The end for Marjory
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When the Traffic Lights Stopped by Martin Friel


Chapter 7


The newspaper headlines that June morning made it clear that Marjory’s tenure as the People’s Politician was over.

The Daily Courant was the most overt and blunt, as it usually was: “People’s Politician linked to Paedo Porn Scandal”.

Her image, associated with similar headlines, was splashed across every paper, every website, every news channel and as usual, social media took up the cudgel and ensured that there was hardly an individual in the land who was not aware of the story, which ran as follows.

One of Marjory’s sons, Peter I believe his name was, had been arrested following a police raid that had found child pornography on his computer. He’d served a short sentence many years previously for attempting to groom a girl of 10 for sexual purposes so for many, his guilt was assumed. He was a bad egg, of that there is no doubt, but it was the way the establishment leapt upon this and the timing of the ‘raid’ that made my gut turn.

As the story broke, anyone with an opinion was asked what they thought and, tellingly for me, MPs, to a man and woman toed what appeared to be more than a party line – it resembled a cultural line. None of them demanded her resignation but talk of her position “looking increasingly untenable” and how it would be “difficult for her to survive this” planted the seeds for the onslaught that was to come. One MP even suggested that this could just be the tip of the iceberg and that the police could have stumbled across a paedophile network.

Cameras and reporters swarmed around her flat in East London. They had waited patiently all morning for their prey and when Marjory did finally emerge, they didn’t hold back:

“Did you know Peter was a pervert Marjory?”

“How long have you known about this?”

“Have you been protecting Peter, Marjory? How much did you know?”

“Do you think you are the right person to continue being the People’s Politician?”

“Have you brought paedophilia to the heart of Government Marjory?”

“Will you resign over this Marjory? When will you be making a statement?”

All of these and many other questions hit Marjory as she left her front door. She didn’t hear them all, mainly a blur of noise, but she held her head high and tried to muscle her way through the throng to the tube station, not uttering a word. They chased her, stalked her, taking photos, filming, barking questions.

She finally made it to the station where the barrier guards, having known Marjory for many years, fought to hold the pack back at the entrance, allowing her to head for a subterranean sanctuary.

The harassment by the press continued for days both in person and through their various outlets but Marjory said nothing, no official statement, no passing comment. She probably thought that it was best to not give them anything to feed on but in the absence of scraps, the press went digging. They found that there were several perpetrators of relatively minor misdemeanours in her extended family (shoplifting, driving offences and the like) but there was also a cousin who had been jailed in the 70s for grievous bodily harm and a brother who had been convicted of passing fraudulent cheques 12 years previously.

All of this was used by the press and in particular the newspaper columnists and discussion sections on radio and on TV to suggest and query and debate whether or not Marjory was fit for the office she held. She was, so the general argument went, part of a legacy of criminality at worst and moral weakness at best. On and on it went for days – the longer she remained silent on the accusations, the more the press, and by extension the public, assumed her guilt and her inappropriateness for office.

I remember those TV broadcasts of Marjory going to and from her flat – in the beginning she held her normal air of defiance, her look of “just try it” but as the days wore on and the coverage and rumour and conjecture increased she gradually adopted a haunted look or was it more hunted? Either way, the defiance had been diluted and it was obvious that she was a woman feeling the singular pressure of a press feeding frenzy. But still she said nothing to them despite many, many opportunities to “give the people your side of the story”. She was too canny for that. She was more than aware of how, once they had your words, the media could edit or regurgitate them in any way that suited them.

But as far as her career as the People’s Politician was concerned, the press were the least of her concerns – the politicians, who had so deftly fed the mob at the outset of the scandal, had called her to attend a Select Committee on Morality and Suitability. They could and would force her to respond to the demands that the media claimed the people were making of her. The MPs would force her to answer for her morality and suitability to hold such a senior position.

Twelve days after the story first broke, Marjory was brought before the Committee: “This Committee, understanding the importance of the role of the People’s Politician, will seek to understand the suitability of the incumbent to hold such an office and ascertain her moral appropriateness to continue to deliver on her responsibilities to the satisfaction of the people.”

