The Rt. Honorable Leader/Head of Council/First Governor/Chief Minister/Premier/President/Chancellor/First Minister/Party Secretary-General entered his office, and looked out the open window. It was a beautiful sunny cool day, and the cherry blossoms shone in the sunshine and carried their sweet fragrance through the air; this depressed the Leader. He went over to his desk, transferred everything from his “In” tray to his “Out” tray, sat down, put his feet up on his desk, and studied his fingernails.
The intercom buzzed.
“Yes, Beryl?” said the Leader.
Through a haze of electronic interference and fuzz came the answer, “The Finance Minister is here to see you.”
“Oh, damn. Does he look happy?”
“The Finance Minister, sir? Happy?”
“Send him in.”
The door opened and the Finance Minister walked in.
“Hello,” said the Leader. He couldn’t think of anything else to say to the Finance Minister, and wasn’t sure he even wanted to say “hello” to him.
“Good morning, Leader. May I sit down?”
There was silence.
“Is there a problem?” asked the Leader.
“Yes,” said the Finance Minister.
There was silence.
“Well?” said the Leader. “What is it? Everything’s going well. The party’s doing well. The country’s in good shape. Isn’t it?”
“Isn’t it?” countered the Leader, cleverly.
“I was with the Finance Committee last night…”
“You’re not listening to that pile of human walnuts, are you?”
“ … and we came to the conclusion that…”
“ … that we’re wrong.”
“What?” said the Leader. “Wrong about what?”
“Everything. Our economic policies don’t work.”
“But what about all the good things that have happened over the past year?”
“Well, sir,” said the Finance Minister, idly fingering the documents in the Leader’s “Out” tray. “Most of them, we didn’t have anything to do with. They were just a natural result of the ebb and flow of money. As for the bad things, there are a lot more of them. And you know as well as I do that the statistical people jiggle the figures so it looks as if things are going well. But, it seems to me that if we keep going the way we have been, the economy’s going to be in one hell of a mess.”
“What do you suggest?” asked the Leader, flicking the Finance Minister’s fingers off the documents.
“I don’t know.”
“But you must know! You’re the Finance Minister!”
“Sir, when you’ve believed in something for 40 years as I have, and then you discover you’re wrong, it’s very difficult to see what the real answer is.”
“But if you don’t know, and the Finance Committee doesn’t know, then who does know?”
The Finance Minister shrugged. “By the way, I’ve just seen Dick.”
“Dick? Which Dick?”
“Oh yes, I remember.”
“And he said he wants to see you. He’s just come back from his inspection tour of the lakes.”
“That can’t be good,” said the Leader.
The Leader was meeting with his Cabinet. They all sat while the Leader stood on a box to tower over them. “So. There we have it. Treasury, Environment, Health, Transport, Foreign Affairs. You all seem to be having a crisis of faith. And, if I understand things correctly…”
Many members of the Cabinet looked at each other skeptically as this had never happened before.
“ … they seem to be right. Any suggestions?”
There was silence.
“Come on, then,” continued the Leader. “You’re advisers. Advise.”
This wasn’t something any of them had ever done so there was more silence.
A voice from the back crept into the void. “May I say something?”
“Who are you?” asked the Leader.
“I’m Wilkins, sir. From the Party. I’m Senior Associate Assistant to the Third Vice-President for the Mid-South Region.”
“Do you have a suggestion, Mr. Wilkins?”
“You could resign and call an election.”
“Why on earth would I do that? Are you sure you’re from our party?”
“I’m just considering all the options, sir. After all, we do live in a democracy.”
The Cabinet appreciated this comment and laughed heartily, dissipating the tension.
“Any other ideas, Mr. Wilkins?” said the Leader.
“Well, just one.”
The Leader sat at his desk, working on a very simple crossword puzzle which was confusing him. The intercom buzzed. “Yes, Beryl?”
“The Leader of the Opposition is here,” came the staticky answer.
“Yes. Send her in.”
The Leader of the Opposition entered and offered her hand for the Leader to shake, which relieved the Leader immensely as he never knew if he should shake hands or kiss her lightly on the cheek. They shook hands.
“Hello, uh…” said the Leader.
“Yes, of course. Diane. How are you?”
“Very well. What’s on your mind?”
“Please, have a seat, Diane. I thought we’d just have a little chat. You know, discuss things.”
“Come on, you never discuss anything with me.”
“Times have changed, Diane. I think it’s time we entered into a new spirit of co-operation—”
“I’m not an average voter, sir. I don’t believe your dribble. Be honest for once and tell me what you want.”
“All right. I’ll tell you. But if you repeat any of this to the media, I’ll just deny it. And they’ll believe me, because it’s too ridiculous to consider as being real. What we have in government is a serious crisis.”
