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The Harder Struggle by Ericfmc
Chapter 20: Let's Do a Deal
Arthur studied the 15 people in the room. There were holding a party meeting in a conference room on the second floor of the Ministry of Magic. Doge was giving them a rundown on the various factions in the Wizengamot. None of this was news to Arthur; he had had to work with these different factions ever since he had first held a management position in the ministry. Besides, Doge had given them the same briefing the previous week.
The largest faction by far was the so called Pragmatists. Arthur despised them. They used their position in the Wizengamot to enhance their careers in the ministry and in other organisations. They used their ministry positions to enhance their careers in the Wizengamot. The only principle they recognised was self-interest. Gemalla Wenglespon was their leader as well as the chief Mugwump of the Wizengamot, a position that gave her considerable ability to influence proceedings on the floor.
The second largest faction was the Traditionalists. They were conservative in their outlook and believed that the old families had a special duty to guide society. They had influence beyond their numbers. Grantham was not the formal leader of the faction, indeed he was the youngest member, but due to his dynamism and intellect, he was increasingly being seen as its dominant player. Arthur disagreed with just about everything they stood for but he acknowledged that in general they were men and women of principle.
The Merchant Lobby and the Guild faction were both about the same size. They were natural enemies. The Merchants wanted economic liberties and free markets while the Guilds wanted to keep much economic activity under the control of the traditional craft based guilds. Automatic representation in the Wizengamot gave guilds such as the Healers guild and the Potioners guild enormous clout.
The smallest group called themselves the Purists. Everyone else called them the Fanatics. They had exalted in Voldemort’s rein using their positions enthusiastically to support his programs. Nominally, they had seven members in the Wizengamot. However, four, including Dolores Umbridge, were in Azkaban, two were on the run and the last didn’t dare show his face outside his home. All would soon be expelled. It wasn’t just the Fanatics; every faction had at least one member who was either in Azkaban or who was under investigation and had been suspended. It was a sorry record.
The factions weren’t rigid structures; they were more like informal groupings. They couldn’t guarantee that all their members would vote the same way on any one issue. In addition to the factions there were also a dozen members who could be regarded as independent. This made for a very dynamic environment. Complex deals were necessary to get anything through.
When Doge’s briefing was finished, they discussed their strategy for getting their candidate into the vacant slot on the High Warranters. They agreed they would formally announce their support for Herman Heblog when the slot was declared vacant later that day.
Attention then turned to Neville. This morning he would be inducted into the Wizengamot and he looked a little shell shocked, as if wondering how he had got himself into this situation. Still his grandmother would be there, proud as punch, as would most of his friends. With great effort he had persuaded her not to wear her vulture hat. Luna had told him she would wear the bright yellow outfit she had worn to Bill and Fleur’s wedding because, as she said with shining eyes, “it is a celebration and because you will bring a bright light into a dark place.” With Neville, the new party would have four members in the Wizengamot, by far the smallest grouping.
The meeting was winding up. Arthur was satisfied with what he had observed. There was a great deal of enthusiasm in the room, true determination and perhaps more confidence than was actually warranted. That was good too, concluded Arthur. A young party needed confidence.
Most of those present were attending Neville’s induction and they now escorted him to the main Wizengamot chamber with great fanfare. The public gallery was already rapidly filling as was the press gallery.
When the time came, Neville stood on the edge of the chamber, a large staff in his hand. As ceremony required he raised it high and struck the floor loudly three times. The Pontifex Wizen, a small tufty haired wizard, strode forth and asked in a loud clear voice.
“Who stands there demanding admittance to the ancient Chamber of the Wizen?”
“I, Neville Francis Longbottom do demand my due place among the leaders of the Wizen.”
“Who among us certifies this strangers right to be admitted among us,” demanded the Pontifex Wizen.
“I Kingsley Odubai Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic, so certify.”
“If any challenge the legitimacy of this certification, proclaim it now.”
“Step forth Neville Francis Longbottom and be admitted.”
Neville took two steps forward into the chamber. The Pontifex Wizen then administered an oath of loyalty to the Wizengamot. He then handed Neville a set of plum robes.
“Don these robes as a mark of your authority to enter this chamber.” Neville put on the robe.
The Pontifex Wizen then placed a cap on Neville’s head. “May this cap remind you of your duty to act with deliberation, compassion and justice.”
Neville stood tall and proud. He looked splendid in his robes.
“Neville Francis Longbottom, be welcome among us.”
The Wizengamot, as was the tradition, gave him a standing ovation. The public gallery erupted with applause. Hermione, Ginny, Luna and Hannah Abbot all had tears of joy and pride in their eyes as did his grandmother.
The Speaker then called the Wizengamot to order.
