Mayor Mayhew

Mayor Mayhew by Alex Hadjidakis

 

I was working in the family business saving up for a deposit when the recession hit. Doncaster was badly affected. I wanted to understand what was happening and how we could stop something like this happening again.

 

I trawled the internet day and night for information, going through Friedman and von Mises, via Paul Krugman to post-Keynesian economic theory. I dabbled in Marx. Ever unsatisfied, I yearned for a comprehensive perspective. I found it on YouTube.

 

Charles William McKinley Mayhew was a renowned commentator on economics, politics and history, a graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge. He had it all figured out: the world is ruled by 'the London system', a complex network of financial institutions, media conglomerates and intelligence networks serving a clique of elitist bankers in the City. I started listening to Mayhew's weekly 'Global War' podcast religiously.

 

Before long, Mayhew's podcast became my primary source of news. His voice gained a soothing familiarity. I could listen in for a whole hour, letting the message seep into my brain as I drifted off to sleep.

 

A few years into the recession, the unthinkable happened. The town's budget forecast showed that Doncaster was no longer able to service its debt. We were bust! Opinion in the local media was unanimous. The editorials all spoke of the need to maintain investor confidence and repay the debt in full. 'Efficiency savings' would be unavoidable.

 

I returned from the pub one Saturday night and tuned in to Global War: 'The libertines and anarchists of the City of London strike in a British town! This week, we discuss Doncaster's looming bankruptcy and the nefarious plans of the London elite.'

 

The bombastic introductory theme tune began to play. I was sitting up in my bed, shaking a little, half excited, half terrified that Mayhew's discussion was suddenly so close to home.

 

'A declaration of bankruptcy would require Doncaster to enter into special measures to reimburse its creditors. Propagandists in the local media, all linked to London's banking elite, have been suggesting savage cuts and public asset sales to save the skin of the creditors.

 

'This cannot be allowed to happen! The welfare of the people and the safekeeping of municipal assets must be paramount! The debt must first be repudiated. Then, the council must begin to pay its employees in a parallel local currency. This new currency should be used to finance spending on programmes for the public good.'

 

I stopped the clip. I had to email him!

 

'I am a resident of Doncaster who has been a devoted listener to your show for almost a year. I was greatly impressed by your discussion of our town.

 

'You must visit Doncaster to help spread this message. I am confident it would find a warm reception. Maybe you could even run for mayor at the forthcoming election!'

 

I received a stunning reply: 'Thank you for your kind words. If you can find enough people who would be prepared to nominate me, you can count me in.'

 

I racked my brains for anyone who might support Mayhew's candidacy. Only one-hundred signatures were required. My mum and dad signed when I went over for dinner, on condition that I did the washing up. My girlfriend said she would do it if it made me happy. My friends at the pub signed in return for a round of drinks and at work, I continued my signature drive at the water cooler and urinals. I informed Mayhew immediately on reaching the required number of nominations.

 

Apparently, this quirky radio host had a better organisational team than I realised. A few days later, I received an email announcing a talk at the Friends Meeting House entitled "Austerity and the Alternatives: The Way Forward for Doncaster."

 

On the night, the hall was full. A pair of reporters from the local newspaper were also present, eager to find the story that would catapult them into a national newspaper. I stood at the back of the packed meeting house. Then, Mayhew arrived.

 

He was far shorter than I had imagined from his booming radio voice, his walk to the front of the hall more of a waddle. When he reached the lectern at the front, a couple of people clapped sheepishly.

 

'My names is Charles William McKinley Mayhew. A few short weeks ago, some of you had no idea who I was. Going by the level of applause I just received, most of you still have no idea who I am.'

 

A few people laughed.

 

'I am a historian, academic, lecturer and publisher. But most importantly, I am your friend. Less than a month ago, I learnt about your dreadful situation.

 

'Doncaster has a long, proud history, but a future in jeopardy. The neoliberal elite are proposing vicious spending cuts, the closure of schools, hospital facilities, nurseries and nursing homes. Your pensioners are to be thrown out onto the streets, your unemployed are to be severed from any meaningful support and your young are to be left to rot. And for what?'

 

He paused

 

'To satisfy the relentless greed of those bloodsucking parasites, the bond vigilantes emanating from that hellhole and cesspit of vice, the City of London.'

 

The room filled with rapturous applause.

 

Mayhew continued. 'This evening, I will run through the great history of this town and introduce you to London's financial parasites and their schemes.

