2005: Big Blair is Watching
It was a bright cold day in September, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Walter Wolfgang-Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort hide his boredom at the speakers, sat patiently listening to the constant drive of newspeak. Only a few years ago he had obediently and unthinkingly followed the crowd's chants of "Education, Education, Education", "Forward, not back", and "He's a fighter, not a quitter". He had been a true believer is the teachings of Big Blair. Now as he sat listening, Winston - sorry, Wolfgang - was sure that the minister addressing the crowd was incorrect.
"We are in Iraq for one reason only," said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. "To help the elected Iraqi government build a secure, democratic and stable nation.
"And we can and will only remain with their consent."
Wolfgang was sure this was wrong, but the minister was so convincing. Was he right?
Wolfgang cast his mind back to the other instances, the other times he was sure that the official line differed form the truth. There was the increase in tax. When National Insurance had been increased, the people were told that there had been no increase in income tax, but Winston was sure his pay had gone down by one per cent. Then there were the war reports. Wolfgang was sure that England had supplied arms to Iraq many years ago. He remembered holding the article that needed amending as if it were yesterday. "British companies supplied arms and munitions to Iraq", said the paper. But we have always been at war with Iraq, haven't we? So have America, our allies. In fact, they have always been at war with Afghanistan, but, Wolfgang thought, didn't the Americans used to train and supply the Taliban? If only his memory were clearer.
He was sure there had been other "amendments" to the truth. Crime was down, according to Big Blair, but Wolfgang dared not venture out on the streets at night. Hospital waiting times were down, but Winston had still not had his ulcer seen to. MPs had generously frozen their salaries, while greedy firemen had voted themselves a 41% pay increase, claimed the bulletins, but Wolfgang was sure that wasn't so.
As the words flowed from the mouth of the Foreign Secretary, Wolfgang could feel the warm glow of rebellion rising inside him. Was he about to do it? Could he? No one spoken out, for fear of disappearing, of being removed by the thought police. It's what happened in the democracy of Big Blair. Even looking like you were thinking differently to the rest of the party carried the risk of being picked up by the telescreens. Suddenly, Wolfgang couldn't bear it any longer.
"Nonsense," he said. A few delegates near him looked startled, some turned round to see where the voice had come from. Wolfgang composed himself and cleared his throat.
"Nonsense!" he shouted.
The response was immediate. Stewards wearing the official uniform of the Thought Police appeared on both sides of the large room, as if from nowhere. Looking around, Wolfgang could see them stepping over other delegates, who were staring straight ahead, pretending they did not see what was happening. He glanced at the exit, but they already had in covered. It was a foolish thought. He was 82, far too old to outrun them, and far too old to resist. He slowly rose to his feet, accepting his fate. A steward launched himself at him, manhandling him quickly and firmly. Another grabbed his shoulder. At double pace they speeded him through the doors. He knew where he was destined: The Ministry of Love.
The rest of the delegates had seen Wolfgang being removed, they knew where he was heading to, but their eyes stared straight ahead, fixed on the Minister behind the rostrum. No-one's face betrayed any sign of anxiety, or surprise, or anger. They knew they could be next. Anyone could be next.