Zac Goldsmith had lost: to begin with. His political career was as dead as a doornail. With an unusually high proportion of young, educated, affluent voters, Richmond Park was hardly representative of the entire country. But it was Goldsmith’s second electoral defeat in 2016, a year in which people saying the sort of things he tended to say had tended to do quite well.
It was Christmas Eve and Goldsmith’s old friend, the miserly old millionaire Brexiteezer Scrooge was going through the accounts for the Featherspoons pub chain, of which he was CEO and proprietor. He had wanted to open 100 new branches the following year but his costs were too high. The bloody EU made him pay his workers the minimum wage and grant them all sorts of leftie liberal entitlements like sick pay and maternity leave.
“There’ll be none of this nonsense once we leave,” he muttered.
At that moment there was a knock on the door.
“Excuse me, Mr Scrooge,” it was Bożena Kratchowicz who worked in HR. Scrooge hated employing all these Eastern Europeans but they were cheap and they worked hard and at least he could stick them all on zero-hours contracts. Bożena was shivering slightly as Scrooge had insisted the heating be turned off to save on energy bills.
“I’m extremely busy” Scrooge growled, “Come back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Bożena frowned, “Tomorrow is Christmas Day, Mr Scrooge.”
“And I imagine you’ll want the whole day off?” He supposed that was down to some EU law or another. Probably.
“Well, it is customary, Mr Scrooge.”
“A humbug and a poor attempt by Brussels to pick a man’s pocket once a year,” Scrooge replied. “Well come back on Boxing Day then. And make sure you get to work all the earlier.”
“Yes, Mr Scrooge,” Bożena replied, “And a Merry Christmas.”
Bożena Kratchowicz left him to it and the minutes ticked by. The next interruption came from his tedious Remain-voting nephew, Phil.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle! I brought you a present.”
“It’s not Christmas yet,” Scrooge grumbled.
“It’s Christmas Eve,” Phil said. “In Germany and Sweden the tradition is to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve.”
“Does this look like Germany or Sweden to you?” Scrooge replied, unwrapping the present. It was some sort of foreign food in a box. “What is this?”
“They’re polverones, Uncle. A bit like shortbread. I picked them up in Spain over the summer.”
“And what’s wrong with British shortbread?” Scrooge demanded.
“Nothing, Uncle. But sometimes it’s nice to experience new things isn’t it? Including things from other countries.”
“We voted to take back control!” Scrooge insisted, “I want a British Christmas with British things!”
“Well suit yourself,” Phil replied, “you keep Christmas in your way and I’ll keep it in mine. Joyeux Noël to you, Uncle and a gelukkig nieuwjaar.”
“Humbug!” Scrooge replied, as his nephew disappeared down the corridor.
Twenty more minutes ticked by before there was yet another knock at Scrooge’s door.
“What is it now?!”
“I’m sorry to bother you, Mr Scrooge,” it was a pair of immaculately-moustached hipsters wearing lanyards, “but we’re collecting money on behalf of refugees fleeing the war in Syria.”
“And what business of mine is that?” Scrooge demanded.
“Well these people have been left homeless, Mr Scrooge. We fear for their safety during the winter.”
“Are there no refugee camps they can access in the nearest safe country?” Scrooge demanded.
“And the absurd proportion of our GDP we give to overseas aid- is that still in effect?”
“Yes, it is Mr Scrooge. But the plight of these people is really sad. How much can we put you down for?”
“Nothing? You wish to remain anonymous?”
“I wish to be left alone!” Scrooge barked.
“Mr Scrooge, some of these people need urgent medical help,” one of the immaculately-moustached hipsters replied.
“Ah I see. So you want them to put added strain on our already crumbling NHS?”
“Their lives are at risk, Mr Scrooge.”
“If they’re going to die, then they’d better hurry up and do it!” Scrooge shouted, “And reduce the world’s already out-of-control population!”
Horrified, the immaculately-moustached hipsters scuttled away down the corridor.
