Poet’s Note: Italics are clues. 1a, (4) equates to 1 across, four letters. Crossword grid taken from a newspaper dated Thursday, 8th June, 2017.
On the screen:
The Politician amazes the audience with excessively high self-esteem and preening, unjustified and misplaced, for the Politician has not won yet.1a, (4)
Up for debate today; a problem for discussion. 11a (6) In similar formats, the television network supplies the Audience with celebrity-injected talk shows and the dirt beneath the fingernails of family drama in even keel: digestible, pithy and fast-paced.
… Now the amount is just too small, gaping in the excess of previous expenditure,9a, (7) how can your government afford an increase in defence/high-speed rail/foreign aid…
… Can you guarantee your government will not cut/slash/take away my [insert life-supporting benefit or grant here]?…
… Can you give an opportunity for empowerment, to give people the licence to aspire, the funds to try?16d, (4,2)
And the Politician knows how to treat each one. For example, it would be unwise to mistake the bucolic citizen for a confused bumpkin. Consider: ‘The countryside has its own problems; interests that inhabitants are proud to protect…’,18d, (5) a smile, repeat their audience member’s first name, open-handed gestures, some sort of ‘I empathise with…’, but banned words are ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Avoid pointing. A deflection might be required, such as ‘Who shook on it? The agreement is more an understanding6d, (4) [that this gift will line the correct yay or neigh box with additional slips].’
Just a fledgling voter, student or not, who relies on a lower pay bracket and zero-hour contract. Sighs at the increase in the cost of a rail card.12a, (5,6) Before she stands, she undergoes a form of mental preparation. The fledgling voter imagines she is on the picket line of another dying industry with no replacement, with bones of molten iron and carbon, 7d, (5) fluid enough to slip through kettling, strong enough to resist a stray brick or fire extinguisher. She watches her mum stagger, whose colleagues fall around her as legislation does not tend to professionals providing care for the sick and infirm.13d, (7) When she goes to speak a 1908 cornerstone, a foundation of the modern social welfare system, she fears she will not receive; 3d, (3,3,7) that will not provide enough for her mum or soothe her swollen, rubbed-raw joints is what she asks after.
Copy and paste response:
The fledgling voter finds herself mouthing along, shaking her head. She heard the same words just the other day on a livestream. Her restraint slips. She blurts that not only does she disagree, but she will resist, and actively attempt to prevent3a, (6) the Politician’s policies. How will the Politician enforce this stuff anyway? Flying monkeys? And the Audience, they laugh. The fledgling voter does not stop. Winkie guards? Why hasn’t a house fallen on her yet? And laugh.
Now, the Politician has lost one, you know, one of those things you stick in your waxy canal to keep out the noise, water, dirt, foreign bodies, even.10a (7). Hasn’t slept well on the battle bus. A migraine brewing since Plymouth, no Portsmouth… A sudden and audible bite; something breaking. 24a, (4) The Politician makes a blunder, an unintentional public act which will produce embarrassing front page headlines8a, (5) which burn out of control. This all-consuming hell, 2d, (6) as the Politician remembers that each breath spoken will infect the lungs of those generations on and round the other side of the world. An acute panic washes over as the Audience take in what has just been said.
Clearly the Politician is more unpleasant than the predecessor, with an increasingly spiteful rhetoric.19a, (7) Careful, or you’ll find yourself swilled like gin and vermouth, salted, and skewered like an olive.21a, (7)
The fledgling voter feels an arm around her elbow, then she’s outside the back entrance. She voiced it; her view, a judgement that is her own14d, (7). Going home, the fledgling voter plugs into a dirty beat that emerged from a garage in the London jungle, 15d, (5) then fades into her itchy bus seat. Brings her knees up to her chin, picks at the hem of her cottony foot protectors, frequently holey.5d, (5) For the rest of the election she tracks the change, the result, in the lower eyelids of party leaders as they campaigned throughout the election.4d, (7) As she glides through her newsfeed she thinks: perhaps we are all looking for someone profoundly wise, 20d, (4) whom we can Photoshop into Obi-Wan Kenobi memes.
The Politician repeats in a quavering voice some pithy phrase, broad-brush rhetoric to advertise and convince 23a, (6) the muted Audience and those at home that the Party knows the country still needs someone to show the way.22a, (5)
What is clear is the Politician is increasingly peerless; 17a, (5) an apex predator, a polar bear perhaps, scrabbling on the Arctic cliff, pillaging the nests of sea birds for eggs and chicks. The Audience watches as the Politician becomes more uncertain, indefinite and unclear. 1d, (6) Tears start to run down the Politician’s face. They burn. Hands clasped, the Politician shrinks and deflates into crumpling clothes. The clothes smoke and burst into flames. All that remains are a pair of shoes.