“First order of business is nomination of candidates for the vacant position on the Convocation of Warrants and Antecedents or, as we like to call them, the High Warranters.”
Each of the faction leaders stood in turn and nominated their candidate for the position. Herman Heblog was nominated by one of his friends but Doge was quickly on his feet seconding the nomination.
The surprise was the nomination of Rufus Lazarre. This clearly infuriated Gemalla Wenglespon, leader of the Pragmatists. Lazarre was a long standing and senior member of that faction but they had refused to nominate him because he had alienated too many of the other factions. He was unelectable. He had decided to nominate as an independent candidate anyway and was sure to draw some votes from the faction’s official candidate. Lazarre didn’t care.
Lazarre, an archetypal Pragmatist, was a larger than life wheeler and dealer who always seemed to come out on top. He was widely known as Rush Rufus for the way he put deals together and how people felt about it later. Lazarre’s nomination brought smiles to both the Traditionalists and the Merchants who now fancied their chances.
Before the first round each candidate had an opportunity to put forward their case for election to the High Warranters. There was little interest in what most had to say, they had heard it all before, but they were looking forward to hearing Lazarre and curious about Heblog.
Heblog put his case succinctly.
“Of the eighty members of this assembly, a staggering fourteen are missing. They are in Azkaban, on the run, under investigation for serious crimes or too ashamed to show their faces. That is an unanswerable indictment of this place. It is rotten. It is broken. Business as usual is no longer acceptable. You can help the process of reform by supporting me or you can be swept away by the tide of history. The choice is yours.”
“and we don’t choose you!” is what many present said to themselves. The speech was met with polite applause and many sniggers.
Lazarre was even more succinct.
“You know me,” he said gruffly, “I get things done. Vote for me and I’ll fill this place with people who get things done.” He sat down.
To win, a candidate had to gain at least 50% of the vote. In the diminished Wizengamot this meant 34 votes. The first round of voting was a simple show of strength, with each faction voting for their own candidate. The Pragmatist candidate, Evan Supplemeir and the Traditionalists’ Paul Steelman both gained 15 votes each. The Merchants came next with 12 votes. Surprisingly, Herman Heblog received 10 votes, the same as the Guilds candidate, Paula Pestle. Heblog had clearly gained a large proportion of the independent vote, although with secret ballots being used it wasn’t possible to be sure where votes came from. Lazarre had taken 4 votes off the Pragmatists and they were not happy.
Now the real work began. The winning candidate would need some support from at least three factions. That meant difficult negotiations. The Pragmatists, of course, would do a deal with anyone as long as it didn’t diminish their ability to rort the system and profit from deal making. The problem was finding two other groupings that could stomach each other enough to get a deal done.
The best bet for a deal was with the Guilds and the Traditionalists. These two were natural allies, though they had some serious differences, especially when it came to job preference for members of the old families but they generally saw eye to eye. The main problem was that the Traditionalists held most Pragmatists in utter contempt.
After lengthy negotiations the three faction leaders came to a deal. All three factions would vote for the Pragmatist candidate. They would also support a law increasing the range of goods and services that could only be supplied by the guilds. Traditional rights of the leading families would be supported against any reform attempts.
It was the nature of the Wizengamot that faction discipline was loose and so were tongues. It was impossible to make deals of this nature without everyone else knowing. The Merchant faction was frantic. The deal with the Guild spelt disaster for many businesses. It threatened to wipe out years of market reform. They tried to bargain with Wenglespon. She simply replied “You just don’t have enough votes to offer me.” The Merchants called in all the markers they could with the independents.
Doge spotted an opportunity. He tried to form an alliance with the Merchants. They had less to lose from the reforms that PLEJ wanted than any other faction and PLEJ was not opposed to market reform. This was only true in the sense that PLEJ didn’t have a policy on market reform but Doge didn’t see the need to stress this point. The Merchants were sympathetic but not yet ready to abandon their own candidate.
The atmosphere was tense as votes were counted for the second round. The Pragmatist candidate, Evan Supplemeir, gained 33 votes, just one short of that required. To the numbers men it was clear that a significant number of the Traditionalists couldn’t bring themselves to support the oily Supplemeir. One of them was Grantham. He was doing his best to see the deal fail. He was now ready to make his move.
Grantham got the go ahead from his sceptical faction leader to attempt pulling together a coalition with the Merchants and the Guilds. Grantham was thinking far beyond today’s vote, important though that was. He was thinking of the future shape of the Wizengamot and today he would start building a grand coalition against radical change.
He gathered together the most influential members of the Merchants and the Guilds as well as those from his own faction.
