"This, too, shall pass" - A Brexit story
It was 4:32 am on Friday 24-June-2016 when Southampton has just declared for Leave. Although there were a few more counties to go, the result had now been apparent. The Prime Minister looked out through the bright glass window from his office, only to find the street behind 10 Downing Street busier than usual. Unlike an average day where only some joggers were in sight, the street was rather occupied with people and vehicles rushing toward the City of London for a work day that many would remember vividly.
Edward Llewellyn, the Downing Street Chief of Staff, presented himself at the door as Cameron made himself some tea.
“Did you call for me, Prime Minister?” Edward spoke soothingly while he carefully observed the well-concealed grief on Cameron’s face.
“Ed, can you get Boris on the line for me, please?” said Cameron. He threw the tea bag to his bin while trying to organise the thoughts in his head before speaking to Boris.
“Yes, Sir. I’ll do it right away”. As Edward was about to turn away, he briefly paused and looked at Cameron. “Prime Minister, does it mean you will …?”
Cameron looked at Edward in the eyes and filled him in before he could finish. “Yes, Ed. The people has voted for the unthinkable. The least I can do now is an imminent departure so our party can unite to sort out this turbulence.”
The silence in the room was briefly dressed in a veil of dejection before Edward rushed along the hallway toward the secretary office.
It was now 4:41 am when the BBC unofficially called it as a victory for Leave.
“Prime Minister, unfortunately, Boris could not be reached”. Edward stood anxiously at the door. “And we have Mr Osborne on the line for you, Sir.”
Cameron picked up his phone hesitantly. “George. I am sorry.”
“Likewise David. I think we now, as a party, will have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Osborne.
“I tried Boris but couldn’t reach him. As much anger do I now hold against him, I am worried about what’d happen next.” Cameron hesitated. "And I'm going to resign."
" I know. Ed has filled me in. I am sorry it has come to this. Your resignation is a good call for unity, the party knows. I know." Osborne muttered "In fact, you must resign, without triggering the Article 50 of course. Just as much as Borris wanted your seat, that move is the least he would desire."
"How so?" Cameron squinted his eyes momentarily as he saw Theresa May on his other phone line. Edward had put her on hold.
"If Borris campaigns for the leadership of the party and then fails to trigger the Article 50 then, his political career is finished. If he does not run and abandons the race, his political career is also finished. If he does run, win and pull the UK out of the EU, then it will all be game over. There will be the United Kingdom no more. There will be calls for a second independence referendum for Scotland, which they will win their freedom away from this referendum. There will be upheaval and riots in Northern Ireland. There will also be a subsequent recession. Then his political career will indeed be finished."
Cameron opened the window narrowly for some fresh air, only to hear the chattering and increasing noises of the press who had started to gather outside. "I know George. The man never believed in Brexit in the first place, nor that he thinks it would have happened. That's why I am worried about how he'd handle the country's future from here onward." said Cameron. He took a breath of the fresh morning air, and asked, "And George, are you sure you're not running for Prime Minister?"
"I won't. The least the country needs right now is further turmoil. The market will need a lot of reassurance, and I'd be the face to ease the volatility. Talking about markets, excuse me, David. I got Carney on my other line. I'd have to call you back." Osborne spoke in a hurry.
"What a day. No worries George. Good luck." Cameron hung up on Osborne while he picked up May, who has been on hold.
"Theresa, good morning. What can I do for you?", asked Cameron.
"David, I am sorry we are in this situation. I am going to stand for the PM role if you resign. I call to seek for your support so I can unite the party. I am a Remainer like yourself, but this is no longer an issue of personal belief. The future of the UK is on the line now, and it needs a leader who's better than Borris. " claimed May.
"Theresa, I know you are capable. I'd trust the future of the country in your hand more than Borris'; that's correct. Having said that, we had a lot of differences and fall-outs in the past, so I would not be able to support you publicly. It'd be too forced and look like an act of a personal retaliation against Borris." said Cameron.
"I am honoured that you trust in my ability. I also understand well what you said." May stressed decisively. "I can only ask if you could stress on immigration as an issue in Brussels on Monday because immigration has always been my strength to get the votes within the party. Also, my allies have been whipping the votes among the Remainers and your supporters. As long as you remain neutral and don't actively act against me, I'd be able to gather them."
"Theresa, I'd need to write my resignation speech first before thinking about Brussels. However, I'd take that into consideration. Now if you would excuse me, I'd need to write the speech for the press appearance in 5 hours."
"Absolutely, Prime Minister." Theresa uttered, with the rare emotions someone would ever observe from her. "You have done a great job. We pay our respect to you with or without Brexit."
"Don't let me down Theresa, please. Take care and good bye." Cameron hung up on May as Edward appeared at his door with the schedule for the cabinet meetings and media appearance in the morning.
