A novel about the assassination of a key political figure and the civil unrest it causes.
|D C Brockwell The Road To Revolution
Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Daniel Campbell, the Coalition leader, strode purposefully into a conference room in ten Downing Street. His seat at the end of the table was waiting for him. All the cabinet ministers stood as he entered. This was an emergency meeting, an unusual gathering of top government personnel.
Campbell stood behind his chair as the ministers waited intently for him to commence the meeting. Two of Campbell’s aides stood with their backs to the wall and their hands neatly clasped in front of them, wearing dark suits and white shirts. Campbell wiped his face with his hands. This was the most important meeting he had ever chaired in his short career as Prime Minister.
The room was silent. No one spoke, as they all knew what had happened late last night. They also knew what a desperate situation they were facing. They had all been watching BBC or Sky News, shocked.
‘I’ve just spoken to the chief constable of West Sussex,’ started Campbell, the youngest Prime Minister Britain had ever had. He was a good-looking man in his late thirties with a full head of brown hair and an athletic physique. ‘She tells me that at half twelve this morning outside his home in Burgess Hill a five man gang opened fire on Ethan Brook’s car, killing all three occupants, Ethan, his driver and an unidentified girl. Ethan was hit five times, once in the head and heart, the girl died from a bullet in the neck and the driver took a single bullet to his head. Ethan’s dog, Max was also killed. These assassins left nothing to chance, according to the police a total of two hundred rounds hit the car. Automatic weapons were used and the five men were wearing masks. There’s no doubt that this was a professional execution.’
No one spoke; some shuffled in their seats uncomfortably, others simply thought about Ethan Brook brutally slain outside his own home. Burgess Hill, near Brighton, was a famous town since Ethan and two friends had founded a non-profit organisation called the Positive Revolution Group. After two years of canvassing the public in Sussex and donating money received to worthy causes aimed at improving life for its citizens, calls had been made for Ethan to start a political party, now called the Positive Revolution Party.
‘Do the police know any more?’ asked Neil Cresswell, the Liberal Democrat leader and co deputy leader of this new Coalition. Cresswell was a very charismatic and photogenic man in his early forties, who always wore designer suits. He had a full head of dark brown hair cut in a very trendy fashion and impossibly straight white teeth. They seemed to almost sparkle when he smiled. He was by far the most attractive to the female electorate. ‘Do they have any leads yet, Dan?’
‘The police have been knocking on doors all morning. A neighbour of Ethan’s said she saw a white transit van heading along Folders Lane towards Ditchling Common. Police say they could have gone in one of three directions, towards Lewes if they went straight over the roundabout, towards Brighton, if they turned right or towards Haywards Heath if they turned left,’ replied Campbell.
‘CCTV?’ asked George Smith, the Labour leader and co deputy leader. Smith was an old dinosaur in comparison to his two peers. He was sixty-two and balding. What little amount he had left was silver grey and swept back. He’d hated having to join the Tories under the leadership of Campbell, but pressure from the PRP had made it essential to keep Britain in its current form. Smith hated the party and could not let the PRP take power and ruin this great country.
‘They’re checking every camera, but two routes don’t have CCTV for miles. The third route doesn’t for even longer. They’re going to keep me posted every hour.’
‘I’ve heard reports of rioting in Sussex,’ said Cresswell, as though he was giving Campbell new news. There was a game of one upmanship between the two.
‘I’ve had confirmed reports of rioting from Sussex to Lancashire. The three of us have a press conference in under an hour,’ said Campbell to Cresswell and Smith. ‘I need reports on how bad this rioting is by twelve today,’ said Campbell to Leanne Evers, the Home Secretary, a very round older lady in her mid fifties. She was attractive and motherly in appearance and was always immaculately dressed.
Leanne nodded. She was a former Labour minister, who’d moved over to the Conservatives. There was no love lost between her and George Smith; she’d hated his temper tantrums.
‘We’re two weeks away from the most important election of our lives,’ complained Smith. He never failed to show his resentment at being told what to do by a ‘Tory’.
‘I’m fully aware of how important this election is, George,’ said Campbell, trying not to lose his temper in front of his ‘honourable friends’.
