It was always going to be a dangerous day in the White House when the President called the Australian Prime Minister, but it had to be done. The most powerful man in the world had a job to do.
“Excuse me, sir,” said the aide tactfully, “but you called him last year.”
“Did not,” said POTUS. “Didn’t, didn’t, didn’t.”
“It was June sir, just after their election…” – the aide tailed off. It was useless when the Prez was in this mood. Just last week he had insisted on calling Liz Trust, the former PM of Britain, ignoring the advice that she had been dumped. The call had been, well, confusing, but the Prez was now convinced Liz was going to be an astronaut for NASA.
“His name’s Elbow” said POTUS helpfully. The aide sighed quietly. “No sir, Elbowsneezy – Elbow is what his buddies call him”. The aide dialled the number on the Oval Office extension. “Talking points sir: nuclear subs — yes, but slowly; bases bigger and quicker, don’t mention that…“
Far away, in the middle of the night, a lonely phone rang. Quickly, the aide picked up the other line, and pressed Record. It was usually only a matter of an hour or so before the Prez’s remarks had to be reinterpreted, or ‘walked back’, as the staff fondly knew them.“Hi there, buddy, is that Elbow? It’s POTUS here, Joe B to my mates, or cobbers as we know you say. And “G’day” – we know you like that!”
“G’day”, said a thin, quiet, nervous man on the other end. It was The Lodge cleaner. He was on his tenth Bundy of the night, taken quietly from a small bottle carried in his trolley. A man had to take his help where he could.
“Speak up, mate” said POTUS heartily, while solving a Rubik’s Cube in one hand. It was a one made specially for him, with internal springs. No matter what, it clicked back into the right order. “I can’t hear your voice, Elbow – what’s happening, bud?”
“My voice is going,” said the cleaner, leaning wearily against the wall.
“Your voice?“ said the man whose finger might well rest on the nuclear trigger if he hadn’t dropped it behind the bedside cabinet with some more of those ‘top secret’ files that couldn’t fit in the garage.
“Yes, I’ve got a problem with my voice,” came the explanation. The aide scribbled a note on his pad with a Magic Marker of Color: You’re the Voice’ is a popular song Down Under. Not for nothing had he done a year of State Department familiarisation in Oz. He had drunk enough beer to float a Virginia-class submarine.
And so it came to be that a security guard detained a cleaner who was singing a popular song called “You’re the Voice” into the prime minister’s hotline phone. The whole incident was written up in a confidential internal report, and by chance the PM saw it as he was skimming his briefs the next morning. Elbow wasn’t much interested: it had been a hard session at the tennis – the Australian Open demanded a lot of staying power, and the eating of Magnum ice-creams. Someone had to do the hard yards for the country.
“What’s this call from the US President?” he demanded. “Why wasn’t I connected?”
An aide coughed nervously. “You were busy, sir”.
“Don’t call me ‘sir’ – it’s ‘comrade’ – remember! Maybe the Prez has given me a tip. What’s that song he mentioned?’
And as quick as a tax collector’s phone call, the staff were onto it. It turned out there was a song which could be used. The lyrics were great:
You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear
It took a few weeks, a consultancy, some outsourcing, and a lot of vodka, but eventually the staff came up with an alternative for Prime Minister. By this time he’d been in power for nearly a year, and the original advisors had all been fired – the ones who had said ‘No’, or ‘Maybe you shouldn’t do that’, and especially ‘That’s definitely not a good idea’.
The campaign for the Voice, therefore, would feature the PM in a converted Tesla with an open top. Some of the security advisors wanted a Popemobile-style bulletproof clear glass box, but Elbow himself overruled it on the grounds of it being unAustralian. He would proudly stand in the car as the processions would wind their way through each capital city. The lyrics would be belted out of the public address vans.
It was a busy Saturday in Melbourne as the first cavalcade skirted the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Thousands of Greens and Labor supporters were there, having been paid $10 and a free Maccas to turn up. The procession was ten vehicles long. There was a fire engine, personed with lady-boy firefighters. There were three police cars, all electric, and all with an LGBTIX@#$ stripe down the side. The fifth vehicle was the PM’s Tesla.
It had to be said Elbow was in good form. His microphone technique was the stuff of several rehearsals. The lyrics were great:
I’m the voice, try and understand it
An extra vote for some, let’s make it clear
We’re not gonna live with violence
We’re gonna give you free beer
The procession wound its way down the street, and the supporters yelled and screamed. Nearby, a small group of northern Queensland Aboriginals, down for the footy. They were very black, and very lost, having been dumped by an Uber driver who thought they wanted to go to the cricket.
“Who was that, cuz?”
“Dunno, some bloke says he’s the voice.”
“Does that mean anything for us, bro?”
“Nuh, I read about it online. It’s a thing to make the PM more famous”.
“He’s a good singer but. Great voice he has.”