First among equals by jeffery archer

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First among equals by jeffery archer

  1. 1. First Among Equals - Jeffery ArcherPrologueSaturday, April 27, 1991KING CHARLES III made the final decision.The election had duly taken place as decreed by royalproclarnation. Thepolling booths had been closed, the votes counted, thecomputers turnedoff-, and the experts and amateurs alike had collapsedinto their bedsin disbelief when they had heard the final result.The new King had been unable to sleep that Friday nightwhile heconsidered yet again all the advice that had beenoffered to him by hiscourtiers during the past twenty-four hours. The choicehe had been leftwith was by no means simple, considering how recently hehad ascended thethrone.A few minutes after Big Ben had struck 6 A.M., themorning papers wereplaced in the corridor outside his bedroom. The Kingslipped quietly outof bed, put on his dressing gown and smiled at thestartled footman whenbe opened the door. The King gathered up the papersinhis arms and tookthem through to the morning room in order that the Queenwould not bedisturbed. Once he had settled comfortably into hisfavorite chair, he turnedto the editorial pages. Only one subject was wortfiy oftheir attention thatday. The Fleet Street editors had all corne to the sameconclusion. Theresult of the election could not have been closer, andthe new King had beenplaced in a most delicate position as to whom he should
  2. 2. call to be his firstPrime Minister.Most of the papers went on to give the King theirpersonal advice on whomhe should consider according to their own politicalaffiliations. TheLondon Times alone offered no such opinion, butsuggested merely that HisMajesty would have to show a great deal of courage andfortitude in facinghis first constitutional crisis if the monarchy was toremain credible ina modern world.The fort y-three-year-old King dropped the papers on thefloor by the sideof his chair and considered once again the problems ofwhich man to select.What a strange game politics was, he considered. Only ashort time agothere had been clearly three men to consider, and thensuddenly one of themwas no longer a contender. The two men remaining-who hesuspected had alsonot slept that night--could not have been moredifferent~and yet in someways they were so alike. They had both entered the Houseof Commons in 1964and had then conducted glittering careers in theirtwentyfive years asmembers of Parliament. Between them they had held theportfolios of Trade,Defense, the Foreign Office and the Exchequer beforebeing elected to leadtheir respective parties.As Prince of Walcs, the King had watched them both fromthe sidelines andgrown to admire their different contributions to publiclife. On a personallevel, he had to admit, he had always liked one whilerespecting the other.The King checked his watch and then pressed a bell onthe table by hisside. A valet dressed in a royal blue uniform enteredthe room as if he had
  3. 3. been waiting out-2FIRST AMONG EQUALSside the dooi all night. He began to lay out the Kingsmorning suit asthe monarch went into the adjoining room where his bathhad already beendrawn. When the King returned he dressed in silencebefore taking a seatat a small table by the window to be served breakfast. Heate allone. Hehad left firm instructions that none of the children wereto disturb him.At eight oclock he retired to his study to listen tothe morning news.There was nothing fresh to report. The commentators werenow only waitingto discover which man would be invited to the~palacc tokiss hands.At nine-fifteen he picked up the phone. "Would you comeup now, please,"was all he said. A moment later the Kini s privatesccretary entered theroom. He bowed, but ,,aid nothing, as he could see themonarch waspreoccupied. It was several moments before the Kingspoke."I have mlide my dccision," he said quietly.3PART ONETheBackbenchers1964-1966IIF CHARLES GURNEY HAMPTON had been born nine minutesearlier he would havebecome an earl and inherited a castle in Scotland,twenty-two thousand
  4. 4. acres in Somerset and a thriving merchant bank in thecity of London.It was to be several years before young Charles workedout the fullsignificance of coming second in lifes first race.His twin brother, Rupert, barely came through theordeal, and in theyears that followed contracted not only the usualchildhood illnesses butmanaged to add scarlet fever, diphtheria and meningitis,causing hismother, Lady Hampton, to fear for his survival.Charles, on the other hand, was a survivor, and hadinherited enoughHampton ambition for both his brother and himself. Onlya few yearspassed before those who came into contact with thebrothers for the firsttime mistakenly assumed Charles was the heir to theearldom.As the years went by, Charless father tried desperatelyto discoversomething at which Rupert might triumph over hisbrother-and failed. Whenthey were7FIRST AMONG EQUALSeight, the two boys were sent away to prep school atSummerficids, wheregenerations of Hamptons had been prepared for the rigorsof Eton. During hisfirst month at the school Charles was voted classpresident, and no onehindered his advance en route to becoming head of thestudent body at theage of twelve, by which time Rupert was looked upon as"Hampton Minor." Bothboys proceeded to Eton, where in their first term Charlesbeat Rupert atevery subject in the classroom, outrowed him on the riverand nearly killedhim in the boxing ring.
