Amy Roberts parked her car in the middle of the small town but just sat there, uncertain if this was the right thing. On the seat next to her was a box of election literature – flyers – and a map of the town.
She didn’t need the map, she knew the town well, she just hadn’t been there for a few years. Slowly she grabbed a handful of the flyers and stepped out of the car, expecting the worst.
The election was only a few days ago but she’d put this trip off for as long as possible, asking her small campaign team to do the work. They’d complied, but the Party HQ wasn’t happy, the candidates needed to spread themselves across the constituency.
Amy considered it a bit of a farce, not even certain how she’d been selected to stand for Parliament. She’d long supported the Violet Party, joining when she was just eighteen, but never wanted to be more than an enthusiastic supporter, helping out occasionally.
The Party was minor, but not the smallest. They’d had one Member of Parliament in the previous ten years when an incumbent MP switched parties and had steadfastly refused to resign his seat. The publicity hadn’t helped the Violet cause, although no-one was absolutely what that was.
They stood for world peace, but knew that was impossible, they loved the environment but weren’t as green as the Greens, then they supported free education until twenty one years of age, but had no idea how to pay for it.
That last one had a mixed reaction in the press, some journalists openly laughing at the Party. Amy was used to that, they couldn’t afford the economists or researchers who could turn hot air policies into hard proposals.
What had happened, however, was that they gained positive publicity amongst the students and parents of students, even though the Party didn’t have a policy on taxation, Europe or space travel.
It was clear to the Party when the snap election was called that they couldn’t afford to field candidates in every constituency. Given that the election had been called several years before it was due they also didn’t have the infrastructure in place. It was all a last minute affair.
The original candidate in Amy’s area had been a TV weatherman in an earlier life and everyone had been surprised when the police whisked him away early one morning with murmurings of alleged gross misdeeds; the seat became vacant very quickly.
The local Violet Party committee all excused themselves on various grounds, they hadn’t needed a deputy candidate with a former celebrity on the team and most of the committee were only there to bask in his shadow. One by one they started to resign, not wishing to be dragged into the mire.
That left the young activists, although that was too strong a word for the tea drinking ‘save the world’ group of twenty year olds. Amy was the oldest and clearly the best candidate, they’d said, or they wouldn’t field a candidate at all in that area. Amy protested that she was trans, the others said that was irrelevant, Amy still wasn’t convinced.
She liked the alternative plan of ‘do nothing’, anything for an easy life? Party HQ, however, needed to recover from the scandal and readily endorsed Amy, making this news public. She’d never had media training, but found herself giving interviews within hours, totally unprepared.
Slowly she learned the skills needed, even though she was still angry, and terrified, of what had been asked. HQ did send up a media trainer, and the deputy Chairwoman spent two days with her, but they only had four weeks to prepare Amy for the biggest show of her life.
Now she was on her own in a small market town in central England. There used to be industry here but it had gone. The dirty town, from the smoke stacks, had been cleaned up and gentrified. It wasn’t the socialist heartland it used to be and was now part of that mythical ‘Middle England’, perhaps twinned with ‘Middle Earth’?
She’d been born here, had gone to primary school, and had left when she was eleven. She’d been bullied, teased, and hurt all through her early school life. Amy had still been Anthony Roberts then, a confused boy. He had been the target but they had hurt Amy.
The town’s industry had been going through it’s death thralls back then, fifteen years ago, and Amy hadn’t been back here since.
She started her walk, firstly going to the old cottages just off the market square, knocking on doors to talk to the voting public and handing out the flyers. She’d done this in eight other small towns so why did she feel trepidation? Her fear was real however, when she reached the end of one road.
“I know you?”
“I’ve been on the local news and in the papers.”
“You went to school here?”
“Yes, I’m local.”
“Yeah, I remember you, you had freckles and wore glasses?”
“That would be me.”
A little fib, but Amy had extra confidence. As she went from street to street she heard very few local accents, the area had changed. The town still had a station that served Manchester and Nottingham, as well as London and Birmingham, so had become a commuting town. The line had only survived the cuts of the 1950s and 1960s as the industrial plants had needed it, now it was ferrying suits and students every morning instead of bricks.
Amy finished her walk and went back to the car; at least that was done, just a couple of days to go until the election and she could slide back into anonymity.
She had begged her parents not to send her to the local secondary schools, where the bullies were even bigger. This was one of those rare occasions when parents had heard the cries and sent Anthony to a progressive school, a private one, despite the fees. Amy was bright, however, and won a scholarship that relieved the financial pressure. At eighteen she went to law school and had now qualified as a junior solicitor, having transitioned at law school. Anthony was now a distant memory.
She was the young professional who, only a year before, had still been a student.She’d participated in a campaign to get eighteen and nineteen year olds registered and then to promise to use their vote. It was well known that new voters tended to vote with the apathy party then complain loudly that they weren’t being listened to.
The election day arrived, Amy went along to the polls and watched the major party candidates working the public, and the media, trying to wring every last vote. When the doors had closed, the turnout was under thirty percent at the polling stations, but Amy knew there was also a large postal vote.
The count started just after ten on that Thursday night, Amy had to be there but she really wanted to be in bed. Coffee helped, a little.
At 2am there was a result, Amy was second to the Socialist candidate, but there were fewer than fifty votes in it. That called for a recount.
At 4am the Returning Officer declared that Amy had ten votes more than the Socialist candidate. That sent the counters back to check again.
At 6am Amy had been up for twenty four hours and her sense of humour was rapidly evaporating. She would willingly have walked away, regardless. The Returning Officer now declared a tie, a dead heat, and the room went quiet. Both of the leading candidates were given the option of another count, but neither was willing to drag this on for a further two hours. The Returning Officer suggested resolving this using straws.
The concept was easy, two straws of different lengths are obscured in the Officer’s hand. Whichever candidate draws the longest, wins.
Amy couldn’t believe what was in her hand; the Socialist candidate shook it, “Congratulations, you’re the new Member of Parliament.”
A media event followed and, for a while, Amy became the best known new MP in the country. Her pleas for a quiet life fell on deaf ears.