Election of Hope is a short story based around a Liberal Democrat candidate in a marginal constituency in the 2019 general election. All of the main protagonists are entirely fictional, although there is some reaction to developments during the real election campaign. Election of Hope is presented for entertainment purposes only and is not written in an attempt to influence anyone’s vote in the general election.
“Open the fucking door Matt!”
Alex was hammering so hard against the wood on the door to Matt’s flat that the blue paint had started to flake off, but still there was no answer from within.
It was 11 o’clock on another cold Sunday morning, and Matt had been due to lead the first day of canvassing. However, when the activists had started to arrive at 10 o’clock he was nowhere to be seen and Anastasia had dispatched Alex to find him while she organised the troops.
He had been banging on the door for almost five minutes and was growing increasingly concerned for Matt’s welfare. From across the hall, Matt’s neighbour had opened their front door a crack to watch, but did not venture outside to offer assistance.
“Open the door, Matt, or I’ll call the police!” Alex’s yelling had become more frantic as terrible visions of what awaited him inside the flat danced through his mind.
Eventually he heard a loud bang against the door, followed by what sounded like someone fumbling clumsily with the lock. Slowly the door opened, revealing Matt sporting bloodshot eyes and messy hair. He was wearing nothing more than an unbuttoned white shirt and black CK boxer shorts, leading Alex to assume he had not showered or changed since arriving home the evening before.
“The fuck do you want?” he asked leaning limply against a wall, his speech heavily slurred. The strong smell of cider on his breath was already making Alex light-headed, and he was keen to get Matt to the safety of his sofa.
“Can I come in?” Alex asked, placing one foot across the threshold to emphasise that Matt had no choice in the matter. “I’d rather not do this out here.”
“’Spose,” Matt growled. He hugged the wall for dear life as he turned 180 degrees and began to head back down the hallway. He walked tentatively, as though he might lose the use of his legs at any time, and Alex followed from a safe distance until they found themselves face-to-face in the living room.
Alex stared disapprovingly at Matt as he watched him swaying from side to side. “Don’t tell me you’ve started drinking already?”, he barked indignantly.
“Of course not,” Matt lied, falling backwards over the coffee table and banging his head on the edge of the sofa. He lifted his right hand up, feeling a lump beginning to form at the point of impact, and began weeping pitifully. Alex rolled his eyes and left Matt blubbering alone on the floor.
Once in the kitchen, he poured out two pint glasses of ice cold water, before returning to the living room to see Matt appearing to doze off, his cheeks still moist with tears. He stood carefully to Matt’s right, towering above him like a giant, and tipped one of the glasses over Matt’s head, causing him to wake and sit bolt upright.
Matt’s eyes darted around the room, desperately searching for the source of this attack, as cold water dripped off his hair, down his face and shirt and on to the carpet. He realised Alex was stood next to him and took a swing for his legs, missing and instead striking the corner of the coffee table. He pulled his fist back, wincing and nursing his knuckles with his spare hand.
“The fuck did you do that for?” he yelled at Alex.
Unfazed, Alex placed the glasses on the coffee table and lifted Matt onto the sofa. He grabbed the full glass and forcefully placed it into Matt’s hand. “Drink!” he commanded. Matt grudgingly obliged.
“At this very moment, Matthew,” Alex said sternly, sitting down next to Matt, “half of the Lib Dem membership of the county are talking to your constituents, trying to persuade them to vote for you, and this is how you repay them?”
Matt looked down at his glass of water, but said nothing.
“It’s not even been two weeks since we sat in this very room and you promised me you would not drink excessively during the campaign, and what do you do? Get pissed and miss you first action day?”
“Oh, what does it matter?” Matt wailed, flailing his arms around and splashing water over Alex’s legs. “I’m still going to lose!”
“Well, you definitely will with that attitude!”
Alex sighed. He took to his feet once more and began pacing the room, deep in thought. He had seen Matt like this many times over the past few months, but never at a time as crucial as today. He was not sure what to say to snap him out of it.
“What makes you so sure?” he asked after a couple of minutes. Matt shrugged his shoulders.
