It was Sunday the 30th March. They sat around the table shuffling their papers in the best hotel in New Seattle. It was raining outside; it always rains in New Seattle.
Ellephanie sat next to his campaign adviser, Kelly McCoor. McCoor was for hire; between elections she did little jobs to keep going. Still she had a reputation to keep. She was implacable, cool, calm and collected. Life to her was like a long game of chess. She smiled when she needed to, was charming and gracious, but underneath lay rampant, naked ambition. Present at the conference room table were various members with a vested interest in saying goodbye to Anderton and hello to Ellephanie.
There was; Sandra Wibeck, who leased most of the retail space in Hertferd, Sue McGowan, ran a company out of Sioux City which built houses, Jim Howard, owned portions of land around the edge of Hertferd, Anne Highbury, owned a major engineering firm which supplied tools and other products to Carlton, and a representative from Intel which owned Senax and had now branched into all forms of entertainment both physical and virtual.
Kelly McCoor stood up.
"Thanks for coming down. We thought it'd help to get off site, free up our thinking and have a little R&R this evening. This session will take up most of the day but we'll break for lunch stretch our legs.
I will be running this session and it's my job to ensure you all know what we're doing. Today’s task is: ‘To find strategies the strategy to get Chuck into the office above the town square.’
Now, I'd like us to warm up a bit here. I know you all know each other but I'd like us all to feel relaxed and get the creative juices going. Think of a number from one to ten. Stand up. Less than fives on the right and more than fives on the left. Here's the task. I want you to enact out the shooting of J FK."
“In what way?"
“In any way you like, any way at all. Sally, Chuck's new PA who is sat at the back will be awarding the points."
Sally smiled at them.
The two groups huddled together discussing tactics. The warm up did its trick and the enactments were ridiculous and got everyone laughing.
“Now guys settle down. Let me fill you in on my initial thinking.
If we look at the population of Hertferd, or rather those in the area who are eligible to vote, the following pattern emerges." Kelly pressed a button.
A map of Hertferd appeared and hung in the air.
At the moment we can presume that nearly all the Carlton employees will vote for Chuck. The percentage of people who directly work for Carlton in Hertferd is about ten. The number of people who indirectly depend on Carlton is about another ten to fifteen. Taking the total voting population of Hertferd altogether we estimate that at least forty per cent depend indirectly or directly on agriculture for their living.
We can assume that about twenty to twenty five percent will have a natural loyalty to Chuck since they depend on Carlton for their income. We can also assume that most, if not all, of the farming community will not want to see Anderton lose.
The key to winning the election is thus the grey vote i.e. the retired. They're the remaining twenty five per cent or so. Ninety per cent of them have moved to Iowa from out of state, so they'll have no particular allegiances. They may be quite inert or neutral about who should become Mayor, so we must motivate them. McCoor pressed a button again. Another image hung in the air.
The headline strategy has three pillars:
- Discredit Anderton personally
- We need to show that Anderton is not a friend of the retired; he doesn't care about them or their welfare, he's only interested in the needs of farmers and not the broader community.
- We need to show how voting for Chuck will enhance the town in every way. Standard of life, i.e. better leisure facilities.
“Its Martin Shaw isn't it? Come and sit down."
"Sorry I'm late."
“Glad you could join us Martin," said Chuck smiling.
The day was constructive. They generated a range of ludicrous and sensible ideas for the campaign: killing Anderton, murdering all the farmers in Iowa, buying up all the farms in Iowa, catching Anderton getting blown by a prostitute, making Hertferd into its own separate state to name but a few.
They did come up with some more practical ideas. The principle thrust of the strategy was about creating a task force to canvass the retired population of the town and giving them interactive literature, which had models of the kind of amenities which Hertferd would receive if Carlton expanded. This would be contrasted to the Hertferd under the future if Anderton got his way.
“One of the things we have got to get buttoned up is the personal line we're going to take against Anderton. That was one of the areas I'm going to do some more work on. I know about his parents’ shady death, but keep your ears to the ground guys. Do you know anymore?"
“Can be done," said Martin, “I found him drunk in a parking lot on the night we found his parents"
“Brilliant!" Kelly said beaming.
