Hariet Townshend stood slightly dumbfounded for a second as Sig question seeped into her brain. She should have known better than to engage with Sig, he might not have been the smartest person she’d ever had to face but his questions were more often that not barbed, especially at press conferences. She looked over at her public relations person in the hope of getting an excuse to get her out of answering the question but there was none coming.

Hariet knew that she had to come up with an answer, it was only seconds since Sig had asked but those seconds were uncomfortable. It was made even more uncomfortable by the fact that what Sig was asking was the truth. Her own party, with her in agreement when she had been an elected leader, did sell off the paper mills and it did cost job, many of them in her local area, it was a contributing factor why she wasn’t re-elected.

“Well Sigurd,” Hariet Townshend was like his mother, she used his full name not Sig when she wasn’t impressed. “When the Labourers sold the Paper Mills it was done…” Hariet paused in an effort to let her mind catch up to her mouth, “it was done to allow them to compete on a world stage. Give then a greater presence in the world market. Privatising the gas company is a move made purely to create board room jobs for the top end of town and so the Liberates can bring us the budget surplus they promised.”

Hariet felt proud of her answer after being put on the spot. It was not an answer she had practised and not one her PR department had considered worth of providing her an answer for, something she would take up with them before the day was over. However in her own words she’d managed to drop key words into the right place, words that psychologists and other experts insisted worked within the subconscious minds of people.

Sig and many of the reporters present were able to pick the ‘pollie’ speak for what it was. Things like using the word sold when talking about the paper mills, but using the word privatising when talking about the gas company, because the later had more of a negative connotation to it. There was also the obvious talk up of the paper mill sale with positive ideas that suggested the business would get bigger and better, where as for the gas company it was things the average voter felt more negative about, like jobs for the rich and poor governance.

As Hariet turned from the microphone in the hope she could make an exit quickly Sig had other ideas.

“But Mrs. Townshend, you did not address the question.” Hariet turned back to the microphone knowing what it would look like if she kept walking. “Even if someone can produce figures to show the Paper Mills are more competitive in the global market, which financial analysts currently suggest they can’t, that doesn’t address the jobs issue. Your party promised more jobs because of the sale and they promised a stronger more stable workforce. The mills now hire half the staff they used to, many of the contracting jobs go to off shore companies and unemployment in your own electorate has risen to 11%.” Sig took a breath but he wasn’t finished. “So while many of us agree that selling off another government asset is not for the benefit of the voters, how can you possibly take the stance you are when decisions of your own party, only three years ago, cost so many jobs? Not only that they cost the jobs of many who actually voted for you.”

Hariet knew she didn’t have long to come up with the unscripted response and again she started speaking before her mind at finished thinking of that response. “Unemployment is up across the country because this current government is more interested in slogans, and making sure the top end of town get their tax relief. This government has shown very little by way of leadership when it comes to creating jobs. For all their speak about creating jobs, for all the times they’ve told us that they are creating a stronger work force businesses a closing down and government jobs are being cut. The record of this government stands alone when it comes to unemployment.”

Prompted by Hariet’s public relations adviser the rent-a crowd at the front of the group started cheering and clapping loudly drowning out any chance Sig or someone else had to ask further questions. It was another tactic often played by politicians in the spot light and it gave Hariet a chance to thank the crowd and walk off the small stage waving her hand in the air as if she’d just had some kind of victory.

Hariet’s response was politics 101, never accept blame for anything and when it’s impossible not to accept the blame remind the voters of what the opposing party had done that was worse. The only game worse than playing the blame game was when politics because personal and the home lives of politicians became fair game. Usually that happened more in the closing stages of an election campaign as one party scrambled to find any leg up over the opposition as they could but neither side was immune from it and once one started it was an open game of tit for tat.

Politics had become a dirty game fought by people desperate to cling to importance and the desire to be liked. Both sides were guilty of it and it was the country who suffered for it because it was no longer a vote to see who ran the country it was a vote of popularity and the loser was voted out, not the winner voted in.

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