‘I really think it’ll be better for Neil and I to be canvassing,’ challenged Smith.
‘What we need to do is show a unified front in giving our support and show our sympathy for Ethan’s family and friends.’
‘You can do that as Prime Minister, can’t you?’
‘This isn’t a matter for negotiation,’ snapped Campbell. ‘We are leaders of our party and we’re going to appeal for calm. We can’t have rioting and looting in the news two weeks before an election; it’ll make us look incompetent.’
Smith nodded sulkily.
‘You’ll have the report before twelve, Dan,’ said Leanne.
‘I’ve told the chief constable that we need this one closed speedily. We need to find this gang now, before things get out of hand. We need to know why they did this and who paid them. Someone obviously thinks they’re going to benefit from Ethan’s death. If any one has any ideas, I’m all ears.’
No one spoke. They all knew that Ethan had made a lot of enemies through his policies. However, all policy decisions were voted for by the members and the majority won. Leanne Evers had almost moved over to the PRP six months ago, but had decided not to when she saw the salary. Ethan had a very stringent policy that no minister would receive over a hundred thousand a year. Ethan himself only took fifty thousand. Her salary would have been forty-five.
‘Judging by the silence, I’ll take it that no one has any ideas on this?’ Campbell wiped his face in frustration.
Every minister in the room could remember the day The Sun newspaper had printed The Positive Revolution Party’s manifesto and how they’d all laughed at the prospect of a new party forming to take on the two main parties, the Coalition and Labour. The prospect had seemed preposterous in September 2012. And now, eight years later, they were two weeks away from the 2020 election and defeat at the hands of the PRP.
What they had all failed to realise was that Ethan Brook had been deadly serious when he and three friends had written their manifesto in The Railway pub in Burgess Hill. The comments and donations had come flowing in after Ethan had appeared on This Morning, GMTV and various other daytime TV programmes. According to Ethan, on his first appearance on This Morning with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, he had first thought of the idea of starting a non-profit organisation on a drunk Monday night in June in The Railway in 2010. He had been discussing politics with three equally drunk friends when he’d proclaimed that what this country needed was a revolution to wash away the vile stench of corruption in British politics. His friends had all laughed while agreeing, had said it’s a great idea, but would never happen.
According to Ethan, he had then gone to his office in Burgess Hill, where he’d been working for Business Link and had sat down and written his first draught of The Positive Revolution Group’s business plan. He knew that asking for donations from the public was going to be hard. He truly believed that by giving back the money to Sussex by donating it to good causes, charities and hospitals and asking members to vote on where the money went would be a big step towards starting a new political system. The idea was simple: lots of small amounts of money made one huge amount.
He and his friends had created the website, whereby members could vote, see where the money was going and see all the accounts. It was a completely transparent system. Ethan had started by giving himself a very meagre salary of twenty-five thousand; he had quit his job at Business Link and rented a one bedroom flat. He had lived fairly comfortably.
Two years after that fateful night in The Railway pub the Positive Revolution Group had over a million members and had grown to include Surrey, Hampshire and Kent. That was when he’d received emails from members calling for him to run for government. One person had posted a comment on the website and the replies had flooded in, all asking him to run for office.
Not one cabinet minister in the conference room could have envisaged how one newspaper article could have galvanised the country to the extent that they, the Coalition, were about to become the shadow party. The idea of Labour, Conservatives or Liberal Democrats not being in power was absurd, but a rapidly increasing reality.
Campbell could remember the first time he had met Ethan Brook. He had been really unimpressed with him upon first meeting. Campbell had invited Ethan to a meeting in his office in Downing Street. Cameras had flashed as he had shaken hands with Ethan outside the famous front door. It had been September 2015, a few months after the election, in which The PRP had gained 15 seats and then held 82. According to the press at the time, Ethan had vowed never to meet with any leader of any other party and had proven to be extremely stubborn on this vow. The only reason he had agreed on this occasion was because his deputy, Mike Martin, had persuaded him to find out what the Coalition leader wanted. Ethan, however, had known.