I have no idea if Marjory could feel it but when I read that ‘mission statement’ I knew she was finished. The Committee hearing was simply an exercise they had to go through to make her political demise official. It was a standard tool used by the politicians to rubber stamp a process they wished to pursue or to appear that they taking a particular issue seriously on behalf of the electorate. Essentially, the Select Committee process was used to pursue their own agendas and legitimise their behaviour and Marjory was merely the latest component to be pushed through the process.




“Marjory Mead you have been asked to appear before this Committee to address concerns raised about your ability to continue in your position as the People’s Politician and appropriateness of you doing so.”

With those words, Anthony Whittard, Conservative MP and Chair of the Committee began proceedings. He was joined by five of his peers from across the political spectrum – Barbara Abbott, Conservative peer, Alan Berry, Liberal MP, Nigel Green, Conservative MP, Geoff Harman, Labour MP and his fellow party member, Louise Morgan. Together these individuals, who represented the establishment and class that Marjory had dared to challenge, would decide whether she was fit for the job.

This was not an honest and robust assessment by her peers but a good old fashioned kangaroo court, a fact that was made clear from the outset. It may not have been clear to the millions who watched proceedings at home, but for those of us familiar with the process, the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

“Marjory, if I may call you Marjory” Whittard purred. “You have become such a common feature of the public discourse these days that you must forgive me if I am being overly familiar.”

“You go right ahead Anthony. That’s my name,” replied Marjory, curtly, with the emphasis on his name.

“The Committee has been made aware of certain allegations regarding your family circumstances that the House has asked us to look into to ensure that they do not compromise your ability to execute your duties as the People’s Politician,” continued Whittard.

“I wish to make it a matter for the record that there are no preconceptions as to the outcome of this hearing, that my colleagues and I will approach the proceedings in a fair and impartial manner and that the sole purpose of these sessions is to clear up any ambiguity that the recent, unfortunate media scrutiny that you have endured is cleared up,” he said adjusting his gold rimmed spectacles with a nudge of his middle finger.

His colleagues murmured their agreement as Marjory stared ahead, impassively.

“I believe my colleague Barbara Abbott would like to begin proceedings today. Ms Abbott, if you would be so kind,” said Whittard.

“My thanks, Chair,” said Abbott leaning round the table to nod her gratitude. “Marjory, if I may. It has been brought to our attention by various reports in the media that there is a certain amount of criminality in the history of your family. We are talking about assault, grievous bodily harm according to police records, forgery and fraud, theft; the list goes on.

“What I would like to know is whether you agree that this thread of criminality, putting aside the most serious and most recent of these allegations which we will get to in due course, is an inherent part of the makeup of your family. Is this just the way your people behave?”

Marjory sat facing her inquisitors, isolated. She had declined her right to counsel on the grounds she could not justify the cost to the taxpayer to simply defend her position. So she sat alone, faced the Committee and cleared her throat, readying herself for defence.

“Barbara. I find you line of questioning very offensive. Are you suggesting that my family, including me, are in some way compelled to break the law? Because if you are you can be assured that I won’t stand for that. Not for one minute,” replied Marjory.

Before she could continue though, Nigel Green took over the questioning.

“But Marjory, the facts cannot be ignored. There is a pattern of offending in your family and it is only proper and right, considering the high office that you hold and the responsibilities that come with that office, that we, the public, are assured of your moral fortitude.”

“Never mind the fancy talk. You are saying that because there has been criminality in my family that we are all criminals. Aren’t you? That’s what you are trying to get at. Let’s not waste any more time and cut to the chase. You are suggesting that I am somehow drawn to criminality because of my family history, aren’t you?” Marjory replied, her chest puffing out, arms folded.

“Marjory, it is a valid question. We are not going to get into a debate about nature versus nurture at this hearing,” cut in Whittard, “but this pattern of law breaking within your family must be addressed. The people must have faith in the individual who performs the duties of the People’s Politician and that is why we are here.

“As I made clear at the outset, we have not come here with a pre-determined view of this situation but we simply must clear away any ambiguity surrounding the recent allegations which will hopefully allow you to continue to execute your duties in the admirable way you have to date.