  5. 5. Whe,n in 1947 their grandfather, the thirteenth Earl ofBridgewater, finallyexpired, the sixteen-year-old Rupert became ViscountHampton while Charlesinherited a meaningless prefix.The Honorable Charles Hampton felt angry every time fieheard his brotherdeferentially addressed by strangers as "My Lord."At Eton, Charles continued to excel, and ended hisschool day-; asPresident of Pop--the exclusive Eton club-bef~)re beingoffered a place atChrist Church, Oxford, to read history. Rupert coveredthe same yearswithout making one honor roll. At the age of eighteenthe young viscountreturned to the family estate in Somerset to pass therest of his days asa landowner. No one destined to inherit twenty-twothousand acres could bedescribed as a fai mer.At Oxford, Charles, free of Ruperts shadow, progressedwith the air of aman who found the university something of an anticlimax.He would spend hisweekdays reading the history of his relations and theweekenas at houseparties or riding to hounds. As no one had suggestedfor one moment thatRupert should enter the worldof high finance, it wasassumed that onceCharles had graduated Oxford, he would succeed hisfather at HamptonsBank, first as a director and then in time as8FIRST AMONG EQUALSits chairman-although it would be Rupert who wouldeventually inherit thefamily shareholding.This assumption changed, however, when one evening theHonorable Charles
  6. 6. Hampton was drag ed toog the Oxford Union by anubile undergraduatefrom Somerville, who demandedthat he listento Sir Winston Churchill, whowas making arare appearance to debate themotion "Idrather be a commoner than alord,"Charles sat at the back of a hall packed with eagerstudents mesmerizedby the elder statesmans performance. Never once did hetake his eyes offthe great war leader during his witty and powerfulspeech, although whatkept flashing across his mind was the realization that,but for anaccident of birth, Churchill would have been the ninthDuke ofMarlborough. Here was a man who had dominated the worldstage for threedecades and then turned down every hereditary honoragrateful nationcould offer, including the title of Duke of London.Charles never allowed himself to be referred to by histitle again. Fromthat moment, his ultimate ambition was above aieretitles.Another under-raduate who listened to Churchill thatnight was alsoconsidering his own future. But tie did not view theproceedings crammedbetween his fcilow students at the back of the crowdedhall. The tallyoung man dressed in white tie and tails sat alone in alarye chair ona raised platform, for such was his right as Presidentof the OxfordUnion. His natural good looks had played no part in hiselection becausewomen still were unable to become menibers.
  7. 7. Although Simon Kerslake was the firstborn, he hadotherwise few ofCharles Hamptons advantages. The only son of a familysolicitor, he hadcome to appreciate how much his father had deniedhimself to ensure that9FIRST AMONG EQUALShis son should remain at the local public school. Simonsfather had diedduring his sons last year at school, leaving his widow asmall annuityand a magnificent Maekinley grandfather clock. Simonsmother sold theclock a week after the funeral in order that her soncould complete hisfinal year with all the "extras" the other boys took forgranted. She alsohoped that it would give Simon a better chance of goingon to university.From the first day he could walk, Simon had alwayswanted to outdistancehis peers. The Americans would have described him as an"achiever," whilemany of his conternporaries thought of him as pushy, oreven arrogant,according to their aptitude forjealousy. During his lastterm at Lancing,Simon was passed over for Head of School, and foreverfound himselfunable to forgive the headmaster his lack of foresight.Later that year,he narrowly missed a place at Oxfords Magdalen College.It was adecision Simon was unwilling to accept.In the same mail, Durham University offered him ascholarship, which herejected by return post. "Future Prime Mipisters arenteducated atDurham," he informed his mother."How about Cambridge?" inquired his mother lightly."No political tradition," replied Simon.