“I expect that most of you will laugh when I share my thoughts with you,” Grantham started. “I’m OK with that as long as you listen and later reflect. We face a serious threat. That threat is PLEJ.”
They did laugh. One of the Guildmen spoke up. “Grantham, you have to be joking. They only have four members and they’re run by children.”
“Three weeks ago PLEJ didn’t even exist. It may have escaped your attention but on the first round vote today this three week old party gained as many votes as your four hundred year old faction. You may not have noticed that there is no longer a single member of the Fanatics left in the chamber. They were effectively destroyed on the battlefield by the very children you deride. The next to be destroyed will be the Pragmatists, sunk under the weight of their own moral turpitude.”
“Oh come now, Grantham, they are the largest faction. They aren’t going anywhere soon.”
“You are wrong. PLEJ makes a valid point when they claim the Wizengamot and the ministry have seriously failed the wizarding community with disastrous, deadly results. Reform must occur. Decent, competent and just government must be provided. If we resist, we will be swept away. If we strive to provide that government ourselves, we will thrive. There is no place for the Pragmatists, their day is done. The question is who feasts on their corpse, us or PLEJ.”
“I can’t see it happening. The Wizengamot and the ministry hold all the levers of power. I can’t see anyone giving that up any time soon. I can’t see how PLEJ can force it,” said one of the Merchantmen.
“Voldemort held all the levers of power, and he is dead. History tells us that when the winds of change are in the air, things happen very quickly. However, as I said at the start, I do not expect any of you to agree with me at this point. I just want you to think and observe. Today we have to elect someone to the High Warranters. Whoever we choose to elect, I believe that we should agree to a power sharing arrangement. We should strive for a situation where all new appointees to the Wizengamot are shared equally between our three factions; none going to the Pragmatists, none to PLEJ, no new independents.”
They were all stunned by the audacity of this proposal.
“You’re an ambitious man, Grantham. It’s no small vision you are selling.”
“I am trying to sell you a future.”
They broke up to consult their own factions. They reassembled ten minutes later.
“Grantham,” spoke the leader of the Merchant faction, “we may be interested in this alliance you offer, but there is much to be discussed before we can agree. As for today, we will support your candidate as long as, if he fails to get the numbers, you then support ours in the next round. We will even agree to support the Guild candidate in the third.”
The Guilds agreed too, as long as their candidate went before the Merchants. They tossed a coin to break the deadlock with the Merchants winning.
News of the deal sped around the Wizengamot. When told of Grantham’s prediction of her faction’s demise, Wenglespon laughed. “Sanctimonious fool, when it comes to a contest between self-interest and principle, always back self-interest. Now let’s go and get the votes of those independents.”
Doge’s response was similar, “The idiot has driven away the independents.”
“No,” replied Hermione, “He’s no idiot. He’s trying to do something much bigger than win today’s vote. He’s certainly paid us an enormous compliment.”
“He’s definitely playing the long game, smarmy bleeder,” added Ron.
When the next vote was counted, Grantham’s coalition was two votes short of victory. The numbers were the same the next two rounds. The coalition had come close but had failed to achieve victory. Heblog continued to gain support and now had an encouraging 15 votes.
Wenglespon decided to put pressure on Lazarre to withdraw his candidacy. She needed those four votes. It was what Lazarre had been waiting for. He made Wenglespon an offer.
“Support me for the next two rounds. If I fail to win I’ll withdraw. Do a deal with the Merchants. You’re right that the Guild will never support me.”
Wenglespon didn’t like it. She was more than a little annoyed at ‘Rush’ Rufus Lazarre , nor could she see how Lazarre could win. Still, she had nothing to lose and it was just possible that this consummate deal maker could pull off a miracle.
“You better fulfil your side of the bargain,” was her response.
Wenglespon offered the Merchants support for significant market reform, totally untroubled by the fact that she had earlier promised the exact opposite to the Guild. The Merchants swallowed their distaste for Lazarre and did a deal.
Tension was high as the next vote was taken. No one was sure what Lazarre had up his sleeve.
“Should we be worried,” asked Hermione already looking very worried. She had the pre exam jitters.
“No,” replied Doge. “It should be fine.”
Silence fell over the chamber as the results were read. The silence became deeper still. Lazarre had won with 35 votes. Everywhere, members tried to understand what had just happened and how, Grantham among them. The numbers didn’t make sense. He glanced over at the members of PLEJ and was stunned. They all had broad grins on their faces. He came, unwillingly, to the inevitable but bizarre conclusion that PLEJ had engineered this result. It explained the grins and it explained where the extra numbers had come from, but why? Lazarre was everything PLEJ was against.
The Pragmatists hadn’t noticed the grins at PLEJ, they were too busy grinning themselves and slapping Lazarre on the back. The speaker called the assembly to order and then, as was the tradition, asked the successful candidate to address the Wizengamot.
