into your jacket, sip hot sweet tea from a Styrofoam cup. It's too quiet out here, too still. So quiet that all you can do is think in circles. He knows something. He's not telling. "Something's not right," you say aloud, the words condensing on your windshield. "Something's not right with Stephen Crabb."
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