  8. 8. "But if there is no chance of being offered a place atOxford, surely ...T"Thats not what I said, Mother," replied the young man."I shall be anundergraduate at Oxford by the first day ofterm."After eighteen years of improbable victories, Mrs.Kerslake had learnedto stop asking her son, "How will you manage that?"Some fourteen days before the start of the Christmasterm at Oxford,Simon booked himself into a small guest house just offthe Ifiley Road.On a trestle table in the corner of lodgings he intendedto makepermanent, he 10FIRST AMONG EQUALSwrote out a list of all the Oxford colleges, then dividedthem into fivecolumns, planning to visit three each morning and threeeach afternoonuntil his que3tion had been answered positively by aresident tutor foradmissions: "Have you accepted any freshmen for this yearwho are nowunable to take up their places?"It was on the fourth afternoon, just as doubt wasbeginning to set in andSimon was wondering if after all he would have to travelto Cambridge thefollowing week, that he received the first affirmativereply.The tutor for admissions at Worcester College removedthe glasses fromthe end of his nose and stared up at the tall young manwith the mop ofdark hEdr falling over his forehead. The young mansintense brown eyesremained fixed on the tutor for admissions. Alan Brownwas thetwenty-second don Simon Kerslake had visited in fourdays."Yes," he replied. "It so happens that, sadly, a young
  9. 9. man fromNottin-ham High School, who had been offered a pla~,ehere, was killedin a motorcycle accident last month.""What course-what subject was he going to read?" Simonswords wereunusually faltering. He prayed it wasnt chemistry,architecture orclassics. Alan Brown flicked through a rotary index onhis desk,obviously enjoying the little cross-examination. Hepeeied at the cardin front of him. "History," he announced.Simons heartbeat reached one hundred and twenty. "Ijust missed a placeat Magdalen to read politics, philosoph, and economics,"he said. "Wouldyou consider yme for the vacancy?"The older man was unable to hide a smile. He had never,in twenty-fouryears, come across such i request."Full name?" he said, replacing his glasses as if theserious businessof the meeting had now begun."Simon John Kerslake."Dr. Brown picked up the telephone by his side and diI IFIRST AMONG EQUALSaled a number. "Nigel?" he said. "Its Alan Brown here.Did you everconsider offering a man called Kerslake a place atMagdalen?"Mrs. Kerslake was not surprised when her son went on tobe President of theOxford Union. After all, she teased, wasnt it justanother stepping-stoneon the path to Prime Minister- -Gladstone, Asquith ...Kerslake?Ray G~)uld was born in a tiny, windowless room above hisfathers butchershop in Leeds. For the first nine years of his life heshared that room
  10. 10. with his ailing grandmother, until she died at the ageof sixty-one.Rays close proxinnity to the old woman who had lost herhusband in theGreat War at first appeared romantic to him. fie wouldlisten enraptured asshe told him stories of her hero husband in his smartkhaki unif(-)rm--auniform iiow folded neatly in her bottom drawer, butstill displayed in thefading sepia photograph at the side of her bed. Soon,however, his grand-mothers stories filled Ray with sadness, as fie becameaware that she hadbeen a widow for nearly thirty years. Finally she seemeda tragic figure ashe realized how little she had experienced of the worldbeyond that crampedroom in which she was surrounded by all her possessionsand a yellowedenvelope containing five hundred irredeemable war bonds.There had been no purpose in Rays grandmothers makinga will, for all heinherited was the room. Overnight it ceased to be adouble bedroom andbecame a study, full of ever-changing library books andschoolbooks, theformer often returned late, using up Rays meager pocketmoney in fines.But as each school report was brought home, it becameincreasingly apparentto Rays father that he would not be extending the signabove the butchershop to proclaim "Gould and Son."At eleven, Ray won the top scholarship to RoundhayGrammar School. Wearinghis first pair of long trou-12FIRST AMONG EQUALSsers--shortened several inches by his mother-andhom-rimmed glasses thatdidnt quite fit, he set off for the opening day at his
