Leaving the Cat

John was excited. Friday. The end of the school week. Friday curfew suspension means John is allowed to visit Granddad Bob. And this is the first Friday of the month; ration renewal day for Hammondville residents. Mum has already told him they will have white bread and tinned fruit for supper as a special treat. Secretly he is hoping for mandarin oranges.

John loves to visit his Granddad Bob. Bob lives several miles away in the Care Sector, which is a bit of a joke really since there is not a lot of care in the Sector, not since all the carers were forced back to their home countries at the end of the Brexit process. Of course John is too young to remember Brexit but he knows a lot about it because Granddad was a pro EU activist at the time and is a bit of an expert. John doesn’t mind this, in fact he was hoping to talk to his Granddad that afternoon, specifically about the 2016 referendum, because he has chosen democracy as his Civics project. Civics is John’s favourite subject.

Arriving at Granddad’s block John sees that the lift is still “Out of Order”. He can’t remember when it was last working. He starts the climb to level seven. How crazy is that. You put an old man who can’t walk, up on level seven with no lift. He lets himself in using the key under the plant pot,

‘Hi Grandad’

He spots Granddad’s Guardian, spread out on the oilcloth covering the kitchen table. John’s eye is caught by the headline;

EIP leader Farage calls for further referendum”.

‘Do you think it can happen granddad?’

‘Listen son, in 2016 we never thought Brexit could happen. Good God who thought Donald Trump would make president of the US.’

Granddad’s point was not lost on John, a pretty astute 15 year old, well up on his political history.

 

It is 20 years since the United Kingdom left the European Union. Since the vote in 2016 the country has experienced continuous government by the Conservative party who have won the last four general elections, increasing their majority each time, due in no small part to the almost total evaporation of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbin and then Diane Abbot. Labour still holds a handful of seats in London and a couple of other metropolitan areas but the second biggest party in Westminster is now the EIP, the English Independence Party. The party, formerly known as UKIP changed its name to dissociate itself from unseemly goings on surrounding the 2016 leadership contest. The current EIP, leader Tony Farage is the nephew of the great Nigel, Nigel who bravely steered the UK out of Europe all those years ago.

Shortly after Brexit, Scotland successfully voted for independence and five years later Wales followed suit. England and Northern Ireland are all that remains of the former UK and even Ulster is subject to increasingly aggressive sovereignty claims from the Irish Republic, now a leading member of the NATZ, the North Atlantic Trading Zone. Both Scotland and Wales are also associate members of the Zone which consists principally of former EU and North American States. Globally, the other main players include the revitalised Russian Soviet Federation, back on track following its overwhelming victory in the third Syrian war, and the less bellicose but massive Sino-Japanese free trade area covering China and much of the Far East.

The England of John and his granddad remains part of the Commonwealth Area Trading Union, known as C A T U for short. This is a loose federation of former commonwealth States led by super powers; Australia and India. Unlike the old Commonwealth, the Union no longer recognises King William V as their notional head of state. They didn’t want a repeat of their earlier experience with King Charles III whose disastrous short reign was blighted by increasing eccentricity and incompetence.

‘What do you make of it all granddad?’

‘Well lad it seems to me that the English Independence Party are aligning with a group of rebellious extreme right wing Tories in calling for a new referendum on England’s membership of the Union. They  claim the country would be better going it alone, especially as India and Australia seem to be showing ambitions towards wider political integration, which is anathema to many of the residents of England who are once again getting restive about the free movement of people’.

‘But granddad I thought Brexit was supposed to sort out the immigration problem?’

‘No chance. All they managed to do was getting rid of key workers like health care professionals.’

 

Since leaving primary school John has been a pupil at The New Virgin Comprehensive Free School in Hammondville. Hammondville is one of the modern high rise, high density new towns designed in the 2020s to address the perceived housing crisis. Hammondville is constructed on brownfield land. One of the good things to come out of the fracking fiasco was the accidental generation of new brownfield sites which could be used for mass housing. At least that was once the earth tremors had subsided. Some environmental groups still claim there are issues surrounding methane gas and water pollution but most of the working class residents of towns like Hammondville are just happy to have a roof over their heads.

Hammondville is in Greater Manchespool, the northern powerhouse conurbation. Nobody much remembers the Northern Powerhouse idea. It proved to be a bit of a flop. Since the cancellation of HS2 and what with the strikes over driverless trains, Manchespool was quite hard to get to. And it wasn’t easy to get around once you were there. For most people walking was the only option. John walks miles to visit his granddad.  He could of course talk to him on Skype or on the phone but he would have to wait several weeks before his turn on the signal rota came around again.

John is quite exceptional for a Virgin pupil. You need to be self motivated at a New Comprehensive Free school because the teaching isn’t actually up to much. John would have been bright enough to go to one of the New May grammar schools but his family couldn’t afford the £10,000 fee for the entrance exam so that was a non starter. John was generally frustrated by the poor quality of his education but at the moment at least he was enjoying his Civics project.

John looked at his granddad as if waiting for a judgement of the oracle at Delphi; ‘so what do you think of the newspaper report Granddad? My Civics teacher says the Guardian is a lefty rag and tells us we should read the UK Mail.

Granddad, could we really be leaving the CAT?’

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