Great Expectations For Sale
Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles
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Party fears two

I suppose it all started on the day the party moguls came to ask my father to stand for the council. Only as a 'paper' candidate you understand. That is, without any chance of getting elected, but purely to fly the flag for the party. Which party does not matter; other than that it was one of the main parties - not one of these fly by night outfits.

And so the family was thrown into turmoil. My father agreed to put his name forward, on the strict understanding that he would stand no chance of being elected. Which he wasn't. Unfortunately, none of the other parties fielded any candidates, so at the end of the day for final nominations, he was greeted with a cheerful 'Hello Councillor Newbury', and knew that life would never be the same again.

Now it so happened that the party in question ran a youth division (up to age thirty was the rough guideline) and my brothers, my sister and I all duly fell in and joined this radical bunch of hardened political activists.

I remember going along to the first meeting, held in a large room over a pub in the local town. Early comers moved aside some of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes paraphernalia that occupied part of the room. What wild and bizarre rituals were conducted in here behind these closed doors we wondered, but never discovered. We just looked on in awe at the ancient lecterns and desks.

So there we all were. At the height, a motley collection of about fifty young rebels gathered from all walks of life (well mainly students actually) drawn together by a single purpose. An overwhelming force. The desire for a sexual partner.

For that is how it appeared to me as an outsider looking in for the first time. Of course there was the odd jumble sale or garden fete to raise money for the grand cause, but the essential business of the group was social. And it worked. Looking back on the fifty or so members, I can reveal that fourteen ended up pairing off in actual marriage for goodness sake, while countless others had shorter or longer flings before moving round the group to try their luck with another wild young thing.

Now I doubt if 'Blind Date' or 'Dateline' could come any where near that sort of success rate, although it must be admitted that to my knowledge only three of the seven marriages is still going fifteen years on. Even so that's probably about average so mustn't grumble really.

There were the occasional political events, mainly as window dressing for the parties and social occasions that were the real purpose of the group. In smoke filled rooms we media manipulators would argue over the wording of the press release on Russia. 'Free Political Prisoners' we would have on our fly stickers, to which the group wag would reply 'They sound nice. I'll have one of those.' Week after week we would unreservedly condemn this or that government, this or that ecologically unsound company and so on, and blow me if our little press release didn't appear routinely in the local rag. Mend your ways Russia we cried, or we shall take reprisals.

One of my brothers stood a year or two later for the council as another paper candidate. But he took the job very seriously, and toured the ward in his car looking for problems which he could solve if elected. The local allotments caught his eye. These were the pride and joy of the residents who had fought long and hard to be given these meagre patches of land to work. My brother took one look. 'They are an eyesore' he remarked, 'they will have to go.' He was persuaded not to make this an election pledge, but this time there was an election, and he didn't win. Pity really.

Election addresses were always a riot. Trying to think of some way of making them seem more interesting than a double glazing leaflet was always a challenge. You could have pictures of bridges where you thought there should be new line markings on the road. Perhaps campaign for the provision of a lollipop lady. Maybe a coat of paint for the village hall. The parties competed on who had managed to get a streetlamp fixed, or a paving stone re-laid. It really set the pulse racing.

My other brother started a freebie magazine given out to all members. He would include quotes from people caught unawares at the pub, or in an idle moment. My mother once complained about 'sitting stony faced with her mother all through Carry on Laughing'. Debating student rights, my father expressed the opinion that 'students don't have any rights', which as the years go by I come to admire more and more. They appeared in the magazine to much merriment.

My only contribution to the party was a short stint as membership secretary, including a membership drive involving visiting old members who hadn't found a sexual partner before, and were blowed if they were going to cough up a pound to have another go. In a dramatic gesture I resigned the job a few months later over some long forgotten dispute, and that was the end of my political career.

Our finest hour came when the local council decided to reward ex-mayors with a silver badge of office proclaiming that they had been mayor of the town. We wanton insurrectionists countered decisively by distributing free lapel stickers proclaiming that 'I have not been mayor of....' Well it made us laugh anyway.

As is the way with these things, one splinter group formed who didn't like the way the party was run. Thought it should be more populist. How we scoffed. So they set up their own little party, and swept to power with a leaflet proposing to rent out the newly built civic offices, and buy a swimming pool with the money. Simple but effective really I suppose, although the plan never came to fruition. But if there had only been a few more of them.

I am sure that these groups still exist, and don't worry too much about your political affiliations if you want to join one. Best if you haven't got any really. Bit like Uncle Denis who went on church outings with all denominations because he was such a jolly chap and they all wanted him along. Can't miss getting into heaven that way. So it is with politics. Just find the party with the best parties as it were, or whatever else takes your fancy. My brother joined two, because the other one had a good bridge club and cheap beer. But on no circumstances offer yourself as a paper candidate. That could prove a serious mistake.

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