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In the bleak midwinter

Ghosts of Liverpool take the deputy PM on an eerie make-believe trip

Published on January 4th 2011.


In the bleak midwinter

T'WAS the night before Christmas and not a mouse moved. Nick had sent the IT department home early.

“And don’t think you are getting paid either,” he sneered, cracking his knuckles contentedly as they filed out of the office, clutching their P45s.

Nick had been in a foul mood all day, ever since loose lips Vince had blabbed to those so-called Lib dem supporters. Ass. Everyone knew the Lib Dems didn't have any supporters left.

Then there were those people from Liverpool in his office begging for more money, sitting there, their pleading scouse gobs.

“Please Mr...”

“Call me Mr Deputy Prime Minister, and say it slowly with the emphasis on the “Prime Minister” part.”

“Look we need more money; we’ve laid off more managers than goddamn Queens Park Rangers. Now vital services....”

“You people should have thought of that at the last election, maybe if you’d let Lord Mike of Peroni stay in power up there things would be bit different.”

Uncle Joe and Barry Bodgeit looked at each other stunned, and then Nick pressed the red button under his desk and they vanished. Nick hoped they were being kettled outside on Whitehall in the snow.

“Always wanting more,” he muttered. “The city looked l rich enough when I was there for the conference. It even had a funfair.

He smiled at the thought of the ride on the big wheel and the even better ride up Edge Lane at 70mph and out of the city.

Then he decided to treat himself to a nip of whisky. Charles Kennedy had left a few bottles in the filing cabinet. He poured himself a tot and sat back to savour the moment.

Something was wrong. He didn’t have that normally nice feeling he had when he used something that belonged to someone else, like the one he got when he thought of all those votes and goodwill he had taken to suck up to the head boy, David. He felt tired, his head nodded against his chest and his grip on the malt loosened.

Suddenly Nick felt a gust of wind blow through his office and for a moment the papers on his desk rustled in the breeze.

He stood up. “Who let that cold in? This place costs a fortune to heat!”“I let that cold in,” said a soft voice behind him.

Nick spun around.

“Who is that? How did you get in here?” He looked around and saw a large, distinguished figure sitting in his chair. In one hand he held a picture of Margaret Thatcher and in the other a lighter.

“Jobs and services, Nick,” he said, as he set the photograph alight and lit a cigar from the flame.

Nick nervously stepped nearer.

“If you are a student, I can have you thrown out of here in seconds.”

“I am a student of life, Nick...”

“You look familiar, are you? No you can’t be, are you Derek Hatton.?”

“You cheeky little get. I am the ghost of Tony Mulhearn, Ghost of Liverpool Past. I have come to save your soul, although I can't think why.”

The ghost stood and reached out and took Nick's hand. In a trice Nick was flying high above snowy rooftops looking down on a frozen city below.

“Everywhere is ice and snow but look at all those lights on, and those people having a good time in bars, restaurants and shops. How can this be, Ghost?”

“We are in the last decade. Those are public sector workers, the life blood of the city's renaissance economy. You haven't forced them all onto the dole yet.”

The ghost descended and Clegg found himself standing at the back of the Arena, he could see himself mounting the stage.

“What is this?”

“This,” said the ghost, “is your leadership speech from your 2008 conference.”He watched 2008 Nick speak for some time, until the ghost nudged him.

“Look at the faces, they believe in you. You even nearly had me there for a second.."

2008 Nick looked sincere as he spoke: “The establishment parties will manipulate the system to get the power they want. But they’ll never change it.“They like having power and privilege sewn up between a few chums in the Westminster bubble.”

Nick turned to the ghost. “Did I really say that?”

“You did. Still, on the bright side, you lot will never be allowed to run anything again - and I'm talking as one who knows, sonny boy.”

Suddenly Nick's head swam; he felt as if the whole room was spinning around him, he found himself lying on the floor.

Someone reached down and helped him up, a kindly man in with a beard and a warm smile, his chocolaty voice soothed Nick as he whispered in his ear.

“Hello, my name is Radio Roger, and I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.”Nick looked around him, he was in a radio studio, and Radio Roger placed a set of head phones on him.

“Our first caller is Liam in Smithdown.”

“They sold us down the river, Radio Roger, on tuition fees!”

“Our next caller is Marjory in Allerton.”

“I trusted him Radio Roger, I never thought he would team up with the Tories, he seemed so sincere.”

“Brenda in Kensington...”

“I’m scared Radio Roger, I’m ill and I’m worried about my benefits.”

“Flo in Hunts Cross.”

“Well you've screwed it up good style for us Lib Dems, haven't you? You little twa... ”

“We seem to have lost Flo there, and finally Eric in Wavertree.”

“Hello Roger, it’s about these bins.”

Nick was confused, so many people seemed to hate him but he didn’t know why. He felt tears welling in his eyes and his heart pounded in his chest. He ran to the studio door and dashed out.

Instead of a corridor he found himself amid the ruins of a half-built block of apartments. Low grey clouds shrouded the sky and a cold Arctic wind whipped around his legs.

He took a few stuttering steps across the rubble and fell forward, scraping his hands and his knees. By now his breath came in wheezing sobs.

“Ghost!” he cried to the wind, “I know you are here! Show yourself!”

And there it was, standing before him, a deathly white face punctuated only by two hollow eyes and a sooty moustache. Skin so thin it looked like fine gossamer stretched over a dirty skeleton. A black long overcoat hung from the frame, blowing in the wind.

It silently watched him. Then it tilted its head curiously. Nick stood, trying to regain his composure and offered his hand.

,p>“I...I think recognize you ghost, what is your name?” said Nick

“My name is Yosser Hughes” the ghost calmly replied.

“You can’t be, you are the Ghost of Christmas Future, Yosser is from the eighties, the past, with Tony!”

The ghost held his gaze and Nick jumped in shock as he noticed three pale children, holding the ghost's hand. Were they there just before?

Ghost turned to Nick and his eyes took on a look of despair, his thin lipped mouth opened and closed like it was trying to be heard in a vacuum. Nick approached him, desperate to hear the final part of the story.

“Tell me ghost of the future, tell me your tale so I can be redeemed.”

The ghost beckoned Nick closer.

“Gizza job,” he said, and butted the Deputy Prime Minister in the face.

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