Lazarre was uncharacteristically shaky as he began.
“There are more than a few people in this chamber who would be surprised to know that I am a man capable of love.” More than a few people laughed.
“I am though. What not many in this place know is that I have a sister. I love her very much. The reason you do not know of my sister is that she is …was a squib. Like many families we kept her from public view but that did not mean she wasn’t loved. She was deeply loved. She was lively, loving, kind. We all adored her.” The silence was profound. No one expected Lazarre to talk like this.
“My sister married a Muggle-born. He was a good but simple man. He worked as a sales assistant at Flourish and Botts. My sister adored him and they had three beautiful children. I begged him to register with the muggle-born registration commission. I could have protected him, but he refused. He, unlike me, was a man of principle.”
“Two months ago they came for him. I still don’t know exactly what happened but I do know this. The monster that led the arrest team murdered my sister and my gorgeous little niece. Killed them without a second’s hesitation. ‘Worthless muggle scum’ he called them. My brother in law died in Azkeban five days later.”
Lazarre’s raw emotion cut through and many who never thought it possible began to feel sympathy for him. Others were beginning to wonder where all this was going.
“Who had appointed this monster? Did the Dark Lord dredge him up from some stinking sewer? Did some Death Eater lordling foist his degenerate son on Magical Law Enforcement? The answer is far more horrible. It was I, as part of some sordid deal, who had this man appointed to his position. I knew this man was unsuitable and unsafe, but what did I care, the deal helped me build my network of patronage and influence.”
“Now when my young nephews stare at me with their pain filled eyes and ask me who killed their darling mother, who killed their baby sister, who killed their father, I can only answer, ‘I did’. …It is unbearable.”
“I stood confronted by what I was, by what I had become. Everything I had done, everything I had achieved was like dung in my mouth. I have to tell you I came close to suicide. Then I found my salvation.”
“I don’t know why, but I went to the memorial service at Hogwarts. I heard Mr Shacklebolt and then Mr Potter speak and I knew what I had to do. A lifetime of amends may not be enough to undo all that I have done but what I can do, I will do.”
“Many of you who voted for me will rue the day you did so. You will call ‘foul’, but I made you no promises, offered you no support, made you no deals. I said I would do only one thing. I said I would fill this place with people who would get things done and so I will. I will fill it with people who will help me clear out this fetid swamp, help me sweep away the people whose only loyalty is to their own interest. If that is you, then go! Go now! Your day is over.”
The assembled Wizengamot, the visitor’s gallery and the press gallery were in a state of shock. Only the leaders of PLEJ who knew what was coming were capable of applauding. There were some hisses too but mostly there was silence. All present realised they had witnessed something extraordinary; It wasn’t just that they had heard a speech of astounding passion and honesty. It wasn’t that they had seen a dazzling political coup. No, today it had become clear that the world had changed and business as usual had to be redefined.
Grantham was, perversely, pleased. Today he had lost a battle, but now they would no longer laugh at his assessment of PLEJ and the winds of change blowing through the wizarding world. It would make his job, if not easy, at least easier.
Ron too was pleased. Lazarre had approached the party the previous week, seeking to join. He told his story to an incredulous Doge and a few others. When his story checked out, a quick meeting was put together to decide if someone like Lazarre should be allowed to join. It was Ron who spotted the opportunity. They had already concluded that Heblog had little chance of winning the Warranters spot.
“In chess,” Ron had said, “you never let your opponent know your true aim. No one knows that Lazarre is on our side. We can use that to get him elected.”
Hermione was horrified. “It’s dishonest, it’s not who we are!” she exclaimed.
“It’s not dishonest, Hermione,” insisted Ron. “We make no false statements, no false promises. We must be scrupulous about that. We make sure Lazarre behaves the same way. The Pragmatists aren’t a formal party so he doesn’t have to resign. That’s right isn’t it, Mr Doge?”
“What other people choose to think is their business,” concluded Ron.
Hermione wasn’t entirely convinced. She insisted on stringent ground rules before relenting. The other person who was reluctant was Lazarre. He had the fervour of the convert but found himself persuaded when the ground rules were explained. His wealth of experience then came to the fore and the master wheeler and dealer greatly refined their tactics.
Within a few hours of the victory both Lazarre and Heblog had formally joined the party. Within the week two more independents had joined and one member each from the Merchants and the Guilds had defected. PLEJ had ten members in the Wizengamot, one more than the Guilds. They had one member on the High Warranters and the Minister of Magic as a close ally.
It was a good start, but only a start. The low hanging fruit had been gathered. Now the hard slog would begin.
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