We had it all worked out. The posters were printed: Don't vote, it only encourages them, Whoever you vote for the politicians win, etc., all the usual stuff.
Then, with all the grace and timing of a Labour Party leader's defection, Lazy Pete Maguire goes and calls a Special Conference of the Spontaneous Aggravation Party. We hurriedly booked a dance hall a few miles from Kinnegad as the venue, left word in O'Donoghue's, The Oasis, The Long Rest and various other constituency HQs, ran off an emergency agenda, got the AA to stick up some directional signs all the usual activities necessary for the assembling of a great political institution.
Up to then we had planned merely to indulge in the usual harassment of the hustlers as they went about their business of telling lies. My own favoured tactic was the Cork-Dublin Tunnel gambit. Canvassers come to the door ask them where they stand on the building of the Cork-Dublin Tunnel. Tell them it's the issue on which your vote hangs. If they look puzzled you ask scathingly if they are so removed from the interests of the people that they are unaware of this issue - and they'll hasten to assure you that the Cork-Dublin Tunnel is high on their list of priorities.
Play your cards right and you'll get them to assure you that their candidate is convinced that the Cork-Dublin Tunnel is not just desirable but imperative. Then tell them you're relieved to hear this as you know for a fact that a huge number of people in the area refused to vote last time because they believed the politicians were soft on the Cork-Dublin Tunnel.
The canvassers will then go from door to door on your road and the first thing out of their mouths will be a commitment to build a tunnel from Cork to Dublin. Canvassers are usually quite thick and it won't be until they've had a few dozen doors slammed in their faces that it will dawn on them that they've given a lot of people a very good reason to refuse to vote.
Fingers Kavanagh prefers a more drastic method. Last February he enticed four canvassers into his house, provided cups of tea complete with icky may inny fay, and carried the sedated procurers of votes down to the cellar. There they were subjected, day after day, to video recordings of party political broadcasts and selected extracts from Today Tonight. The last one was released towards the end of September, proclaiming to anyone who would listen his hatred of politicians and their vile activities. Fingers calls his technique "de-programming" . However, Lazy Pete put the kibosh on these plans. The country is facing a crisis, he told us, and special measures were called for.
Pete's argument went something like this: here we have the third general election in eighteen months, he told the Special Conference. At each successive election more and more people have rallied to the cause of SAP, less and less have sanctioned the activities of the hustlers by going out and voting. A massive 26.2% of the electorate stayed home last February, while a further 0.9% spoiled their votes, giving us a total of 27.1 %. This represents a swing to SAP of 2.6% since 1981.
At present, Fianna Fail claims 47% of the vote and Fine Gael 37% (February figures). But these percentages relate merely to the people who reject SAP and actually take the hustlers seriously and vote. If one computes the figures objectively one finds that of those entitled to vote Fianna Fail gets the support of 34.2% and Fine Gael gets 26.9%. So, whoever is Taoiseach will be governing according to the wishes of approximately a third of the electorate. And what does this tiny but vociferous minority want?
Pete pointed out that in 1981 the hustlers came looking for "a mandate". They didn't get it. Hung Dail. Same thing in February 1982. Now they're back again, pleading for "a mandate", and it's doubtful if either gang will get a majority of seats. Fact: they've been looking for a mandate to slash away at expenditure on health, education, social welfare. Fact: the electorate keeps refusing to give them such a mandate. Question: if they are, for a third time, refused such a mandate will they bugger off and think up some policies which might be acceptable to the electorate? Answer: wise-up, Bosco.
"The electorate", said Lazy Pete, "will wait in vain for the hustlers to seek a mandate to tackle the doctors, the drug companies, the other thieves who cost us £100m in unpaid taxes. And eventually they'll cobble together some kind of arrangement which will allow them to rook us. We must act now!"
Pete, as General Secretary of SAP, had taken it upon himself to draw up a policy document for this election. After much discussion the Special Conference passed the document unanimously. It allows us to continue urging people to boycott the charlatans on the basis that, a) the important decisions are taken outside the Dail, b) the electoral system is anti-democratic, and c) if voting could change society they'd make it illegal. However, the document also commits us to call on those who don't see through the charade, and who still believe that democracy consists of writing 1,2,3, on a piece of paper every eight months, to vote independent. Here's the rationale: nobody gave a damn about the inner city until Tony Gregory held the balance of power - then some few things were done about it. If we work this right we can have an election every eight months and each time we'll have an Independent holding the balance - that way we might get something useful done around this place. Every area gets to take its turn.
You see the flaw in this, don't you? There are a lot of loonies about and some of them come under the designation "Independent". You don't want, for instance, Joe Abolish Drinking Leg Warmer Clean Air And Whatever You're Having Yourself O'Looney holding the balance of power, do you? He might demand that the new Corporation Offices be knocked down, that Dublin be pedestrianised from Tal1aght to Blanchardstown, that Viking clothing be compulsory. And Charlie or Garret would agree.
So, Lazy Pete had drawn up SAP's List Of Ten - a sample from the "Others" list of candidates with some record of not being in the game for the main chance. From the top: Declan Bree, Tony Gregory, Nan Joyce, Billy Keegan, Jim Kemmy, Jim Lane, Bill Loughnane Jr., Bernadette McAliskey, Johnny Montgomery, Liz Noonan.
Better still, the election's on Wednesday, so get in a six-pack and settle down to watch The Gangster Chronicles.
(Voice from the balcony: Oh, I say, sir, you go too far! Politicians have begun acting responsibly these days, haven't you heard?
Oh, yeah? Excuse me, folks, I've a sudden urge to go outside and watch the flying pigs.)