  11. 11. new school. Raysmother hoped there were ol her boys as thin and spottyas her son, andthat his wavy red hair would not cause him to becontinually teased.By the end of his first term, Ray was surprised to findhe was far aheadof his contemporaries, so far, in fact, that theheadmaster consideredit prudent to PL:t him Up a form "to stretch the lad alittle," as heexplained to Rays parents. By the end of that year, onespent mainly inthe classroom, Ray managed to come in third in theclass, and first inLatin and English. Only when it came to selecting teamsfor any sport didRay find he was last in anything. However brilliant hismind miaht havebeen, it never seemed to coordinate with his body.In any case, the only competition he care~, for thatyear was the middleschool essay prize. The winner of the prize would berequired to read hisentry to the assembled pupils and parents on Speech Day,Even before hehanded in his entry, Ray rehearsed his efforts out loudseveral Limesin the privacy of his study- Dedroom, fearing he wouldnot be properlyprepared if lie waited until the winner was announced.Rays form master had told all his pupils that thesubject of the essaycould be of their own choosing, but that they sbould tryto recall someexperience that had been unique to them. After readingRays account ofhis grandmothers life in the little roorn above thebutcher shop, theform master had no inclination to pick up anotherscript. After he haddutifully struggled through the remainder of theentries, he did nothesitate in recommendina Goulds essay for the prize.
  12. 12. The only reserva-tion, he admitted to Ray, was the choice of title. Raythanked hini forthe advice but the title remained intact.On the niorning of Speech Day, the school assembly hallwas packed withnine hundred pupils and their par-13FIRSF AMONG EQUALSents. After the headmaster had delivered his speech andthe applause haddied down, he announced, "I shall now call uPon thewinner of the prizeessay competition to deliver his entry: Ray Gould."Ray left his place in the hall and marched confidentlyup onto thi~. stage.Ile stared down at the two thousand expectant taces butshowed no sign ofapprehension, partly because he found it difficult tosee beyond the thirdrow. When he announced the title of his essay, some ofthe younger childrenbegan to snigger, causing Ray to stumble through hisfirst few lines. Butby the tirrte hie had reached the last page the packedhall was still, andafter he had completed the final paragraph he receivedthe first standingovation of his career.Twelve-year-old Ray Gould left the stage to rejoin hisparents at their seats. His mothers head was bowed buthe could still see teais trickling down her cheeks. Hisfatber was tr ving not to look too proud. Even when Raywas seated, the applause continued, so he, too, loweredhis head to stare at the title of his prize-winningessay:"The First Changes P. Will Make When I Become PrimeMinister."142
  13. 13. Thursday, December 10, 1964MR. SPEAKER ROSE and surveyed the Commons. He tugged athis long blacksilk gown, then nervously tweaked the full-bottomed wigthat covered hisbalding head. The House had almost gotten out of controlduring aparticularly rowdy session of Prime Ministers Questions,and he wasdelighted to see the cleck reach three-thirty. Time topass on to the nextbusiness of the day.He stood shifting from foot to foot, waiting for thefive hundred-oddmembers of Parliament present to settle down before heintoned solemnly,"Members desinno, to take the oath." The packed assemblyswitched itsgaze from Mr. Speaker toward the far end of the chamber,like a crowdwatching a tennis match.The newly elected member of Parliament stood at theentrance of the Houseof Commons. At six feel four, he looked like a man bornwith the Toryparty in mind. His patrician head was set on anaristocratic frame, amane15FIRST AMONG EQUALSoffair hair combed meticulously into place. Dressed in adark-gray,double-breasted suit, with a Regimental Guards tie ofmaroon and blue,flanked by his proposer and seconder, Charles Hamptontook four pacesforward. Like well-drilled guardsmen, they stopped andbowed, then advancedtoward the long table that stood in front of theSpeakers chair between the