“Because I always do,” he replied, placing his head in his free hand and fighting back tears. “I just need to accept that nothing will ever go my way and prepare for the inevitable.”
Alex returned to the sofa and placed a comforting hand on Matt’s leg. “Nothing in life is inevitable, Matt,” he said soothingly. Matt raised his eyebrow, but said nothing. “For a start,” Alex continued, “you’ve never had more than a dozen others out campaigning for you. When I left this morning there were at least thirty, with more expected this afternoon.”
“Well they’re wasting their time,” Matt scoffed. “If the Brexit party aren’t standing, the Tories are virtually guaranteed to win.”
“You don’t know that. Besides, the Brexit party didn’t stand last time and the Tories only won by a small margin. There’s still everything to fight for.”
“Fuck off, Alex,” Matt replied, his voice a mixture of anger and resignation, “there’s nothing left to fight for anymore. I’m destined to be nothing more than a miserable failure for the rest of my life.”
A haunting realisation washed over Alex that this was not simply about the election, that what had provoked Matt to hit the bottle the previous evening was not simply a fear of losing another election, but something deeper. He had been so focused on the campaign, that he had forgotten everything else Matt had been through this year and he began to feel guilty for neglecting Matt’s emotional needs at a time when he clearly needed support the most.
“This isn’t just about the election, is it?” he asked solemnly.
Matt shook his head. He leaned forward, placing his head in both of this hands, and began to cry. Alex placed his arm around Matt’s back and gently squeezed his shoulder.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked softly.
“It… doesn’t matter.”
“It clearly matters to you. And you know you can always talk to me.”
Matt buried his head deeper into his hands, but said nothing. Alex sat quietly with his arm around Matt, waiting patiently for him to be ready to talk. After a few minutes, though, it became clear he was not in the mood to say anything else.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed,” Alex sighed, grabbing Matt’s arm and dragging him to his feet, only narrowly avoiding tumbling backwards as Matt’s upper body crashed into his. “You’ll feel better once you’ve slept for a while.”
Alex allowed Matt time to wipe the last few tears away from his bloodshot eyes before wrapping his left arm around Matt’s waist for support and pulling Matt’s right arm around his neck. Slowly and carefully he began shuffling him towards his bedroom.
“Mmm, you smell good,” Matt said as he tried to poke Alex’s nose, instead missing and stroking the corner of his mouth.
“And you smell pissed,” Alex responded angrily, slapping Matt’s flailing arm away with his spare hand.
“I’m just having a bit of fun.” Matt’s speech appeared to be growing more slurred with every sentence and Alex, struggling to support his weight, was keen to get him lying down as quickly as possible.
“Well, you can have as much fun as you like once you’ve won the election,” Alex replied, attempting to press forward. Matt’s jelly-like legs made the short walk to the bedroom excruciatingly slow, with each step seeming to take a lifetime and only advancing a few short centimetres at a time. “But first, you’ve got to win it!”
Eventually, they reached the flat’s sole bedroom and Alex threw Matt face-down onto the bed. He pulled Matt’s legs, still resting on the floor, onto the bed after him and, with some difficulty, rolled him onto his side, carefully positioning his chin in case he threw up in his sleep.
“I know you’re not in a good place at the moment, but you really need to get your shit together,” he said sternly, pulling a sky-blue duvet over Matt’s lifeless body. “I can cover you for today, but we cannot fight an election campaign without the candidate and-”
Alex decided to cut his lecture short as loud snoring from the bed indicated that Matt had already fallen asleep. He tiptoed backwards towards the door and flicked the light switch to the “off” position on his way out of the bedroom.
Back in the hallway, he sent Anastasia a quick text to explain that Matt was feeling unwell and could not join in the campaigning efforts, adding that he was on his way back empty-handed to begin knocking on doors in earnest.
Shortly before reaching the front door, he paused and doubled back on himself. He went into the kitchen and grabbed a spare set of keys to the flat from behind the kettle and hastily emptied the fridge of anything that looked even remotely alcoholic.
With less than four weeks of useful campaigning time to go before the election, he could not afford to take any chances.
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