Campbell disagreed with not only Ethan’s politics, but also his lifestyle. For three years he had watched and read the news of how Ethan lived. He went to his local pub every night at half five and met with his friends and drank beers until closing. At thirty-eight, Ethan had a beer belly, was permanently pickled, chased women and was an agnostic. His appearance was ordinary; he had closely shaved ginger hair, was of average looks and had pockmarks from years of acne as a youngster. He had also tried to commit suicide in his late twenties. He was by no means a role model. Campbell believed in being a role model at all times. He regularly exercised, didn’t smoke, rarely drank alcohol and was a devout Christian. The two couldn’t have been any different, but Campbell knew his way of life was far more healthy and worthwhile.
One thing had struck Campbell, though. Ethan was an idealist; he wanted the country to be all smiles, a place where everyone helped each other, where everyone could all live in harmony. His politics were soft and mushy, something he hated. Campbell had his own views: he knew the country was in trouble, where crime was rife and people would sooner walk past you than talk to you. Britain was hard.
Another striking thing he’d found out about Ethan was how intelligent and stubborn he was. It was an annoying combination.
The meeting on that September afternoon had not gone as he had intended. Campbell had asked Ethan to join forces with The Coalition; he had asked him to join him in helping make this country a better place. He had even invited Ethan to become a cabinet minister. Ethan had nodded knowingly, sparked up a cigarette to Campbell’s annoyance and declined the offer with a smile, before excusing himself.
‘I still can’t believe he’s gone,’ said Campbell solumnly.
‘He was a formidable opponent,’ said Cresswell, nodding.
‘If you ask me it was only a matter of time, and it’s not the first time someone has tried to kill him.’ Smith felt the glares bore through him. ‘What? He’s made a lot of enemies. From high powered businessmen and captains of industry to the public.’
‘The public adore him!’ snapped Leanne. ‘The last membership count was thirty two million. That’s just under half the population of Britain. Even the Irish and Scottish have joined, liking his policies. He’s a hero to these people and now he’s a martyr. They’ll start naming streets and buildings after him next.’
‘Leanne’s right,’ said Campbell.
‘And now the PRP will get sympathy votes, too,’ said Cresswell. ‘Any way you look at it we’re in a lot of trouble come June eleventh.’
‘Which is all the more reason we should be out there canvassing instead of going to some press conference,’ pleaded Smith.
‘George, you’re coming to this!’ Campbell’s temper was starting to get the better of him. He’d known it would be hard working with George Smith and Labour, but the Coalition needed more voters to stand a chance against the PRP.
Campbell looked over to one of his aides, who stood beside him with his back to the wall. ‘I want us to meet with Mike Martin tomorrow. We’ll go to Burgess Hill if we have to. I’ll leave you to set it up.’
‘You want us to come, too?’ asked Smith incredulously.
‘Yes, the three of us will be there to show our support,’ insisted Campbell.
‘It’s nearly time, Sir,’ said the second aide, looking at his watch.
‘Okay, let’s go!” Campbell strode off with Smith and Cresswell and his two aides trailing him. He knew this was going to be a very long day, probably the longest.
The rest of the cabinet ministers filed out of the room.
Mike Martin was watching the press conference at the flagship PRP social club in Burgess Hill. He felt numb. There was no other way to describe it. He couldn’t get his head around the fact that Ethan was gone, assassinated. He had found out at quarter to one last night by a neighbour of Ethan’s and fellow member, who had heard the gunfire from the safety of his bedroom. Mike’s heart had thudded, threatening to burst through his chest before he dropped his mobile and collapsed on the floor.
Mike was thirty-five, had blond closely cut hair and rarely shaved. Due to years of drinking and eating junk food, he was slightly more round than he would like to be, but really couldn’t be bothered to join a gym or jog or swim. His life was too hectic to indulge in such things and he was quite happy with his lifestyle.
The social club, an old disused British Legion club next door to a Conservative Club had been chosen as the Headquarters of the Positive Revolution Party eight years ago. The irony was that Ethan had once been club-steward of the Conservative Club next door and had gone on to create his own political party.
It was chaotic and packed. Women were crying and men were consoling each other while supping from their pints. It was at least six-deep at the bar and the staff were frantically trying to keep up.