“Ms Abbott, if you would care to continue.”

“Thankyou Chair. Now Marjory ...”

“I prefer that you refer to me as Ms Mead if you don’t mind,” interrupted Marjory. “If you are going to talk to me with such little respect I would like you to address me more formally.”

“Of course, Ms Mead,” responded Abbott, a patronising tone entering her speech. “ As I was saying, it is undeniable that there is a high frequency of law breaking within your own and your wider family. It is perfectly legitimate for this Committee, on behalf of the people, to understand if this is a pattern of behaviour, if this is a habit if you will, that is inherent in your family and likely to continue.

“Your office must maintain the highest moral standards and therefore it is vital that these standards can and will be upheld under your stewardship. Your ability to do this is what we are hoping to establish here today so please, Ms Abbott, do you feel that there is a problem with criminality within your family, one that would prevent you from protecting the dignity of the role of People’s Politician?” Abbott leaned forward as she finished, placing grave emphasis on the word ‘dignity’.

“Dignity? You want to talk about maintaining dignity?” snorted Marjory. “This coming from a class of people who have robbed and swindled the electorate with your abuse of the expenses system. I can’t believe you have the nerve to talk to ME about morality. Where do you get off Abbott? Where do any of you get off dragging me in front of you like some badly behaved schoolgirl ...?”

“Marjory, Marjory,” interrupted Whittard. “Please, let’s not get confrontational here. We are simply trying to ensure what we all believe to be true is in fact the case – that you are able to fulfil your role without the circus that surrounds your family distracting you and the people from the important work that you do.”

“I, having been chosen as the People’s Politician, should be the one scrutinising you,” Marjory spat back. “What you lot have done is utterly despicable. You have stolen, you have lied and you have compounded that lie with other lies to hide what you have done.

“If anyone’s ability to fulfil the roles of Government should be called into question, it is you, the politicians. You should be begging the electorate for forgiveness rather than distracting them with this little circus, as you call it, that you have engineered.”

Marjory turned slightly to her left, crossing her ample legs as she did so. The effect was to appear to be turning away from the panel in defiance without actually doing so, an effect that was not missed by her would-be inquisitors.

Having had her turn and not received a suitable answer, Abbott gave way to her colleagues and they chipped away at Marjory on the same question asked in different ways, all to the same general effect – Marjory kept throwing the accusations back in the face of her accusers. She was indignant, disgusted and not afraid to show it. She had long since lost any respect she once had for the political class and now, subjected to one of their most effective instruments of terror, she felt she had nothing to lose and freely spoke her mind.

The questions continued to bounce off Marjory’s defiance for several hours. The hearing took a lunch break and reconvened at 2pm. Watching from my office in Whitehall, I could sense there was a change in the mood as everyone filed back in. I couldn’t pinpoint it but as the ministers took their seats, they seemed to have a new air of authority about them. They seemed confident. Marjory looked much the same – defiant.

“OK, thanks for joining us again Marjory,” started Whittard.

“Was there a choice?” Marjory responded casually as she turned to look at the benches behind her.

“It has been a rather confrontational meeting so far Marjory so I’m going to look at this from a different angle and I must warn you that I aim to be blunt. Not out of malice but of necessity. Can we all turn our attentions to the incident that sparked the media interest. The case of your son Marjory,” said Whittard sorting through his papers.

At this, Marjory went pale. She shifted in her seat, turning to face the panel directly. They had her absolute attention now.

“Now your son, Marjory, has been charged with possession of child pornography and is currently on police bail. Are those the facts?” asked Whittard.

“Yes,” replied Marjory in a small voice.

“Sorry, I didn’t quite hear that,” said Alan Berry, too loud, too confident. Braying almost. “Has your son been arrested for possessing pornographic images of children Ms Mead?”

“Yes, you know he has so I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this is,” said Marjory.

“It is important that we establish the facts, Marjory, and in this case, this is a particularly important fact,” continues Berry.

“Chair, may I continue?” he asked leaning round to catch Whittard’s eye.

“Of course, carry on.”

“With thanks, Chair. Ms Mead, you may not see the relevance of this but let me explain it to you as it is really rather pertinent,” said Berry, his voice warming up.