  14. 14. two front benches. Charles was surprised at how small thechamber was inreality: the Government and Opposition benches faced eachother a mereswords length apart. Charles recalled that historicallya swords lengthhad once insufed the safety of those bitter rivals whosat opposite eachother.Leaving his sponsors in his wake, he passed down thelong table, steppingover the legs of the Prime Minister and the ForeignSecretary before beinghanded the oath by the Clerk of the House.He held the little card in his right hand and pronouncedthe words asfirmly as if they had been his marriage vows."l,Charles Hampton, do swear that I will be faithful,and bear trueallegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs andsuccessorsaccording to law, so help me God.""Hear, hear," rose from his colleagues as the new memberofParliameritleaned over to inscribe the Test Roll, a parchmentfolded into book shape.Charles proceeded toward the Speakers chair, when hestopped and bowed."Welcome to the House, Mr. Hampton," said the Speaker,shaking his hand. "Ihope you will serve this place for many years to come.""Thank you, Mr. Speaker," said Charles, and bowed for afinal time beforecontinuing on to the small area behind the Speakerschair. He had carriedout the little ceremony exactly as the Tory Chief Whiphad rehearsed itwith him in the long corridor outside his office.16FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Congratulations on your splendid victory, Charles,"said the former Prime
  15. 15. Minister and now Leader of the Opposition, Sir AlecDouglas-Home, who alsoshook him warmly by the hand. "I know you have a greatdeal to offer to theConservative Party and your country.""Thank you," replied the new MP, who, after waiting forSir Alec to returnto take his place on the Opposition front bench, madehis way up the aislesteps to find a place in the back row of the long greenbenches.For the next two hours Charles Hampton followed theproceedings of theHouse with a mixture of awe and excitement.He marveled at the simplicity and justice of theparliamentary system inlively debate before him. Labour versus Tory, Governmentversus Opposition,the Minister on the 6ench and his Shadow Minister on theopposite bench.And as with two soccer teams, Charles knew everyposition wascovered--Government Minister continually scrutinized byhis Shadow Ministerin the Opposition. He also knew that if theConservatives won the nextelection, the Shadow team was well prepared to take overfrom the outgoingLabour Government.Glancing up at the Strangers Gallery, he saw his wife,Fiona,, his father,the fourteenth Earl of Bridgewater, and his brother, theViscount Hampton,peering down at him with pride. Surely no one could nowbe in any doubt asto which Hampton should have inherited the family title.For the first timein his life, he had found something that wasnt his bybirthright or byeffortless conquest.Charles settled back on the first rung of the ladder.Raymond Gould stared down at the invitation. He hadnever seen the inside
  16. 16. of Number 10 Downing Street. During the last thirteenyears of Conservativerule few Labourites had. He passed the embossed cardacross the breakfasttable to his wife.17FIRs-r AMONG EQUALS"Should I accept or refuse, Ray9" she asked in her broadYorkshireaccent.She was the only person who still called him Ray, andeven her attemptsat humor now annoyed him. The Greek tragedians had basedtheir drama on"the fatal flaw," and he had no doubt what his had been.He had met Joyce at a dance given by the nurses of LeedsGeneralHospital. He hadnt wanted to go but a second-yearundergraduate friendfrom Roundhay convinced him it would make an amusingbreak. At school hehad shown little Interest in girls, and, as his motherkept remindinghim, there would be occasion enough for that sort ofthing once he hadtaken his degree. When he became an undergraduate hefelt certain thathe was the only virgin left at the university.He had ended up sitting alone in the comer of a roomdecorated withwilting balloons, sipping disconsolately at a Cokethrough a bent straw.Whenever his school friend turned around from the dancefloor----eachtime with a different partner-Raymond would smilebroadly back. With hisNational Health spectacles tucked away in an insidepocket, he couldntalways be certain he was smiling at the right person. Hebegancontemplating at what hour he could possibly leavewithout having to