 

'Then, I will tell you how you can reject this atrocious austerity and take back control over your lives and if you like the sound of that, I will tell you how you can help me in my campaign to serve you - as the next Mayor of Doncaster!' Applause filled the room again, this time even louder than before. 

 

The queue to speak to Mayhew after his talk stretched the whole way across the hall. When it finally died down, I approached.

 

'Sam, is it? Well done for getting the word out!'

 

'That was incredible!' I responded.

 

'With a bit of luck', Mayhew concluded 'we'll get this town back on the road of progress! I trust you to do whatever you feel is best for the campaign.'

 

Convinced that social media would be a key electoral battleground, I created a Facebook group and logo for the campaign and a new YouTube channel, which was updated with Mayhew's weekly radio commentary on Doncaster. The Facebook group grew in size by the day and growing numbers of people watched Mayhew's videos on YouTube. The #Mayhew4Mayor hashtag abounded on Twitter, later abbreviated to #M4M.

 

With a week to go before the election, Mayhew Mania was at fever pitch. A Facebook status update consisting solely of the letter 'M' got 640 likes and a stream of comments supporting Mayhew's candidacy. A large number of my Facebook friends changed their Facebook profile pictures to show the letter M with a circle round it. I followed suit. M4M graffiti began to appear in prominent places in the town centre, always returning within hours of being wiped off by the council. In a dramatic announcement, my parents confirmed that this would be the first election in which they would support a non-Labour candidate.

 

On the day of the election, after I had voted, I was absolutely exhausted. I felt as though all the energy that I had invested in Mayhew from the start had left my body at once, so I stayed in to listen in to the results on local radio. The turnout was the highest ever for Doncaster. After the first round of counting, the Labour candidate was slightly ahead, but the second preferences went overwhelmingly to Mayhew, allowing him to surge ahead to victory!

 

I phoned Mayhew, who picked up immediately: 'We did it, Sam! I cannot thank you enough for your support!'

 

'I am delighted', I replied. 'Perhaps we can get a drink to celebrate soon?'

 

Mayhew paused.

 

'This was a victory for the forces of progress and humanity. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves, not to intoxicate ourselves with mind-numbing poisons!'

 

I was momentarily stunned. 'How about a non-alcoholic drink this Friday at my place and a discussion of the plan from here on?'

 

'That sounds more reasonable', Mayhew replied.

 

On Friday evening, I went out to the corner shop and bought a couple of bottles of sparkling water and orange juice. At 8PM, bang on schedule, the doorbell rang. On my doorstep, the new Mayor of Doncaster, looking more joyful than ever before.

 

'Welcome, Mr Mayor! What would you like to drink? We have tea, coffee, orange juice or sparkling water.'

 

'Sparking water! My favourite!' Mayhew exclaimed. 'Not so keen on the caffeine.' 

 

I turned to face the mayor, holding up my champagne glass of sparkling water. 'Cheers', Mayhew said, clinking my glass. His smile was uncharacteristically intense, even for him. His teeth were glaring in the kitchen light and he looked at me with a maniacal gaze. It was at that moment that I realised he might be completely insane.

 

After we had finished our beverages, Mayhew excused himself. 'Sam! I must rest, for there is sobering work to do!' He reached for his umbrella, swinging it and pointing ahead. 'Onwards to the future!'

 

The first one hundred days of the Mayhew administration were exhilarating. On day one, as promised, Mayhew announced to the Council that the debt would not be repaid and that the creditors would have to take a hike. The chamber was crammed with Mayhew supporters who drowned out the voices from the main parties. When the protestors were ejected, Mayhew too walked out, bringing the session to a close. This, of course, made the front page of all the local newspapers. Mayhew capitalised on popular support for his firm line, appearing on a soapbox in the town centre with a loudspeaker, announcing his intention to keep to his promises and shaming the councillors who were opposing him.

 

But behind this public facade, he was busily working to negotiate with those same councillors and the creditors to reach a satisfactory agreement. Twelve days into the administration, a compromise was reached: there would be a four-year 'interest repayment holiday.'

 

The administration began to issue payments to council staff in a new local currency, the Boole, named after the Doncaster-born mathematician. Council tax and parking fines were payable in Boole. The unemployed were put to work cleaning graffiti from the streets, planting trees by the roadside, developing urban gardens on council plots and installing free insulation in homes to help reduce energy bills. They received generous payments, in Boole. The town's bus service was taken into public ownership, with a new twenty-four hour service on weekends proving especially popular with students.

