“Wooooo!!!” said Alice, “there’s going to be an election in Wonderland. What fun that’ll be! All those clever politicians setting out their policies to tell us how they’re going to make Wonderland better. I can’t wait!”
The others all glanced knowingly at each other, and shook their heads at her enthusiasm. They knew it wasn’t going to be fun and that the chances of any politician really telling what they intended to do were so small as to be invisible. Still, they all followed her as she set off with a bounce in her step to go and talk to the politicians.
First of all, she came across one all dressed in blue. He looked patrician, and Alice knew he was the one in charge at the moment. Alice decided on a blunt approach. “If you win,” she said, “what will you do?”
“Well, Alice,” he answered, looking very seriously at her, “my party and I will make everything the same, but better.”
There was a pause, as Alice waited for a bit more; but it wasn’t forthcoming.
“Is that it?” she said. “You’ll make things the same, but better?”
“Yes, you have to understand that we have to undo all the bad things done before us; I know we said we’d do it last time, five years ago, but it was all worse than we thought, so it’s taken longer. Once that’s done, though, I can’t begin to describe how much better we will make it.”
“Mmmm. Doesn’t sound too exciting to me.”
“No, really Alice. Once we stop having to pay all the interest on what the others borrowed, we’ll be so much richer and we will be able to tax you less, and that way you’ll get to keep more of your own money. Then you can decide how you want to spend it, and the government won’t keep on interfering in your life. In fact,” he looked proudly as if he had just thought of a new slogan, “we’ll become the disappearing government, showing up less and less.” He grinned. “You won’t see us!”
Behind Alice, the Cheshire Cat said “Oy! Less of that. That’s my trick.” And a man in a hat with corks tied to the brim put his arm round the blue politician’s shoulders and led him away. “So long, cobbers”, he said over his shoulder to Alice and her friends. “Can’t have him running around on his own; who knows what he might say.”
Along came a politician in yellow, head down, muttering to himself as he twitched a stick at the flowers growing by the roadside. “S’not fair, s’not fair,” he grumbled. “We did all the good things and they did all the bad things, and now they say they did everything and we’re just irrelevant. S’not fair. I want to keep my title and my limo and my staff. They have to let me be important.” A sneaky, snidey smile came across his face. “If they don’t, I could threaten to go and talk to the red people. That’ll teach them how important I am.” And he swished with his stick and knocked the heads off half a dozen flowers. He looked round quickly, guiltily. Throwing the stick down and putting on an innocent air, he muttered, “Wasn’t me. I only did the good things,” and ran off.
Alice shook her head despairingly. Important?
Ah, there was a man dressed in purple. He wasn’t looking at the ground, he was staring straight ahead, and blowing smoke rings. Maybe he’d have some policies, thought Alice. Let’s ask him.
“Excuse me,” she started, “are you taking part in the election?”
“Yes, I’m the man for the forgotten majority, the real people the others all forget in their chase for new votes.”
That sounded promising, thought Alice. “Well, then,” she said, “what’s your policy on healthcare?”
“Send away the foreigners.”
Alice was slightly taken aback; still, she thought, he looked reasonable. Let’s try something else.
“What about your plan for economic growth?”
“Send away the foreigners.”
Puzzled, Alice carried on. “What would you do to fund the state pension deficit?”
“Send away the foreigners.”
Alice hesitated before asking the next question. Then she shrugged, and said: “What about overcrowding in parts of Wonderland?”
The purple politician peered suspiciously at her. “Are you not listening properly?” Then his head started spinning round and round, faster and faster and faster and he loped off into the countryside, chanting “send away the foreigners! send away the foreigners! send away the foreigners!” as he went.
Alice sat down for a moment, to try and regather her thoughts. It was as well she did so, because, although Alice was just a little girl, the next politician to pass was a tiny lady, wearing loud checks in some sort of tweed cloth. It was all a bit noisy, because behind her was a large man with what looked like a cat under his arm that was making loud squealing sounds. Behind him were a group of men in skirts singing a song; the only words Alice could catch through the accent were something about Proud Edward’s Army. Bizarre, thought Alice.
“We’re all off to divide Wonderland in two. It’s not one land, we want our bit all for ourselves,” they said as they trooped past. Alice was puzzled. She knew there had been a previous vote about this, not long ago, and the people had chosen to keep Wonderland united. In fact, she was almost sure she had heard the big man and the woman both saying that that had solved the question for a generation. Mmm. Something must have changed. Anyway, that group showed no sign of wanting to stop and chat about policies with Alice, so she let them go.
She stood up again, and turned to carry on. “Eek!” she screamed, as she bumped into a politician clad in red. He’s sneaked up on me, she thought, and I wish he wouldn’t stare at me like that. It’s really disturbing.
Still, Alice knew you shouldn’t only judge politicians by their appearance, so she just stepped back a bit, to gain some space, and started to question this one.
“What are you going to do if you are elected?”
“Well, Alice, wha’ I say to you is that we’ll give you lots of free stuff.”
Alice was puzzled, yet again. “How?” she asked. “You would’t have any money to do that. Governments don’t have any money. They just take it from taxpayers, so it’s not really theirs.”
This time, it was the red politician's turn to look puzzled. “Wha’ I say is, we have to give everybody free stuff. We can take more taxes from everybody, then the money’s ours. Then we can decide who to give it to.” He looked darkly at her. “So you better remember to vote for us. I’ve got a long memory.... And if that doesn’t make enough money, why, we can borrow more. Wonderland’s an important country, we can borrow and borrow and borrow, and never really worry about paying it back.” He looked conspiratorially at her: “Wha’ I say to you is, the other countries all want to own our debt. I should know; in the red party, we’re all really good at what we call economics. A bit tough for a little girl like you, “ he said, patronisingly.
Patronising Alice is never a good idea. “Oh yeah?” she said, pugnaciously. “You know about economics? That’s why you chose to announce that you would freeze domestic energy prices just when the market hit its highs, I suppose? That meant suppliers had to take forward cover to protect themselves from you and that costs money, so the price couldn’t come down as fast as the market. Great slogan - ‘vote for me, I’ll freeze prices at the high’. You claim to know about economics. Pah! My friends in the financial markets know it much better than you.” She shook her head. “And stop staring at me!”
A lady in red poked her head round from behind the red politician. “It wasn’t a freeze, it was a cap,” she honked in a voice like a foghorn.
“Yes, it was a cap,” said the red politician, “not a freeze. I knew that. Of course I knew that.”
“Piffle,” said the Mad Hatter, standing behind Alice, “piffle piffle, piffle.”
The red party shambled off, the foghorn still loudly declaring “It was a cap.”
Alice looked left as the rumbling sound of a didgeridoo became audible. “What’s that?” she asked.
The March Hare pointed. “Look,” he said, “over there. They’ve just come out of their burrows.” And Alice and the others saw a group of green-clad politicians, joining hands and dancing round a tree to the strains of the didgeridoo; carried on the breeze, Alice and the others could just make out the words of the mesmeric chant - “More free stuff! More free stuff! More free stuff!”
Alice shook her head sadly. Such an exciting prospect; could the reality just be like this?