Shorter Books

A short story about Brexit Remain. Hopefully a light-hearted response to the excellent author Rachel Churcher's essay "Dystopia, Step by Step" in which she explores the Brexit Leave origins behind her best-selling "Battle Ground" series. It's probably worth mentioning that I voted Remain.

Winston stood in line at the polling station. It was the third time that year, and that was a good year; the average had been four per year in the last decade. He couldn't remember what the poll was about; it was probably another "once in a generation" referendum about EU membership, or a general election. Possibly Scottish independence. The result would be the same as always, he was sure. Then the hung parliament would ask again in three to six months, until the electorate "got the answer right". There hadn't been a majority government since the second coalition ignored the result of the 2011 referendum and introduced proportional representation.

He glanced at his mobile. As always, there was a strong signal, but the bandwidth was dog slow. In theory he had the freedom to switch networks, but they all connected to the same useless, government-run, fibre-optic backbone, so there was little point. At home on a fibre-to-the-premises connection, it was even worse; it had been faulty for months but he couldn't get an engineer appointment. And of course, at home, on fibre, there was no choice of provider. Connection to the state media corporation was bearable - assuming the journalists he followed weren't under investigation by the government-sanctioned regulator for breach of fairness - but everything else ran like treacle.

Not that it really mattered anyway; he could barely read the glitchy, cracked screen and he couldn't afford a new phone. Prices had skyrocketed since the European trade sanctions with China. At first he had supported the sanctions against Chinese forced labour, but when they expanded to cover the European project to harmonise the minimum wage - theoretically to provide a level playing field between cheap offshore labour and the luxurious €20/hour rate inside the European zone - his enthusiasm dampened somewhat. In theory he could get it repaired, but the reality was that Europe wasn't overburdened with rare earth materials.

Even despite the price of a new phone, there was the matter of his pay. At minimum wage he was doing okay, but tax took a huge chunk. This was all to support spending on the NHS and other public services, but he recalled that this had originally been supposed to have been paid by high earners and big companies. Problem was, those big companies could have their headquarters in another EU state with lower taxes, and freedom of movement meant that the rich could pay tax wherever they wanted.

There were, of course, books. He had to admit, the service at the local library was excellent. The stock was limited to that approved by the media regulator, but the staff themselves were beyond criticism, and there were plenty of the kinds of books that passed the fairness test.

"The New Age of the Pamphlet" was what the underground media called itself. Printers didn't require fast Chinese-manufactured processors, and the strictly on-shore recycling industry meant plenty of old CPUs, plastic and paper. Self-publishing was easy, and so long as you modified your printer to excise the media regulator's tracking dots, untraceable (in this sense, having a slow and easy-to-hack old processor was a distinct advantage). It was difficult to get paid as an underground author, but most of them were doing it for the freedom and politics anyway.

Winston glanced up at the queue. About another twenty minutes until his turn, he reckoned. The turnout was huge, as always since the third coalition introduced mandatory voting. Plus there were the secret protest voters, the ballot stuffers who voted at more than one polling station. Winston did wonder what was the point of mandatory voting if nobody checked his ID.

Reading a pamphlet would make him stand out in the crowd, but he stood out anyway. He remembered his mum telling him about how she left Nigeria to join the NHS as a nurse. That had been a long time ago. Immigration was more open now, in one sense; but open only to mostly-white European countries. For his distant extended family, it felt much more closed.

Twenty minutes. Enough time to read the book he'd printed. It was only thirty pages. That was the kind of reading he'd got used to.

Shorter books.

And Finally...

If you found this article useful, please make a donation - however small - to Cotswold Jam, the family-friendly coding & electronics club that I run in Gloucestershire. We run entirely on donations, we don't claim tax relief nor taxpayer-funded grants, and in addition to running four workshops for 60 children five times a year, we try to give away GPIO electronics kits. All cards are accepted and you don't need a PayPal account.

Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2019-12-24

Top - More Politics Articles - Article Index -