A British Prime Minister was worried about gains that a rival right wing party was making in the polls. So he said, “Vote for me and I’ll give you a referendum on whether to change things radically.” He didn’t think many would fall for that and, anyway, expected to be in coalition with a party that would veto it. To his surprise, he won, and, of all times in British politics, decided to honour his manifesto commitment.
So the British people were asked to vote in a referendum: Would you like things to stay the same, or would you like something else? By a narrow margin, the people voted for something else. The trouble was, nobody knew what the something else was. The Prime Minister, who repeatedly said he wasn’t a quitter, quit.
As time passed, the most extreme supporters of something else, decided that the only one, true, something else, involved tearing up every trade agreement we’d been party to over the last 40 years, since something else was obviously going to be much better. They came up with the brilliant plan that, the worse we treated other countries and the more we insulted them, the better the trade deal they’d give us. What could possibly go wrong? They needed us much more than we needed them. It would be the easiest trade deals in history. All we had to do was wave the Union Jack and sing Rule Britannia at them.
Everyone who voted for something else now claimed that this was always what they had voted for. They remembered it distinctly.
Politicians, bankers, industrialists, retailers, academics and economists (except Tim Martin and James Dyson) all agreed that this would be disastrous and urged people to choose a different something else. They were dismissed as typical, narrow minded experts (except Tim Martin and James Dyson).
The new Prime Minister, who repeatedly said there would be no new general election, called a general election, lost her majority and had to rely on a small party that believes the earth is 6,000 years old.
She subscribed to the one, true, something else but couldn’t convince parliament, her party, her government, or even her 6,000 year old earth partners that this was the best something else we could get (her 6,000 year old earth partners weren’t that gullible). Some MPs said this wasn’t the one, true something else, but were willing to vote as if it was the one, true something else if they could have a go at being Prime Minister. Others, including the leader of the opposition, thought there was a much better something else that should be tried, but the House of Commons rejected every other version of something else that was put to them. Some people even suggested that maybe we should ask the people again, are you really sure you want something else?
Those who voted for something else then started blaming those who hadn’t voted for something else because this was obviously all their fault. They made it clear that they couldn’t be held responsible for the violence and rioting that would follow if they didn’t get something else NOW.
Britain was humiliated, its population and political system hopelessly divided and unable to reach a consensus. Our enemies looked on with glee, our friends with a mixture of disbelief and horror. The country was an international laughing stock. It suffered a blow to its prestige from which it would probably never recover, saw investment grind to a halt, had retailers and individuals stockpiling food and medicine, saw international agencies, bankers, corporations and manufacturers (including James Dyson) flee the country…
I thought about writing that as an April Fool’s Day prank, but then thought no, a prank only works if it’s believable.