Blackout - By Tom Barber


It was a few minutes to midnight on a spring night in London.

Inside a medium-sized office on the top floor of a three-storey building in West London, a man in his late-thirties was just finishing annotating the last page of eleven sequential A4 sheets of paper, his brow furrowed in concentration as he worked. He was a politician, but about as far removed from the stereotypical type as you could get.

Unlike a number of people in that career who so often sported the pasty complexion and soft, flabby physique that came with too much time sitting behind a desk, the man examining the papers had skin tanned and weathered by years in warmer climates. He was built like a professional rugby player, powerful arms and shoulders with not an ounce of excess body-fat on his midriff. He had a dark-featured chiselled face, a warm smile when he chose to use it and possessed a charisma that perfectly suited his chosen path as a politician. Collectively, these attributes had earned him a legion of admirers and supporters not just in his constituency but across the country. He had entered politics on a sheer whim a couple of years ago, and no one was more surprised than he at the meteoric success he had enjoyed so far.

However, as humble as the man was, it wasn't a fluke that he had done so well. Officially, the tabloids said it was due to his inspiring and morale-boosting speeches and his refreshingly straightforward and honest approach. But as his campaign manager had told him, he ticked two very important boxes as a front-runner in the elections, two things that probably wouldn't make the bold print of the newspapers but nonetheless were qualities that none of his competition shared. Women wanted to sleep with him and men wanted to buy him a beer.

Handsome, eloquent and charismatic, he was very much a maverick in the Kennedy and Obama mould, someone the public could relate to and get behind, a surprise but sure-fire candidate for leader of the party in due course. Show business for ugly people was how politics was often described. The man working on the papers behind the desk in his office that evening was definitely an exception.

Changing one final word on the last sheet of the pile, the man dropped the pen on the page and stretched back in his seat, yawning, wearily rubbing his face. He’d been working on this speech for weeks, and tomorrow was the day he would finally deliver it. He knew its success would either make or break his campaign.

He was due to speak at 11 am to a worker’s union across the city in Dalston, outlining his planned reforms and intentions for growth in the area if they chose to get behind him and help him get elected. Their support was crucial. He knew he had the middle-class vote in the bag. If he got the Dalston backing, it would be a clincher. Get them on his side, win the seat and who knew what could happen next. Given his recent run of success, he was sure as the night was dark that he could get to 10 Downing Street one day. He'd always been an ambitious man, and as everyone around him had started to realise, his confidence was infectious. Day by day, public belief in the man was growing, matching the same inner sureness that he’d always had in himself.

He stretched the tight muscles of his neck from side to side, rubbing the day’s worth of stubble that had accumulated on his chin and cheeks. Blinking fatigue from his eyes, he checked the clock on the wall across the room. He caught it just as the long hand ticked forward, nestled side-by-side with the small hand. 11:59 pm. Time to head home. He needed to be on his best form tomorrow and that meant a solid night’s sleep, or as good a one as he could get considering the importance of tomorrow's commitments.

He rose from his desk, reshuffling the series of papers carefully into numerical order, then slid them into a slender brown folder resting on the desktop. Closing it, he placed the folder inside his briefcase and clicked it shut, spinning the two three-digit dials with his thumbs.

He was wearing dark suit trousers with a light-blue shirt, and the sleeves were rolled up to reveal thick forearms and a series of faded tattoos. Working here at night alone was usually the only time that he could