 

In a move which received a more mixed reaction, the buses began to blast out riveting classical music, both inside and out. After repeated complaints that the music was too loud, the administration reduced the sound levels across the network. It reminded me of a comment on Mayhew's radio show that I had long forgotten. It was one of the rare occasions on which Mayhew had ventured away from his usual political and historical analysis to discuss culture. He had remarked that the German composer Richard Wagner was an aberration in world history and that his malign cultural influence had led inexorably to European fascism and the degradation of world society. The only antidote to Wagner's attack on human culture, Mayhew argued, was to listen to as much pre-Wagnerian music as possible.

 

One Saturday evening, I was having some trouble sleeping, so I downloaded the week's Global War podcast. 'This week, we return to Doncaster to announce our revolution's next phase.' The pre-Wagnerian introductory theme tune began to play and I sat up in my bed. Next phase?

 

'We are now entering the second phase of our campaign! The first was economic. The second will be social!

 

'The infiltration of drugs into our society, planned by the British intelligence community, in cahoots with criminal gangs, has led to an intellectual, physical, spiritual and moral degradation of our society! Under my governance, Doncaster will become the first drug-free town in the country!'

 

In my panic, I wrote Mayhew a short email, asking whether he would be free to discuss this important issue. His reply was uncompromising: 'History is moving forwards. Join us or get out of the way.'

 

Within days of the announcement, police were out in force near bars and clubs, searching party-goers for drugs. Many were caught out in this first wave of arrests. Homes were raided, with those in possession of just a few cannabis plants in their basements arrested and charged. Random urine tests saw children expelled from school and council employees getting the sack. A large electronic display was erected in front of the town hall, which was updated each time a new person was convicted of a drug-related offence. Underneath, in bold letters, was the slogan: 'Towards A Drug-Free Doncaster'.

 

Information packs were sent to every household in the town, describing indicators of drug use, with contact details for a new hotline for reporting suspected drug users anonymously. The mayor boasted that this had led to a large number of arrests.

 

The final straw came when my friend called me up in distress. She had been held for hours by police and, even though she was innocent, she was interrogated and asked many inappropriate, racist questions. With that, I leapt into action: a status update! 'To everyone who is sick and tired of these draconian drug laws: meeting THIS Friday night, 8PM, Friends Meeting House cafe. Spread the word!' The status got about 10 likes.

 

My friend and I went to the meeting on Friday night. We sat in the cafe for about an hour. After it became clear that nobody else was going to join us, we set to work on our open letter to Mayor Mayhew.

 

'We write to you as concerned citizens, but primarily as friends and supporters.

 

'We are delighted at the way in which you stood up for the rights and dignity of this town when it was threatened by outside forces.

 

'However, we cannot support your draconian policy on drug law enforcement. As a result of this policy, a large number of otherwise innocent people have been imprisoned, their lives ruined not by drugs, but by the criminal sanctions that they have faced as a result of overzealous law enforcement.

 

'For this reason, we have convened a campaign group, Mayhew Supporters Against Prohibition (M-SAP) to lobby for an immediate end to this destructive policy. We urge you to reconsider your approach and revert to a policy which deals with drug use in a humane and forward-thinking manner, consistent with your other policies.'

 

We sent the letter to all the local newspapers and, to our delight, it was published in several. I heard nothing from the Mayor all week. No emails, no comments on his website and no response in the local press. I thought that perhaps he might be formulating a detailed critical response or, more optimistically, he might be reconsidering his position in light of my letter.

 

By Friday evening I was exhausted from a heavy week of work and weeknight birthday drinks. I was relieved to have the chance of a quiet night in with Global War radio to send me off to sleep. I got into bed, smoked the joint I had rolled earlier and turned off the light.

 

'This week on Global War we will focus on Oxford University’s infamous Bullingdon Club and its role in London’s system of control.

 

'But first, a quick update from Doncaster! The forces of reaction have a launched a counterstrike! A group calling itself Mayhew Supporters Against Prohibition has written me an open letter, urging me to reverse my tough stance on drugs!

 

'These people claim my name, but they are not my supporters! They are enemies of the popular revolution that we have achieved in this town! They are a loose collection of Austrian school economists, opium addicts, drug dealers and agents of MI5 and MI6! These are madmen, libertines and anarchists, who would relish the sight of the people of Doncaster rolling intoxicated in the gutter rather than building a decent society in the name of humanity!

 

'If we've learnt one thing, it is that there is no point negotiating with madmen! Do not engage such people in dialogue! They must be shut out - completely - from the debate!'

 

The bombastic introductory theme tune began to play.

 

'Now, let us move on to discuss the looming crisis in Syria...'

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