“We can circulate that story to the press. Could you talk to them?" Martin thought fast.
“No, I don't think it would look good coming from me. I think the police should appear to be neutral in this. It'd be better coming from some other source.”
“I'll buy that. Did anyone else see him apart from you? They must have done?" Kelly declared.
“There was a guy who phoned the police that night and said he'd found the Mayor drunk in the parking lot. He didn't want to leave his name as I remember but I could try and trace it. Maybe we could get this guy to tell the story. It would knock his credibility."
“He has a good excuse, for God's sake. His parents were found dead!" Sandra Wibeck exclaimed.
“Yes, but he's still in a position of responsibility and it still doesn't look good. Mayors don't get drunk in car parks after their parents die, they get drunk at home being consoled by their wife and family, or they don't get drunk at all. It looks weak. “Why didn't you mention this before, Martin?" Kelly enquired.
“Well, I've been kind of busy lately! It slipped my mind to be honest."
“Martin, what about the circumstances around his parents death, can we make anything of that? Was he ever questioned?"
“No, we didn't question him," replied Martin, feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the direction of this conversation. "Off the record we don't have a clue what happened there. Official suicide, but I knew his father, not the type."
“Where was he when they died?"
“You're not seriously suggesting we imply he killed his own parents are you? There's no motive."
“Still, where was he when they died?" "He went to see the Governor.”
“Does he have an alibi?"
“Yes, his wife was with him."
“So there's some room to question his whereabouts? His wife would be bound to say she was with him. From the news she got out the car and ended up finding Ralph McManan’s body, so she couldn’t have been with him the whole time, correct?"
“Yes that's true.”
“So why didn't you question him?" Kelly persisted.
“Listen lady," said Martin becoming slightly vexed, “Are you telling me how to do my job?"
“No, I'm not. I'm asking you why you didn't question him."
"Because there was no goddam motive."
“But, the fact still remains; that he can't prove where he was at the time they are likely to have died. What did the coroner's report say?"
“It was inconclusive. Her heart failed but they found traces of drug in her body, which are known to induce heart failure. But we all have traces of this drug in us, so it doesn't really amount to much. It's in lots of foods, it builds up. "
“So why was his wife wandering around off the highway in the first place?"
I honestly don't know," Martin said, lying convincingly.
“It's an odd thing to do," Kelly persisted, "I mean it's an odd place for the Mayor's wife to be wandering around. How far is it from there to his parents’ house?"
“About three miles."
“So she could, hypothetically speaking, have been involved, indeed she could have been involved with Ralph McManan's death."
“No, she couldn't. He'd been dead hours before she got there."
“What exactly are you driving at here?" Martin asked abruptly, "There's no motive for Anderton killing his parents, or his wife. They've got money enough. They don't need the inheritance. What's the deal here?"
“I'm just building up the picture of a man who could be presented as unstable. The circumstances around his parents’ death remain uncertain. The public will want to know why his parents were killed, if they were killed. Is there something going on that they don't know about: bribery, corruption?
“It's the sort of angle we can use to undermine the faith of the farmers in him. We need to build up a cloud of uncertainty around him. Their whole thing is based on the trust of the man, that his father was a farmer and so on. They think he understands them. If we can start to undermine that trust, sow seeds of doubt, then even amongst the farmers his support will become less than rock solid.” ”
Chuck sat back in his chair and put his arms behind his head.
“I don't like to get dirty but…."
“Get real Chuck, you're in politics now, it's all about getting dirty, interleaved with trying to do big things now and then."
“Wooo," Chuck sighed. Kelly smiled.
“Look, politics isn't all like that. It's just a bigger version of boardroom politics, which you know all about."
There was a tense pause for a moment.
“Well, I've got to win. So we had better use every means we have available to us," Chuck said decisively."I'll think of a more detailed strategy for the local media. Martin, we need that guy's number...our next meeting is in three days’ time. We'll allocate tasks. We've only got just over two weeks until Election Day, Tuesday 14th April. If you have any more ideas between then and now wire them. I have secured a safe wire, the number is shown on screen now. Remember it, but don't write it down.”