“By all means,” said Marjory. The defiance was there, but it was weakening. This was an issue that hurt her deeply and the politicians knew it. It was now clear why they had re-entered the room with such confidence.

“This son of yours is an habitual pervert, a monster as some sections of the media would have it.”

Marjory looked straight at Berry but did not utter a word, did not move a muscle.

“Would you agree with that appraisal Ms Mead? That your son is an habitual pervert, a monster?”

“He’s not a monster Berry, he’s a sick man and we are trying to get him the help he needs.”

“So you still defend him?” asked Berry in mock incredulity. “Surely it is not he that requires help but his poor, defenceless victims?”

“Look, my son is innocent until proven guilty. That is the law in this country and you would do well to remember that,” said Marjory, her voice rising in tone, as her temper started to find its edge.

“Of course of course,” soothed Berry, “but this isn’t the first time is it Marjory? This son of yours is an habitual pervert, isn’t he?”

“Stop calling him that! Has he got problems? Yes. Has he had a perfect life? No. But he’s not a monster – he’s my son and until he is found guilty, I will defend him as is my right as a mother,” said Marjory.

“What’s the point of all this anyway? What has this got to do with my ability to do the job?” she asked the panel as a whole.

“Chair – if I may pick this up here?” It was Louise Morgan.

“By all means,” said Whittard.

“My thanks, Chair. Ms Mead, if I may, can I suggest that this has everything to do with you and your ability to perform your duties?”

“Go on. I can see where this is going but I can’t quite believe you have the nerve. But go on,” smiled Marjory, a thin, tight smile.

“Several times today you have requested that we get to the point and I intend to do just that. Let’s look at the facts. You come from a family that has produced several criminals – let’s not split hairs, that is what they are – and more than that, you have raised, nurtured even, a paedophile, one that you continue to share a home with. One that you continue to harbour ...”

“How dare you! How fuc ...” Marjory caught herself. She stopped, regained her composure.

“You cannot possibly be suggesting that what my son may or may NOT have done is due to his upbringing. That is a disgusting charge!” she said in a low, deep voice.

“Of course not Ms Mead but the facts, I believe, speak for themselves,” responded Morgan. “It cannot be denied that the history of crime in your family and the most recent charges laid against your son cannot in some way result in the people questioning your judgement and suitability for your current role. It is our job, here today, to establish how much of these environmental, familial issues impact your suitability for the role.

“Outrage is not going to help. I know this may be difficult but it is important that you keep a cool head Ms Mead and allow us to perform our duty.”

At this, Marjory stood up. She was an imposing woman when showing her full height and width. Hands placed firmly on the table, palms down, she addressed the panel: “You may think I’m an idiot, just as you assume all those who vote for you are idiots, but I and we are not. I understand fully what is happening here and I understand that my time is up. You have no intention of allowing me to continue as the People’s Politician and that this is just your way of ensuring that I don’t ...”

“Ms Mead, please sit down and respect the dignity of the Committee,” said Whittard.

“I’m not done!” replied Marjory firmly, holding Whittard’s gaze until he averted his own. “I went for this job because I thought I could make a real difference and get people engaged in politics again. And do you know what? I thought that was what you lot wanted too.

“But,” and at this point, it was possible to see her shoulders droop a little, “It’s obvious to me that every single last one of you is out for what you can get for yourselves. You’re like a private members’ club, elitist, snobby and happy to shit on everyone else if it means you get your way.”

“Ms Mead, I must object,” said Whittard. “I understand that your emotions are running high and that this is a very emotional time, but we cannot and will not accept foul language being used before the Committee.”

“I told you, I’m not finished,” said Marjory. Again she stared at Whittard until he could bear no more and went back to his papers. “Don’t worry, I’ll let you know when I am finished,” she said in the manner of a mother to a child.

“I’m heartbroken, not because of today or because of what is happening to my son but because there is no way of changing you people. You are so far removed from the man and woman on the street that it is difficult to see how you can ever relate to them never mind empathise with them.

“You disgust me. You really, really disgust me and I hope you understand that it takes a lot for me to really be disgusted with someone ...”