“I’ve known that for years.”
Ignoring the interruption that was obvious in its purposeful interruptedness and veracity, the Leader continued. “But now it’s more serious because now we’ve realized it. I had a word with the Finance Minister today, and he thinks his anti-inflationary policies aren’t working, and the tax system is unfair, et cetera, et cetera. What I’m asking for, Diane, is your help.”
The Leader of the Opposition looked around the room. “There’s a microphone here, isn’t there? The security forces are recording this, and you’ll play it at the Christmas party, and all have a good laugh.”
“No, I’m dead serious. But there is a catch.”
“If you refuse to help, I’ll tell the media and the public that we honestly asked for advice, and you refused. And they’ll believe me. You won’t be seen as very patriotic, will you?”
“And if we do help you?”
“Well, we can’t really give you the credit, can we? What would the people think of us?”
“Shrewd, Leader. Very shrewd.”
In the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Diane was presiding over her shadow cabinet. The Shadow Finance Minister was livid. “This is absolutely incredible! It’s unprecedented. I can’t believe it.”
“Believe it,” said Diane.
“There must be some ulterior motive.”
Diane shrugged. “I don’t think the Leader is that bright. I think he’s being completely honest, for once.”
“We can’t go along with this,” said the Shadow Transport Minister. “It’s outrageous. Tell him we refuse. Force him to call an election.”
“It won’t work,” said Diane. “If he tells the people we refused to help, they’ll believe him. And why not? It seems likely, doesn’t it? And the people believe practically everything he ever says. They like him for some reason. Look at how well the government is doing in the polls. We can’t take a chance on an election now.”
“So,” said the Shadow Health Minister, “we’re forced to give him our ideas, let everyone think they’re his ideas, and then where will we be?”
“I don’t think we have a choice.”
The Shadow Energy Secretary said, irrelevantly and insightfully, “My brother-in-law says all politicians are crooks.”
“Well,” said Diane, “I think we have to go along with it, no matter how ridiculous it seems. Perhaps the people will recognize them as our ideas, and we’ll end up looking good by the next election.”
The Shadow Trees Minister said, “The only people who’ll recognize them as our ideas are the people who vote for us anyway.”
“Can you think of another alternative?” asked Diane, looking at each Shadow Minister directly into their beady little eyes. “Anyone?”
There was silence.
The following Spring, the Leader and the Leader of the Opposition were walking along a path through the park of cherry blossoms. The Leader sneezed, and said, “These ideas of yours aren’t working. Nothing has improved since we took your advice.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Diane.
“I’ll show you the figures if you want.”
“The government figures or the real figures?”
“The real ones. Inflation is up, moving toward an annual rate of 10%. The trade deficit is well up. For last month, it’s almost 2 billion. Unemployment is up again. It’s almost 10% as well.”
“I don’t believe this,” said Diane, plucking a cherry blossom from a tree and sniffing it. “Our economic policy is sound. You’re trying to pull a fast one.”
“No, I’m not. But I think you are. You deliberately gave us bad advice, didn’t you?”
“I wish we’d thought of that,” said Diane, sniffing at the blossom and accidentally inhaling a caterpillar. “But we didn’t. Look at what we’ve been saying over the past few years. Isn’t that the advice we gave you?”
“I don’t know,” said the Leader. “Do you think I ever listen to anything you ever say? What am I going to do? I suppose I could always ask the Lefties… no, that would be even more ridiculous than asking you. I know. I’ll tell everyone they were your ideas. They’ll believe me because they’ll see that all our policies are really your policies.”
“But you implemented them, didn’t you?”
The Leader looked at Diane, who smiled.
“We can say you didn’t do them the way we would have done.” She chuckled. “I never thought things could work out so well.”
The Leader was stymied, and thought long and hard about what to do. He realized that he would have to go back to the old time-honoured tradition and do what politicians had done for many years, and what he knew he did well. He had to lie.
The Leader made a speech. “My friends, our country is stronger than ever. We are in a new age of prosperity. There is hope and confidence in our future. And this is not just idle rhetoric. The statistics bear this out, and you can study them for yourselves. Inflation is fully under control, at an annual rate of one percent. We have eliminated the trade deficit. We now have a surplus, and last month, the surplus was 5 billion. And, most importantly, we’ve created jobs. Unemployment is down. Fewer than a hundred thousand people are out of work, and I will not stop until everyone in this country is working. Yes, my friends, now is a time to be proud. We are in the dawn of a new era. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for everything you’ve done. I urge you to vote for me. Good night and God bless you.”
And the people saw through the Leader’s lies and obfuscations and exaggerations and calumnies and fabrications and embellishments and complete horsefeathers and, as one, rose up and did the only thing they could do. They re-elected him.