Crossing the floor

The following is loosely based on a recent local political drama. I’m not going to give any clues because those who recognize it, don’t need them, and those who don’t should be grateful they didn’t witness it.

“What do I look like?” he asked the TV.
With no reply forthcoming, he groaned, “Lord God!”, his head sinking into his hands.

Before this day, he had played out the scene many times in his mind. Churchill resolute he had been. A steadfast rock buffeted by outraged slings and arrows as he defiantly turned his back on the opposition benches and crossed the floor of the lower chamber to join the government. Once, in a dream, he had even seen himself float across in a transcendent glow, his passage marked in future history books as of biblical significance: He, Seff Gadala, would end the wandering in the wilderness and lead his people to power. Except there was no one following him.

No matter, thought Seff. I am a man of principle above all else. Those who choose to think otherwise are too blind to see that. For the members of the selection sub-committee of his constituency, however, Seff could hardly bear to contemplate them without muttering expletives and cursing their mothers. That they had dared put up another candidate for the local ticket was without precedent in his beloved party. Backstabbers! It had been his seat. He had done his time, paid his dues, stroked egos, sucked up and kissed enough senior party batty to have a job for life, just like the old days.

And if it was so that he had not set foot in the parish since the previous election, he had blustered at the sub-committee meeting, was that not proof that he had been hard at work representing his constituents in the capital.

“It’s not as if I can just pop down at the weekend,” he added in his defence. “The roads are diabolical!”

Several members nodded, grim-faced.

To his amazement, the members were unimpressed with his arguments and ignored his demand to abandon the vote to select the local candidate. It was too much to bear, and Seff’s wounded pride would not allow him to continue. At his final constituency meeting, he tore up his party card and left the room, making sure to slam the door hard.

In limbo before the next general election, Seff reflagged as an independent and tried to introduce a bill on electoral procedure. It was shot down in flames at its first reading, by both main parties, who argued that Seff’s bill was in fact a step backwards in time.

“Exactly!” thought Seff, pleased by the acknowledgment but hurt by the rejection.

For several weeks after, Seff had brooded about the obvious conspiracy against him, a conspiracy motivated by jealousy and fear of retribution once he reached his rightful place in government. It was so clear. Seventeen years in opposition had sapped his old party’s will to power. He was well shot of them. He would not turn back.

And yet, seventeen years in the wilderness with the party had been bad enough; now he would be alone in the desert …

The next day, Seff threw out all his green shirts and ordered several dozen orange Ralph Lauren polos from Amazon. The following week, he met the government party chairman, and the next month, his membership card arrived, with a post-it welcome from the Prime Minister.

The act of crossing the floor had been scheduled to gain maximum press coverage, during a debate on breaches of government tenders procedures. With the cameras of all the national TV channels upon him, Seff would stride triumphantly towards the winning side and trumpets would sound forth, this last part in Seff’s mind alone.

So what went wrong? Seff flipped to the News Network channel to re-view his glory gone awry.

“What do I look like?! A bloody schoolboy in a nativity play. Third spear carrier caught in the spotlight. Hunched and loping in an ill-fitting suit. Grinning with the rictus of a frightened monkey. Lord help me! What a fool! And yet I couldn’t escape. There was no curtain to hide behind. I had to go through with the whole bloody charade. Clasping a hand here, slapping a back there. And Lord God, crushed in the well-worn embrace of the PM, I lunged forward and kissed her on the cheek. By God, she’s a big woman, I realized when she pulled away and my feet touched the ground again.

I sank to the nearest chair and looked around me, still grinning like a fool. The desks were the same as on the other side. They reminded me of my old school desks that were pulled out at exam time. Whatever the subject at hand, my first concern had always been: who got the desk with the complete lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody engraved on it?”

Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.

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