Meanwhile, at Boris Johnson' residence, the man was caught in the air of confusion over what unexpectedly happened.
"I don't know what to say," said Boris to Michael Gove on the phone.
"Me neither, Boris. We both did not think this will happen. Our mistake is that the voters are apparently less sophisticated than we thought. Now it's going to be a pain to sort this mess out." Gove sighed.
Borris muttered "My phone has been ringing non-stop with calls from party members, the press, and even Cameron himself. We need a strategy, quick."
"Calm down, mate. What I think we must do at this point, is that neither of us should become the Prime Minister. That's political suicide at all front. It's better to wait for the dust to settle and criticise after whoever cleans up this mess." said Gove at the breakfast table, while his wife Sarah has made some food and currently editing a Brexit story for her newspaper column.
"How can we do that Michael? We are the face of the Leave campaign. I am not sure how we can shy away from any responsibilities now." Boris cries in anxiety.
"Don't worry Boris. I got this. We need a skilful set-up, and it will require a few of your acting skills. In simple terms, you can't run if I withdraw the support for you. So we will make it up as such. If I denounce the support for you, you have the reason to explain to the press of why you don't run. And I'll run myself because there is no way I'd win with May acting in full force. It's important that you come out supporting other candidates too, surely not me. Maybe not May neither because you can't later criticise her policies then when she wins. So after all of this, we'd both be safe."
Boris sighed "That plan is really risky, Michael. Reading through this narrative is easy. I'd look like a coward."
"If you are worried it does not sound persuasive enough, I can get Sarah to create some fake evidence before I denounce you. She can leak some emails saying that I am not confident about your ability or something along the line?" Gove suggested.
"My head is not clear right now to think. However, I trust your judgement, Michael. We shouldn't speak from now until you announce to run yourself, in case people get suspicious of this setup." Boris muttered in anxiety.
"Alright, my friend. It'd all be alright. Take care then." Gove hung up on Boris while turning to his wife. "Could you pass me the bread, please? And did you hear what we discussed?"
"Yes", said Sarah.
It has been a long night for Andrea Leadsom. She has been making calls to key personnel in her constituent South Northamptonshire congratulating them on their Brexit vote wins and trying to gather their support should she run for Prime Minister. As her last call finished, she could see that Farage had been patiently waiting on hold.
"Yes Nigel, how can I help?" Leadsom picked up the phone while emailing to instruct her secretary to arrange a call with Boris.
"I hope you are as pleased with the news as I am, Andrea. Anyhow, I am calling to make a deal to improve your chance for the Prime Minister post."
"What could you offer?" Leadsom stopped what she was doing and curiously asked.
"I can ensure all the UKIP-inclined Tories MPs will vote for you. Plus I will resign myself and vouch for your policies of triggering Article 50 immediately." Farage spoke in an unusually enthusiastic voice for a man who'd soon resign from his party.
Rather confused, Leadsom questioned "Why would you do that? What's the catch I can offer then?"
"I want to lead your Brexit negotiation team should you win. There's no use for me to be the leader of a party who can't negotiate Brexit on behalf of the UK. Labour is in a mess right now so it'd be Tories who can put me forward. I have to resign for that to happen." claimed Farage.
"I'd think about it." Leadsom paused briefly. "None of what we discussed can make it to the press."
"Absolutely, Andrea. Although I'd like to remind you that you need me more than I need you right now. May has the majority by far ahead of you, you'd need any support that you can get." laughed Farage.
"Has you been up all night Theresa?" asked Phillip, May's husband, as he appeared at the door of her studies with some coffee he made for her.
"Yes. I have been making calls. It's not good that I am a Remainer. Now I need to try much harder to gather votes from the Leavers without being called a hypocrite." May sighed.
"I can tell you a story from King’s Solomon Parable." Phillip made himself comfortable in the armchair next to her work table. "The powerful and wealthy king of Solomon chooses to test one of his most loyal and trusted minister by asking him an impossible task. The king asks the minister to find for him a ring, knowing well that the ring does not exist, which has a magic power. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy,” Solomon told the minister and asked him to find such ring within six months," said Phillip.
"What are you trying to get to?" May asked impatiently, well aware of several emails from the press which just came in her inbox as Gove just announced to run.
"Bear with me, dear. At the end of the six months, the minister returns just in time to give the king the ring he has requested. When the king looks at the engraving, he reads four words: “This, too, shall pass”. At that moment, Solomon realises that his feelings, wisdom, tremendous wealth, and power are fleeting things, for one day he will be nothing but dust." said Phillip.
He smiled "So Theresa. This, too, shall pass."
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Disclaimer: I am for Remain. This is a work of fiction and my imagination of what happened. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is not claimed to be factual.
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Illustration: Frans Francken the Younger (Flemish, 1581 - 1642), The Idolatry of Solomon, Flemish, 1622, Oil on panel.