Mike called for quiet by shushing everyone as he listened to Campbell, Cresswell and Smith trying to demonstrate sorrow on TV. Campbell and Cresswell looked sincere, but Smith showed little emotion. In fact, he thought he saw a very faint smile, but thought he must be imagining it. He’d never liked George Smith, the Labour leader. But then again, he’d never liked Labour.
Campbell assured the public that the men responsible would be found and held to account. Everything possible was being done to bring these people to justice. The crowd grew loud at this comment and one woman yelled out ‘murderer’ and threw something at the three leaders on the podium. Mike couldn’t see what was thrown. Campbell then objected to being called a murderer and appealed for calm. He then appealed for the general public to be calm and stop rioting. A huge chorus of ‘murderer’ phased out Campbell’s pleas as objects were thrown at the three men. Security intercepted and ushered the Coalition leaders away, as the crowd grew stronger and louder.
Mike’s head hung in his hands. Then he turned over to Sky News, which had shown nothing but footage of Ethan’s house on Folders Lane, while reporters spoke about what had happened. There’d been no new news in over 6 hours.
A hand gently squeezed his shoulder.
‘Mike, they’re ready for you, mate,’ said Gavin, the club manager and close friend of Mike and Ethan’s for many years. He was a chronic alcoholic and heavy smoker. He was tall, had a big frame and huge belly and was known as a gentle giant.
Standing quickly, Mike picked up the controller and threw it at the television on the wall. ‘Bastards!’ he yelled as the noise and crying in the background stopped.
Mike suddenly noticed that all eyes were on him. His lips were trembling and he was fighting a lump in his throat. A single tear rolled down his cheek. He wiped it away and breathed deeply three or four times.
As he stepped forwards the crowd inside stepped backward, creating a path toward the front doors. He felt pats on his shoulders as he walked to the makeshift podium on the forecourt outside. The sun was shining brightly on this late May day.
Outside the streets were packed with many of the crowd wearing their lime green caps with burgundy shield and PRP inside it in bold writing. PRP flags were flapping outside the terraced houses on the other side of the road. Police were crowd controlling in the distance. Mike waved slightly to Ethan’s family in the foreground, his mum and dad, brother and sister-in-law, their two daughters and Ethan’s sister and brother-in-law and their two sons. Ethan was unmarried and had no children. It was so busy in Burgess Hill that it appeared offices and shops had closed for the day. All cameras were on him as he cleared his throat. There were reporters from every local and national paper and reporters from Sky News and BBC News were also present.
‘Nothing I say can truly represent what Ethan meant to this party, this town, this county or this country. These words sound hollow as I say them. I found out just before one this morning that Ethan Brook, Holly Rampling, Ben Brown and Max the Husky were shot to death outside Ethan’s home. The ambulance crew first on scene pronounced them dead on arrival. Police are now pursuing every avenue available to them to catch these wanted men and find out why they wanted to kill our great leader.
I met Ethan at the Railway ten years ago when he was working for Business Link. He used to come in and we’d waste the evenings drinking, teasing each other and eyeing up the women. Then one day, Ethan and I were talking politics and in a drunken stupor Ethan announced that he was going to start a revolution. Everyone laughed at this idea, including me.’
Mike could feel the lump in his throat as he recounted the good old Railway days when he used to work as a sales engineer for Vega and used to volunteer at Sheffield Park’s Bluebell Railway as a fireman.
‘None of us, including Ethan, could have believed that within ten years we’d have forty million members across Britain and growing. None of us could’ve imagined that our website would ever become the most regularly visited in the world. What this party has achieved can only be called a miracle. And Ethan’s tireless effort, and yes occasional drink, have made this all possible.’
Everyone laughed at the mention of ‘occasional’ drink. It was well documented that Ethan could put away more than his fair share of drinks. He had agreed to a documentary crew following him for a week. What had resulted was a comical account of daily nightlife for Ethan and his fellow members.
‘We’re two weeks away from the election and victory,’ said Mike as the crowd applauded. ‘And now we find ourselves without a leader. But I want everyone to relax; I’ve called an emergency meeting here tomorrow.’ Mike knew that there would be a lot of confused and scared people out there, worrying about what would happen next. He needed to allay those concerns.
‘It has come to my attention that people are rioting in the name of this party and what has happened to Ethan,’ he said strongly.
