Vignette: The Awakening

I mean, I'm a bit of a socially awkward nerd and I know it, but I didn't think I'd fallen quite so far as to have nothing better to do on a Friday night than to go to some bloody panel discussion organised by the Young New Democrats. 'You don't have to party all the time, mate. Besides, it beats sitting at home, pretending to study and thinking about girls that don't bloody like you anyway', I thought to myself. That argument prevailed, and thus I found myself out in the cold, standing by that bloody statue of Livingstone the council tried to remove a few months ago but backed off after what seemed like all the old people in the area wrote sternly worded letters to the local paper about it, cursing myself for leaving slightly too early yet again and arriving just early enough that they hadn't even opened the doors yet.

About ten minutes later, they finally opened the doors, but I hadn't noticed because I was too busy daydreaming. So I didn't actually go in until twenty minutes after I actually arrived, by which time a gaggle of people - most of whom seemed to be young men of the same cookie-cutter, slightly overweight body type, though there was a small group wearing ill-fitting suits and bow ties - had arrived, and the actual panel guests were starting to get settled in. I went straight for the refreshments table, poured myself a glass of the cheap wine the Young New Democrats had provided, and then took a seat somewhere in the back.

The slide being projected on the wall read "The Future of Liberalism: Life After May 7th" in bold letters and a frankly embarrassing font, followed by the names and jobs of the guests, which I'd vaguely read a few days before but had managed to forget by now, mainly because I didn't think I'd actually end up coming here until I actually did. They got a New Democrat MP, which was probably the big draw for the overweight aspiring party hack types, two council candidates, and some bearded old guy who was supposed to be a writer and columnist for a major newspaper and the New Democrat candidate in the by-election that was needed after one of the Goldsmith mob had inevitably gotten himself convicted of fraud within a few months of the election. I'd never heard of him before. One of the creepy bow tie people applauded when he was introduced as Jeremy Corbyn, but stopped when he was reminded by the awkward stare from the society president that this really wasn't the time for that.

So, the discussion kicked off. The council candidates set out their stall one by one, with the younger one talking in very broad ideological terms about his rather radical view of liberalism, and the older one who was running for re-election talking in more concrete terms about the measures the council had taken to help local business and so on. It was quite dull stuff, and I soon emptied my glass of wine and took to glancing at my phone. Then the MP started talking. After making a joke about the fact so many people were drinking wine to make up for not going out tonight, she started talking about the 'crushing defeat' the New Democrats had suffered back in May, and what she thought liberalism had to do to reconnect with working people and counter the rise of nationalist populism. I took more notice of this, especially when she touched upon how liberals needed to make the case for allowing refugees into the country and comprehensively rebut the populist talking points that Britain was 'too poor' and 'should take care of its own', but apart from that her speech consisted largely of platitudes mixed with policy wonk speak arid enough to make me thirsty again. I wasn't sure why I'd bothered coming, to be honest.

Finally, it was Corbyn's turn, and I wasn't expecting much at all from this unassuming elder. He opened with a forceful condemnation of the government's social welfare programmes, calling for the New Democrats to set forth the case that they would hurt the people they were supposed to help, destroy the budget and condemn Britain to financial ruin, all for National Alternative's short-term electoral gain. It was the most forceful condemnation of the government I'd heard in a long time, and it put the usual New Democrat drones and Goldsmith puppets you always got on television to shame. The rest of the audience seemed to agree.

After that, it was time for questions, and inevitably the first one was something glib along the lines of 'how did you come to liberalism?' or something like that, I can't quite remember now. The young libertarian council candidate gave some rambling answer that once again showed why he wasn't going to get elected in a city where 55% voted for NA or People's Voice any time soon, the councillor gave the standard answer about being oppressed by red tape and taxes as a small businessman, and the MP continued droning on. Finally, Corbyn explained his past as a member of the Communist Party, and how he was expelled and sent to Orkney for demanding more internal democracy and publicly comparing the General Secretary to Henry VIII. He spoke forcefully of the inefficiencies of the communist system and the arrogance of the Communist elites, and how the National Alternative was bringing all of it back and 'turning us into another Flanders' with its populist nationalism.

The rest of the questions went much the same way, with Corbyn being so much more impressive in his answers than the rest of the pack. He denounced the Prime Minister's planned referendum on the monarchy as a distraction, and called People's Voice 'just as Bolshevik as the NA' in response to a student (seemingly the only female student in the room) who wanted the New Democrats to work with them to protect abortion rights. Turning to the whole room, he mocked PV for talking so much about 'identity politics' and 'class war', which got a good laugh out of the bow tie squad. At times, he seemed to be treating the Q&A session as a personal soapbox, much to the annoyance of the other guests but the MP in particular. I wondered, or rather hoped, if she knew something we didn't - there was going to be a leadership election soon, after all.

After what seemed like a criminally short time, the society president said they were out of time. I had to admit, I was impressed with what I'd heard. I'd never been entirely sold on liberalism - sure, I wasn't a right-winger or some crazy student union leftie, but I'd still given People's Voice some thought in May. But this Corbyn guy was different. He wasn't like the politicians, some party hack with no principles. He had ideas. Good ideas. Maybe there was hope for Britain after all. Maybe we could get rid of Clarke after all, I thought.

As I left the lecture theatre, I rather awkwardly turned to the society president and asked him how I could join the party.

The End
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Britain as Poland?

My first clue that this wasn't the sort of NDP I was expecting was the wine, the second was the suits and bowties.
Which was the bit that was originally going to reference an OTL MP?
The setting is vaguely based on the Labour Students talk I went to last week, so the 'slightly overweight young men' quip was originally going to be a callback to my joke about Aberdeen Labour Students being filled with younger versions of Tom Watson.
The setting is vaguely based on the Labour Students talk I went to last week, so the 'slightly overweight young men' quip was originally going to be a callback to my joke about Aberdeen Labour Students being filled with younger versions of Tom Watson.
Who were the non-Lamont guests?
Really enjoyed that. I thought it was the US up until the Livingstone statue - which for a moment I wondered might be Ken