Scrooge finished his work, put on his coat and scarf and stepped outside into the London streets, scowling as watched the crowds of metropolitan liberal remoaners dashing about doing last-minute Christmas shopping. He remembered when 19 in every 20 faces he saw in London was white. A simpler time, he thought. He jumped on the tube and went back to his drab suburban house in Whetstone. As he walked up to the door, he was momentarily taken aback. Looking at the large brass door knocker, he had the strangest impression, as though…well, it was impossible of course. But for a moment it appeared to resemble his old friend Zac Goldsmith, defeated in the Richmond Park by-election and condemned to exile outside public life, with nothing to do but endlessly watch his beloved Bollywood films. Scrooge shook his head and headed upstairs. The heating was off here too of course and he contented himself with the light of a small table lamp, supplemented only by the flickering red lights of the accursed broadband router that modern business required he keep in his home. Scrooge hastily heated a Tesco ready meal in the microwave and sat down in front of his computer to spend a blissful evening getting angry because of made-up scare stories about immigrants he found on the Daily Mail website.
As he was scrolling through an outraged opinion piece about a High Court judge in the Article 50 case who was friends with a Jew, Scrooge suddenly looked up in astonishment. His gleaming Virgin Media Broadband router had suddenly started, loudly and unmistakably, to make the old dial-up noise from the 90s.
“Impossible!” Scrooge murmured, “that ready meal must have contained horse meat or something- probably because of EU regulations.”
The noise stopped and Scrooge closed his eyes. He breathed in deeply and out again, then opened his eyes.
In front of him, his computer screen had gone black, apart from a line or orange text across the middle: “It is now safe to turn off your computer.”
“But…that’s Windows 98. How…?”
“BREXITEEZER SCROOGE!” The voice was loud, but it was also plummy and incredibly sanctimonious. Scrooge turned around and there, suspended several feet off the floor by his own entitled sense of self-importance, was Zac Goldsmith, carefully sipping a pint he was holding with both hands.
“But that’s impossible!” Scrooge exclaimed, “you retreated to your country mansion to live out the rest of the day with your repugnant tax exile friends!”
“Brexiteezer,” Goldsmith repeated, more quietly, “I have come to warn you!”
“Warn me about what?” Scrooge asked, “What are you talking about?” As he spoke, Scrooge realised that there were chains around Goldsmith’s ankles. The only thing preventing himself from floating away on the weightless comfort of his own privilege was the fact he was weighed down by hundreds of black boxes tethered to the ends of the chains. “What are those?” Scrooge demanded.
“Ballot boxes, Scrooge. Around my right ankle are the votes of liberal former Conservative voters in Richmond Park who gave me the finger over Brexit; around my left the votes of 1,310,143 Londoners who had voted for Sadiq Khan after second preferences were counted.”
Scrooge grunted, “I bet most of them were Muslims.”
“Muslims are allowed to vote,” Goldsmith replied, “and that’s probably ok. But no one in London wanted the sort of campaign I was offering.”
“And what sort of campaign was that?” Scrooge asked.
“Well some people called it racist,” Goldsmith replied, “but you’re not allowed to call things racist anymore even if they are because people might not like it. Jonathan Pie said so.”
“And what are you doing here?”
“I have come to tell you, Scrooge, that your soul is in danger. Don’t end up like me. The people will see through it all in the end. They’ll blame you for the mess we’re in just as they blamed me.”
“I don’t care what people say about me,” Scrooge replied, “most of them are probably Bulgarian anyway.”
“You will be visited, Scrooge.”
“Visited? What do you mean?”
“You will be visited by three of 2016’s dead celebrities.” Goldsmith said, “The first will come when the clock strikes one.”
“2016’s dead celebri…what are you talking about?”
“Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us.”
And with that, Goldsmith was gone.
Scrooge looked back at his computer screen. The Daily Mail article was back and the router was flickering as it usually did.
“I must find the packaging from my dinner and take it back to Tesco,” Scrooge said to himself, “I think Dutch farmers are putting skunk in my ready meals.”
To read the second part of the story “The First of the Three Spirits”, please click here.