‘He was murdered by the government,’ shouted a male voice in the crowd, but Mike couldn’t see who it was.
‘We don’t know that,’ replied Mike with hands splayed out reassuringly.
There was a lot of chatter. Mike had an inkling that some disgruntled minister could possibly have orchestrated it, but would never be found out.
There was a chant of ‘murderers’ at the back of the crowd.
‘Please, please, that’s enough,’ he begged, trying to appeal for calm. ‘The police are on the case, looking for these people right now. This rioting has to stop! It’s not helping any one, least of all Ethan, Holly or Ben’s memories. They wouldn’t want us to start fighting one another.’
The shouting stopped.
‘I promise you all that the police will not stop until they find these people. They’ve assured me that it’s a top priority and that these men are the most wanted in Britain. They will be held to account. So this message goes out to everyone, stop what you’re doing and think, is this the PRP way? We don’t want our members getting arrested. So please, remain calm. Our police force has a hard enough time on a daily basis without us adding to it. Thank you all for your co-operation. And remember, June eleventh, vote PRP.’
Loud applause erupted as Mike stepped off the podium. He walked back to the front doors of the club and whispered ‘keep the press out of here,’ to two burly doormen wearing PRP T-shirts. He walked back through the pathway created by the members inside and took a seat at the back of the hall, away from the throng.
Ethan’s family, celebrities now, joined Mike at the back of the hall.
Mike stood and smiled solumnly at Claire and David Brook, Ethan’s mum and dad. He hugged Claire tightly and offered his condolences. Tears were pouring down her face as Emma, Ethan’s sister, squeezed her mum’s shoulders. After a long hug, Mike moved on to each member of Ethan’s family and either hugged or shook hands with them. A tear forced its way down his cheek as he hugged Beth and Abbie, Ethan’s nieces, both together. He had known Ethan’s family for ten years. They really were a regular family with regular problems. David, Ethan’s dad, was retired after working for American Express for thirty-six years. Claire had been a district nurse until she’d retired shortly after her husband, so that she could help out with babysitting for Emma and Simon. Simon Brook had his own electrician company which employed five people and was doing well, while Alison, his wife, worked in a doctor’s surgery part time. Emma Hutchinson worked as a carer part time, leaving Paul, her husband, to bring home the money working in the printing industry. Ethan was the youngest of the three siblings and had never settled down. He’d told Mike a couple of years ago that he could never imagine settling down while there were so many flavours to try, meaning women. Mike had laughed.
‘So, what’s going to happen to all this now?’ asked David Brook, looking around the club, but really meaning the party his son had founded. He was seventy three and fit for his age. He was proud of his full head of grey hair. The years of sun worshipping had weathered his skin; he still looked distinguished. He was numb and acting in auto pilot mode. He didn’t know how to act other than with strength for his wife.
‘It will go on,’ replied Mike, careful not to sound too nonchalant. Ethan and his dad had always had a difficult relationship, being opposites in nearly every way imaginable. ‘I’ve called an emergency meeting here tomorrow afternoon. You’ll be able to make it, Dave, won’t you?’
‘I’ll be here. Is there going to be a leadership vote?’
‘Yes,’ replied Mike definitively. ‘I’m putting my name forward, if that’s ok with all of you. I didn’t want to talk about this yet, but we’ve only got two weeks to get our affairs in order.’
‘It’s quite alright, Mike. It’s important this doesn’t harm the party. Ethan put too much into this to let it fall apart now. When I think about him ten years ago, drifting from one crap job to another and just look at what he’s achieved.’
‘I know, it’s amazing. We’ve got the coalition on the run. Latest polls put us up front by a long way. We’ll have enough seats to bury them all.’
‘Do you think they could be responsible?’
‘Can we not talk about this now!’ sobbed Claire. ‘We’ve got to get to the hospital.’
‘Sorry, Claire,’ apologised Mike, feeling her emotion and struggling to prevent himself from breaking down. He hated seeing Claire so upset.
The Brooks and Hutchinsons walked slowly through the throng of members and left. Mike watched them leave and went back to watching the news. He had paperwork and an open laptop in front of him. He had to update the website and organise a leadership vote.