  17. 17. admit ithe evening had been a total disaster. He wouldhave beenfrightened by her overture if it hadnt been for thatbroad familiaraccent."You at the University as well?""Aswell as what?" he asked, without looking directly ather."Aswell as your friend," she said."Yes," he replied, looking up at a girl he guessed wasabout his age."Im from Bradford.""Im from Leeds," he admitted, aware as the secondspassed that his facewas growing as red as his hair."You dont have much of an accent, considering."18FIRST AMONG EQUALSThat pleased him."My name Is Joyce." she volunteered."Mines Ray," he said."Like to dance?"He wanted to tell her that he had rarely been on a dancefloor in hislife, but he didnt have the courage. Like a puppct, hefound himselfstanding up and being guided by her toward the dancers.So much for hisassumption that he was one of natures leaders.Once they were on the dance floor he looked at herproperly for the firsttime. She wasnt half bad, any normal Yorkshire boymight have admitted.She was about five feet seven, and her auburn hair tiedup in a ponytailmatched the dark-brown eyes that had a little too muchmakeup aroundthem. She wore pink lipstick the same color as her shortskirt, fromwhich emerged two very attractive legs. They looked evenmore attractivewhen she twirled to the music of the four-piece student
  18. 18. band. Raymonddiscovered that if he twirled Joyce very fast he couldsee the tops ofher stockings, and he remained on the dance floor farlonger than hewould even have thought possible. After the quartet hadput their in-struments away, Joyce kissed him goodnight before Raywent back to hissmall room above the butcher shop.The following Sunday, in an attempt to gain the upperhand, he took Joycerowing on the Aire, but his performance there was nobetter than hisdancing, and everything on the river overtook him,including a hardyswimmer. lie watched out of the side of his eyes for amocking laugh, butJoyce only smiled and chatted about missing Bradford andwanting toreturn home to be a nurse. Ray wanted to explain to herthat he longedto escape Leeds. He couldnt wait to travel to London.But he also knewhe didnt want to leave this pretty girl behind. When heeventuallyreturned the boat, Joyce invited him back to herboardinghouse for tea.He went scarlet19FIRST AMONG EQUALS.is they passed her landlady, and Joyce hustled him upthe wom stonestaircase to her little room.Ray sat on the end of the narrow bed while Joyce madetwo inilkless mugsof tea. After they had both pretended to drink, she satbeside him, herhands in her lap. He found himself listening intently toan ambulancesiren as it faded away in the distance. She leaned overand kissed him,
  19. 19. taking one of his hands and placing it on her knee.She parted his lips and their tongues touched-, he foundit a peculiarsensation, an arousing one; his eyes remained closed asshe gently ledhim through each new experience, until he was unable tostop himselfcommitting what he felt sure his mother had oncedescribed as a mortal.sin."It will be easier qext time," she said shyly,maneuvering herself fromthe naFrow bed to sort out the crumpled clothes spreadacross the floor.She was right: he wanted her again in less thaa an hour,and this timehis eyes remained wide open.It was another six months before Joyce hinted at thefuture, and by thenRay was bored with her and had his sights set on abright littlemathematician in her final he r,year. F nathematician hailed from Surrey.Just at the time when Ray was summing up enough courageto let her kaowthe affair was over, Joyce told him she was pregnant.His father wouldhave taken a meat ax to him had lie sug ested anillegal abortion. Hismother was only relieved that she was a Yorkshire girl.Ray and Joyce werernarried at St. Marys in Bradfordduring the longvacation. When the wedding photos were developed, Raylooked sodistressed, and Joyce so happy, that they re~embledfather and daughterrather than husbaid and wife. After a reception in thechurch hall thenewly niarried couple traveled down to Dover to catchthe night ferry.Their first night as Mr. and Mrs. Gould. was a disaster.Ray turned outto be a particu-
  20. 20. 20FIRST AMONG EQUALSlarly bad sailor. Joyce only hoped that Paris would proveto bememorable--and it was. She had a miscarriage on thesecond night of theirhoneymoon."Prot.)ably caused by all the excitement," his mothersaid on theirreturn. "Still, you can always have another, cant you?And this timefolk wont be able to call it a little . . ." shechecked herself.Ray showed no interest in havin- another. He completedlus Erst-classhonors degree in law at Leeds and then moved to London,as planned, tocomplete his studies at the bar. After only a few monthsin the me-tropolis, Leeds faded from his memory, and by the end ofhis two-yearcourse Ray had been accepted at a fashionable Londonchambers to becomea much-soughtafterjunior counsel. From that moment herarely mentionedhis North of England roots to his carefully cultivatednew circle ofsociety friends, and those comrades who addressed him asRay received asharp "Raymond" for their familiarity.The only exception Raymond made to this rule was when itserved hisbudding political career. Leeds North had chosen Raymondto be theirLabour candidate for Parliament from a field ofthirty-seven. Yorkshirefolk like people who stay at home, and Raymond had beenquick to pointout to the selection committee, in an exaggeratedYorkshire accent, thathe had been educated at Routadhay Grammar School on thefringes of theconstituency and that he had refused a scholarship to
