“I used to be deputy Prime Minister y’know,” repeated the patient as he tugged at the nurses skirt. “Yes, dear, I know, you tell me every day. But you’re not now are you? You’re a very sick man and if you don’t stop touching me like that, I’ll increase the medication dose again,” came the reply. The patient reluctantly took his hand away and moved it to his crotch, where the fabric was badly worn. She didn’t mind him playing with himself like that, so long as he didn’t loosen his trousers. She scribbled a note in his order book about buying new trousers, ‘with triple layered crotch’, to stop him from ruining the next pair so quickly.
Later on that day the team meeting for the patients on Clegg’s ward discussed his case. The consensus was that his condition was unusually incurable. Some of the younger staff members were in favour of transferring him to the experimental ward. Jones led this suggestion, “it’s not as if he’s got any family or friends. No-one’s going to complain and the staff over there are much more suited to restraining troublemakers like him.” The religious observer shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Did you have something to say?” asked Jones. “You know I don’t have speaking rights,” said the man in black. “Well, sit still and shut up then!” The man in the black cloth stared back fiercely. “Gentlemen, gentlemen,” said Smith, the lead consultant, “there’s no need to fall out over this sad case. Clegg is clearly suffering from a particularly severe form of Pick’s disease coupled with an unusually persistent past life fantasy. He could be an interesting case, if could could stop pleasuring himself for more than a minute at a time. I accept that he is very hard to work with…”.
Atkinson interrupted him, “Hard work?! That’s putting it mildly. You cannot get him to do anything at all unless you perform the obsessive ritual that he requires, what’s it called?” “Coalition negotiation agreement or something like that,” suggested Stephenson. “Yes, that’s it. The bizarre thing is that he seems more obsessed about the name of the agreement than whether he achieves a good bargain or not. What’s all that about?” General laughter broke out. Everybody had had their fun with Clegg. He could be persuaded to perform the most humiliating tasks so long as he got ‘something’ in return. “Do you remember the time the other patients persuaded him to spend the entire day jumping on the spot shouting ‘Yes Sir’ and ‘how high shall I jump sir’ on the hour, in exchange for some dried orange peel?” Stephenson struggled to get her words out through her choking hysteria. They would have pity for him, were he not such an irritatingly dirty old man. He cut the ward’s most pathetic figure, a real human tragedy. When Smith mentioned that he had kept that orange peel for over a year and appeared to prefer touching it to himself in his calmer moments, they quietened.
The silent figure in black, tugged at his collar, awkwardly. If the Church was right that there were some souls beyond redemption, Clegg presented the worst candidate for heavenly reward. Elsewhere in the hospital, Clegg was tugging at himself and upsetting anyone with the name David.
“The notes say that he’s worn out yet another pair of trousers,” muttered Smith, “and is still demanding anyone call David talk about ‘the good old days with him’… yet he alone fails to respond to past life fantasy curing medication. I just don’t get it. Any thoughts, anyone?” They all knew that various forms of dementia sometimes included a form of past life fantasy, as if the human brain in a bid to protect it’s owner invented false memories as a kindness. Normally, the drugs developed in the early 2040s cured this problem and brought the patient back to reality. Clegg was the only known case in the country in which the drugs did not work. “I’m not sure if the other studies included data on stubborness?” ventured Atkinson. Clegg was well known for digging in for what he called his ‘principles’. Whereas usually this word was associated with some kind of political or moral standpoint, in Clegg’s case it revolved around colour schemes. He would only read something if the device it was held in was painted Orange. If anyone read anything from anything not orange, he would shout them down. Consequently, all the data units in his ward had to be painted orange, otherwise he interfered with the other patient’s therapeutic exercises.
“Could it be that he isn’t suffering from a past life fantasy at all?” asked Stephenson. “Could it be that he was once the Deputy Prime Minister?” Now, the others were not laughing, they were rolling their eyes. Stephenson persisted with her point, “Seriously, we know that we lost the names of lots of political figures from before the Great Hacking Scramble of 2017, could it be that he was, perhaps very briefly, in high office.” Sternly, Langham broke into the discussion for the first time, “We’ve been through this already, before you joined the team. If that were true, you would expect some other records to mention him. They still used paper back then. We checked with the museums and libraries. There’s no reference to him anywhere. Not in literature, political reports, popular culture, nothing. You’d expect, at the very least, some kind of clue, such as some minor regulations which bear his name. It’s a non-starter, believe me.” Stephenson conceded the point, nodding, “Okay, it can’t be true. What’s this thing he keeps mentioning, the ‘libdems’, does anyone know what that means?” They all looked at the holy man and Smith indicated with a waive of his fingers, that he had permission to speak, adding, “Restrict yourself to historical knowledge obtained from the Church archives, please“.
The cleric cleared his throat and said, “There is some evidence – and I must stress it is far from consistent – which suggests that the very early part of this century did see a minor cult flourish under the name ‘LibDems’. The problem for our historians is that beyond arguments over the correct use of the colour orange, there’s no evidence of any kind of associated creed. It’s difficult to ascertain the truth of the matter. I need hardly remind you that all theologies have some kind of world view.” Wanting to progress the discussion onto the next patient, Smith concluded by saying, “Clegg is apparently offering us yet another deal. This time he says that he will comply with all instructions for a decade, if we put pictures of the last Tory prime minister and the last heir to the British throne above his bed. The only other condition is that both must be naked and caught in what he describes as ‘a commanding position’. I guess he knows that we can create such an image artificially but doesn’t care. He’s very keen on this. My question is whether there is an ethical conflict with the rights of the other patients? We all know why he wants this…“.
Jones spoke again, “Yes, he wants to use them for sexual gratification.” Stephenson said, “I can’t see a problem if we insist in that he agrees to restrict himself to masturbating silently with the curtain around his bed drawn. It should be easy to get his agreement to that!” Smith summarised the position before turning the discussion to the next patient, “Yes, he’s just a wanker“.