In the little white-painted town of Santa Westminstera, havoc had broken out. The town was ruled by two gangs of ruthless bandits. But both of these had begun fighting amongst themselves. The rule of the bosses had collapsed and anarchy reigned.
In an adobe house in the main street huddled one of the last remaining families.
Little Angelina was cuddling into her grandfather’s chest.
‘Oh papacito, what will become of us?’ she sobbed.
Another shot rang out. A bullet crashed through the last intact pane in the window and shattered the Madonna on the wall
‘Oh, no,’ cried Angelina, going to collect the shards. ‘Not the Mama Maria!’
As she did so, a man staggered out of the pulqueria opposite. It was called the Worker’s Arms, but it was many a long year since any worker had dared enter. The man puked onto the street, fired his gun into the air, and then collapsed, dead drunk.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the road, the saloon, recently renamed Miss Theresa’s, was doing roaring trade. Flashily dressed gamblers and ladies all in sequins and brocade filled it, their hair piled high and their eyes hard. But there was no order, and several groups huddled together, casting their eyes around, their hands on the silver- plated pistols at their waists.
Suddenly an altercation broke out; a big, burly man with tousled blond hair staggered out into the street, and fell forwards, a huge dagger in his back.
‘Oh!’ cried Angelina. ‘Miguel la Rana has killed Boris el Oso! Caramba!‘
‘What is to become of us, indeed?’ murmured the old man. ‘Our money is worth nothing now, and neither is our house. And there is no work any more. Even your mother and father have lost their jobs and have had to take zero-hours contracts. Meanwhile all the politicians do is get drunk and fight.
‘El Barboso sits in his room over the pulqueria with a shotgun on his knees, chanting mantras that nobody understands, while his own people try to break his door down.
‘Snake Cameroono has locked himself in the cellar of the saloon and gets drunk while his people kill each other. Mama mia!‘
Suddenly, Pepito, Angelina’s brother, who was looking out the window, exclaimed, ‘What is that? It looks like a cloud.’
The distant riders.
‘It’s too low to be a cloud,’ answered Angelina. ‘It’s horsemen. Many horsemen.’
‘Oh, Mama Maria, what now?’ wailed the old man. ‘Who comes to terrorise us now?’
The children watched. Sure enough, they could soon make out the figures of the horsemen, under the cloud of dust their horses’ hooves raised. As they entered the village’s only street they unholstered their guns. All had gold-plated Colts with grips of ivory encrusted in diamonds.
All save two, who rode a little behind. These carried long Winchesters, magnificently ornamented.
The men rode at canter, neck-reining, their faces set and grim and their long black cloaks waving behind. As they passed long the street, two by two they peeled off and, dismounting, took up station on either side of the road.
To her considerable astonishment, Angelina saw, as they turned, that they all had what looked very much like triangular fins on their backs.
Unable to help herself, for children are curious, Angelina ran out of the house and approached the leader.
‘Senor, senor,’ she cried. ‘Who are you? And why have you come here?’
The man looked down at her and then, removing his hat, smiled. Angelina was somewhat surprised by his perfectly white, triangular teeth, but she was too polite to say anything.
‘I am Miguel de los Reyes,’ said the man, leaning down towards her.
‘And this is my Company. We have brought the Federales — the Federal Marshals.’ He indicated the two men with the long guns who were now standing outside the little church.
He patted Angelina’s head kindly. ‘Here is our message, mamacita. We have come to bring the law back to your town. Tell all the people.’
Angelina clapped her hands in delight and ran into the house to give him the message. ‘Papacito, papacito! We are saved! We’re saved!’
How to send a message
It wasn’t quite like that, when I read that Mishcon de Reya had mounted a legal challenge to an early — and unconstitutional — Brexit; but it was close.
I was reminded of when, a long time ago, the newspaper I was on proposed to publish a story about a certain gentleman who had allegedly been having naughty soirées with a couple of working girls. Apparently — and I quote one of the ladies — he ‘liked to have his nipples sucked while the other one wanked him off.’ Which, by the way, is very damn good fun. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.
Anyway, as always when you’re about to publish a story as juicy as that, this had to be checked by a lawyer. We call this ‘legalling’.
We couldn’t use the firm we usually did, because it was Scottish and, um, we were writing about the President of the Scottish Law Society. We could feel the sharks circling already.
‘So who’s legalling us?’ I asked at Editor’s conference.
‘Mishcon de Reya,’ was the answer.
‘Ouch,’ I said, ‘That’s gonna cost.’
‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘But if you want to send a message, you get Mishcon de Reya.’
The New First Estate?
I thought a lot about Mishcon de Reya’s surprise entrance into the post-Brexit fray, yesterday, delivering a stern message that the law would not stand by and allow itself to be mocked by politicians. Senior law firms — and they don’t come more senior — don’t do things like that, usually.
We used to say that the First Estate was the clergy, but they’re largely irrelevant today. We should pass that honour to the legal establishment.
I imagine that it went something like this: members of the legal establishment have been watching with horror as the political class in Westminster went out to lunch after the EU referendum on 23 June.
To call the situation a shambles would be the understatement of the decade. The pound tumbled. So did the UK’s credit rating. There was a truly egregious outpouring of xenophobic hatred by the English. The UK — and particularly England — became an international laughing stock. Possibly more to the point, huge and lucrative accounts began discussing a move to Amsterdam.
And meanwhile the party of Government was leaderless, with the lame-duck Prime Minister, David Cameron, apparently in hiding. At the same time Her Majesty’s Opposition chose the very moment when it should have come together, to provide a voice of calm and reason, to launch a palace coup which is not done yet. The nation was drifting, with no-one at the helm, towards the Maelstrom. Nobody — least of all the Brexiters — had a clue what to do next.
Pro-Brexit Tories showed a lack of morality and plain decency that was truly sickening, while the antis drank their fill of hemlock. One might reluctantly excuse Nigel Farage; after all, being an arse is a professional calling for him.
The only UK politician with a plan.
The only UK politician with a plan, as Faisal Islam of Sky News said, was Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. But she was off doing her best not to look like a cat who’d been at the cream, while glad-handing EU leaders delighted to find somebody British who wasn’t a complete jerk.
And the legal eagles would have feared that if a Brexiter got elected to lead the Tory Party, that person might just go and say to the EU that the UK was leaving. That would really put the cat in with the pigeons.
Behave or you sleep with the fishes…
I suspect that there were many little meetings of men and women in not too flamboyant but very well tailored suits, in wine bars and clubs, all over London, last week. Discreet phone calls may have been made.
‘What the hell are we going to do about this bloody mess?’
‘We need to send a message. Something they’ll understand.’
‘What about we get somebody to, er, deliver a package of fish? You know what I mean?’
‘Mmmm, I like that. Behave or you sleep with the fishes. Okay… so who do we get to deliver the message?’
Mishcon de Reya is who you get, when you want to send a message.