A New Hope
by Don't Make Eye Contact

He watched as his attendant slipped the video into the machine and held out his hand for the remote control. "So this is breaking news?"

"Oh yes. It has not yet been shown on British television."

He waved a hand and the attendant backed away leaving him alone. He pressed play and the screen flickered into life.

Words appeared:

This is a party press release from the Liberal Democrats.

Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Lib Dems takes the podium before a room full of mildly bored reporters, all wondering if this announcement will appear on page twelve or thirteen. He clears his throat and gives the assembled crowd a friendly smile.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press. I am here to tell you about the future of the Liberal Democrats." He makes a slight pause for effect but everyone is shifting in their seats and trying not to yawn. He continues with no loss of enthusiasm. "In the current political climate the people of this country have lost faith in their leaders. The Labour government have become more Tory than the Tories, while the Tories themselves are not at their most popular. People are coming to realise that neither party represents a real choice. However I am forced to admit that people don't consider the Lib Dems a real choice either. People believe that we are weak, that we are fence sitters, that we are not up to the job of running this country." A slight frown appears on his face as a few too many people start nodding emphatically but he suppresses it and continues. "I am sad to acknowledge these misconceptions but I believe that now is the time for us to break out of the rut and change people's views. We will be presenting a radical new face. Bold moves will change our image and show us to be the right party for the job." His face takes on a sombre expression. "Unfortunately I realise that a new leader will be required. People see me as part of the problem, so I will stand down and take on a more advisory capacity. The Lib Dems need a leader who has the charisma and guts to give us the strength we deserve. There are many excellent Lib Dem politicians but we need a way to find a candidate who will evoke passionate views and catch the imagination of the people. A way that would change people's opinions of us as a party and open us up to the public more. Eventually we hit upon the perfect solution." His smile returns. "Political Idol."

It takes a few moments for the hubbub to die down. Kennedy is obviously pleased with the response. "We will conduct a nationwide search for the best man or woman for the job. We will select a group of candidates based on a number of criteria and then that group will be put through various tests each week. After criticism by a panel of judges, you, the viewer will call in and vote off a different candidate each week. The tests will include giving credible pre-prepared speeches, intelligent discussion of thorny political issues and arm wrestling. Most exciting of all candidates will be acting out scenarios with a different famous actor each week in which they will have to make difficult decisions under pressure. So far we have signed Alan Rickman, Anthony Stewart Head and David Hasslehoff as the Chief Whip. Also Ant and Dec have agreed to present from backstage and comfort the ones who become emotional. Any questions?"

A forest of raised hands. He pointed to one. "Who will be the judges?"

"Well naturally I will be one of them." He chuckled good-naturedly. "Also we will have Ian Hislop, Simon Cowell and Jeffrey Archer."

"Do you feel that Lord Archer's political alignment will threaten his impartiality?" Called out the Times political correspondent.

"Well you know him, he was just Conservative because it was the most powerful party at the time."

"Is Geri Halliwell involved?" Interrupted the reporter from the Sun.

"I'm afraid she had prior commitments." The Sun reporter's face fell at the reply.

Another forest of arms. He pointed again. "On what criteria will you judge applicants?"

"Well ideally they should be committed to the ideals of the Lib Dems, but seriously we have set an age bracket of thirty to fifty, they must be eligible to vote, a good understanding of political and world events is essential and hopefully no extra-marital affairs." The reporters all groaned in disappointment. "All the details are on the website politicalidol.com."

Charles Kennedy started to tell them all about the other new policy changes that the Lib Dems would implement but his voice was drowned out by fifty reporters all whipping out their mobiles to call Geri Halliwell for a quote.

The ancient hand pressed the stop button and the TV screen went to static. He raised a hand and an attendant was at his side.

"Yes your Eminence?"

"Summon the Cardinals. I have decided that when I die there will be a new way of determining the next Pope."


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