“It surely must to continue to live with that monster,” Berry said barely under his breath.

Marjory heard it but carried on regardless.

“You really are scum. You rob the people you are supposed to be representing and feel absolutely no shame about it. You act as though it is we, the people, who are out of synch with normality. If you feel so little shame for defrauding the country then I shudder to think what else you have all been up to.

“I’m heartbroken,” she repeated. “Heartbroken that the country I love has been annexed to serve the needs of you lot. Well let me tell you something – we are not worker bees, drones, making honey for the queen. You are supposed to represent our interests, fight our corner, do what is best for the country and for us. When did you forget that? Did you ever even understand that?”

“Are you quite finished?” barked Whittard.

“Answer my question,” responded Marjory. “Did you ever even understand what your role is?”

“We will be asking the questions here thank you very much Ms Mead,” said Whittard, shuffling through his papers dramatically. Marjory smiled, ironically, and sat down again.

“I think we’ve heard enough Ms Mead. We will inform you of our decision in the coming days and you will hear from us directly as to whether we believe you are a suitable individual to be holding the post of the People’s Politician.

“But I would like to say one last thing before the Committee breaks, and I want the record to clearly reflect my remarks. You have accused the elected members of Parliament of baseless immorality. I put it to you Ms Mead that those who dwell in glass houses should not throw stones.

“Lest we forget, you are a member of an habitually criminal family, one that has indulged in nearly every type of criminality and that you continue to harbour a son who has in the past committed one of the most disgusting and depraved crimes of all and stands accused of repeating that crime.

“For you to have the audacity to stand in front of this panel and suggest that it is we who are lacking in morals is simply outrageous. I will leave you with this thought – you would do well to look at your own situation, your own morals and your own behaviour before casting aspersions on others.

“And reflect on this, and I suggest you reflect hard – there is an old saying that I am rather fond of and I think it applies perfectly to your situation. The apple never falls far from the tree Ms Mead. We all have to take responsibility for our actions, whatever their consequences and you would do well to remember that.”

Whittard removed his glasses and as one, the Committe rose to depart. Just under the noise created by the movement of feet and papers, Marjory could be heard to utter a low but firm “fuck you” to the panel. She remained seated, still isolated, as the chamber emptied. She remained there until the cameras were switched off.




It was obvious what the outcome would be – Marjory would be stripped of her post and we would once again have to find another People’s Politician. It was only a matter of time, a matter of protocol, before the Committee came back with their recommendations. Everyone who had watched that little farce understood that. We could all see it.

What we could not see was Marjory’s flat, two days later, still surrounded by the press. In the dark, musty bedroom, Marjory’s lifeless body lay on the bed. Some would later say that she had taken the easy way out, the selfish way out of her problems. Still others suggested that it was an admission of guilt of sorts for the way her son turned out and that the Committee had been right about her.

As I saw it, as the news of her suicide was broadcast on all the main news bulletins, she had been hounded into taking her life. The way she had been treated by the Committee was, as far as I was concerned, an affront to our democracy.

Marjory had done her best and she had of course, as we all do, made mistakes. But the biggest mistake she made was to challenge the politicians. They would take a lot from the public but a challenge to their very own status quo? That could not be tolerated and every tool of the establishment available to them would be used to pummel, beat and ultimately destroy Marjory and it was sickening to witness.

Only two days after Marjory was buried at a small, private service, the politicians once again had their gameshow on the go, looking for the next mug to provide the democratic sheen to their operations. The lack of empathy with what had happened to Marjory shocked me. It felt like they had found a new level of boldness. They were behaving more brazenly than ever and it seemed they just didn’t care anymore. They wanted to flaunt their control, their impunity. They were in charge and nothing could change that. Not any individual, not even the collective will of the people.

For the politicians, Marjory’s death encouraged them to take the foot off the brakes. To maintain the pretence a little less vigorously. They behaved with a new impunity and they grew arrogant with it. But what the politicians could not see was that for one individual, who had taken great interest in Marjory’s experience, the whole episode acted as a spur to not just reapply the brakes but to pull the whole vehicle apart.


Chapter 8



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