“I see the old village Headman died.” Ig said.
“We’ve got a Headman?” Replied Ug suppressing a smile.
“Not any more.” Ig chuckled.
“So what do we do now?” asked Ug.
“Well, if the Headman had any sons, the oldest would become the Headman.”
“Did the Headman have any sons?” Ug asked.
“Nope. No daughters, either. In fact, his nearest relatives live almost 20 miles away.”
“Wow, that’s a long way! So, what do we do to replace the Headman?” Ug asked.
“No one knows.”
“Well, someone has to be in charge. We’ll have to do something.” Ug said, an edge of determination in his voice.
“Does someone have to be in charge?” Ig asked. He knew what the answer would be. He could hear it in Ug’s tone of voice, but he thought it might be worth a try.
“Of course someone has to be in charge. They have to collect the taxes, then spend them wisely for the benefit of the people.”
“I’m sure he did. That’s what Headmen do.”
“I know he ate a lot of turnips.” Ig said. “Well, if you’re sure. So, if there’s no Headman, who’s going to take charge.”
“One of us could do it.” Ug suggested.
“Sounds time consuming to me. I mean to say, we both live very busy lives.” Ig was desperate not to have anything interrupt his ram watching.
“No, it can’t take that long, otherwise the last Headman wouldn’t have done it, would he? I’m sure he had other things to do as well.” Ug tried to think of an example to prove his point, but failed. But he wasn’t going to be deflected.
“OK, but if one of us is going to do it, which of us will it be?”
“Well, I think it should be me.” Ug stated, firmly.
“And why should it be you? Why not me?” Ig challenged him.
“Because … because it was my idea.”
“Just my little joke on account of the fact that the old Headman didn't actually do very much as far as I could tell.” Ug placed his hands on his hips in a gesture that Ig had learned to hate. “But seeing as we both want to be the new Headman, we’ll have to have an election.”
“You’ve just made that up, haven’t you?” Ig had long years of experience of Ug's creativity.
“No.” Ug protested. “It’s a real thing. What we do is, we each tell the people of the village why we think that we should be the Headman, and the people choose between us, based on which of us puts up the best argument.”
“Like what?” Ig knew he would regret asking, but it was too late.
“Like, I think we should pay less taxes. A whole turnip every month is far too much.
“I agree.” Replied Ig.
“No, you can’t agree. If we agree on everything then people won’t know which of us to choose. So, if I say I want less taxes, you have to say you want more.”
“But I don’t.” Ig was getting confused.
“And what do people really want to hear?”
“Erm … Er … they want to hear that I’ll lower taxes.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’ll ask them. I’ll hold an opinion poll.” Ug was starting to get a bit carried away and it was showing.
“What’s one of them?”
“They’ll tell you alright. They’ll tell you to stop poking them with your poll.” Ig laughed.
“Well, at least I’ll know that much. You don’t know anything.”
“OK, let me see if I understand this. You tell them what you think they want to hear and I tell them what I think they want to hear, and whichever one of us they like better, he gets to be the new village Headman.” Ig summarised.
“You’ve got it now.”
"And when we get elected, we do what we told the people."
"Oh good grief no. What we tell the people is that we'd like to do what we said we'd do, but it's all too difficult."
That all sounded very complicated to Ig, so he changed the subject. “That election thingy sounds very expensive. How will we pay for it?” Ig, as always, didn’t have any turnips.
“Why would they do that?”
“So that when whichever of us wins, we’ll do what they want us to do.”
“Isn’t that dishonest.” Ig asked naively. "Aren't we supposed to do what the people want us to do?"
“It’s only dishonest if someone finds out. And if you do what the people want you to do you'll end up going around in circles, because they all want you to do different things.”
Ig had to agree with that. He just had to look at the sort of things that Ug wanted him to do compared with what his wife wanted him to do. “I assume that we both can’t ask the same people for turnips.”
“You’re dead right there, Ig, me old mate. So I’ll ask the bloke who owns the turnip fields, and the woman who owns the chickens that lay all our eggs, and the bloke that owns the cow and the bloke that owns the sheep.”
“Hey, that’s all the rich people. Who can I ask?” Ig protested.
“You get your turnips from the poor people. But not directly, because poor people don’t have many turnips. You have to have a chat with that bloke Arfor.”
“What, him that runs the Amalgamated Union of Wood Gatherers and Allied Trades?”
“That’s the bloke. He’ll give you some of the turnips that he gets from his members.”
“And what will he want in return?” When it came to handing over other people's turnips Ig was suspicious of other people’s motives.
“He’ll ask for higher wages and shorter working hours for his members.” Ug replied.
“How will I give him that? I don’t employ his members. I can’t tell the employers what to do.”
“Correct, and Arfor knows that. It just gives him something to tell his members to justify taking some of their wages every week. It makes him look like he’s doing the job they’re paying him for.”
“Will Arfor get higher wages and shorter working hours?”
“Probably.” Ug replied. He threw a stone at the ram, trying to put it off its stride.
“Whatever he wants. He’ll have a mandate.”
“You just made that up, didn’t you?”
Ug wasn’t about to admit that he had. “No. If I’m the winner it means that the people trust me to do the right thing, so I have a mandate to do whatever I want to do.”
“And what is the right thing?” Ig asked.
“I’m blowed if I know.”
“Well, will it be what you told the villagers you were going to do?” Ig asked.
“Good grief no. That’s only to get them to vote for me.”
“So, what will you do?” Ig asked.
“Probably raise taxes. I’m rather partial to a bit of boiled turnip.”
“But you said you wouldn’t raise taxes.” Ig protested.
“Yes, but nobody will really believe that.” Ug replied, a smug look on his face.
“Well, if you get elected, I’ll oppose you. I’ll remind the people what you said.”
“You can do that, if you want, but it won’t do any good.”
“Why not?” Ig asked, already knowing the answer.
“Because I’ll be the Headman and you won’t. You can’t do anything if you haven’t got power, it doesn’t matter how well-meaning you may be.”
“You don’t know you’ll get elected. I might win.”
“No you won’t. The polls have already told me I’m going to win.”
“How could you possibly know that? We only started talking about this a few minutes ago.” Ig protested.
“No. You only started talking about this a few minutes ago. I started thinking about this months ago, when the old Headman got sick. So I used my opinion poll to make sure that if we ever had an election, I would win.”
“How did you do that?”
“I threatened to bash people with it if they didn’t vote for me.” Ug said, looking more smug by the minute.
“That isn’t fair.” Ig was almost incandescent with rage.
“Hey, this is politics. What’s fairness got to do with anything?”