  21. 21. Cambridge,preferring to continue his education at LeedsUniversity.Ten years had passed since the Goulds memorablehoneymoon, and Raymondhad long since accepted that he was tethered to Joycefor life. Althoughshe was only thirty-two, she already needed to coverthose once-slim legsthat had first so attracted him.How could he be so punished for such a pathetic mistake?Raymond wantedto ask the gods. How mature he21FIRST AMONG EQUALShad thought he was; how immature he had turned out to be.Divorce madesense, but it would have meant the end of his politicalambitions: noYorkshire folk would have considered selecting a divorcedman. Not to men-tion the problem that would create with his parents;after ten years ofhousing the young Goulds on their trips to Leeds, theyhad come to adoretheir daughterin-law. To be fair, it hadnt all been adisaster, he had toadmit that the locals adored her as well. During theelection six weeksbefore she had mixed with the trade unionists and theirfrightful wives farbetter than he had ever managed to do, and he had toacknowledge that shehad been a major factor in his winning the Leeds seat byover nineteenthousand votes. He wondered how she could sound sosincere the whole time;it never occurred to him that it was natural."Why dont you buy yourself a new dress for DowningStreet?" Raymond saidas they rose from the breakfast table. She smiled; hehad not volunteered
  22. 22. such a suggestion for as long as she could remember.Joyce had no illusionsabout her husband and his feelings for her, but hopedthat eventually hewould realize she could help him achieve his unspokenambition.On the night of the reception at Downing Street Joycemade every effort tolook her best. She had spent the morning at Marks andSpencer searching foran outfit appropriate for the occasion, finallyreturning to a suit she hadliked the moment she had walked into the store. It wasnot the perfect fitbut the sales assistant assured Joyce "that madam lookedquite sensationalin it." She only hoped that Rays remarks would be halfas flattering. Bythe time she reached home, she realized she had noaccessories to match itsunusual color.Raymond was late returning from the Commons and waspleased to find Joyceready when he leaped out of the bath. He bit back aderogatory remark aboutthe incongruity of her new suit with her old shoes. Asthey 22FIRST AMONG EQUALSdrove toward Westminster, he rehearsed the names of everymember of theCabinet with her, making Joyce repeat them as if she werea child.The air was cool and crisp that night so Raymond parkedhis Volkswagenin New Palace Yard and they strolled across Whitehalltogether to Number10. A solitary policeman stood guard at the door of thePrime Ministersresidence. Seeing Raymond approach, the officer bangedthe brass knockeronce and the door was opened for the young member andhis wife.Raymond and Joyce stood awkwardly in the hall as if they
  23. 23. were waitingoutside a headmasters study until eventually they weredirected to thefirst floor. They walked sfowly up the staircase, whichturned out to beless grand than Raymond had anticipated, passingphotographs of formerPrime Ministers. "Too many Tories," muttered Raymond ashe passedChamberlain, Churchill, Eden, Macmillan and Home, withAttlee the onlyframed compensation.At the top of the stairs stood the short figure ofHarold Wilsom, pipein mouth, waiting to welcome his guests. Raymond wasabout to introducehis wife when the Prime Minister said, "How are you,Joyce? Im so gladyou could inake it.""Make it? Ive been looking forward to the occasion allweek." Herfrankness made Raymond wince. He failed to notice thatit made Wilsonchuckle.Raymond chatted with the Prime Ministers wife about herrecent book ofpoetry until she turned away to greet the next guest.fie then moved offinto the drawing room and was soon talking to CabinetMinisters, trade-union leaders and their wives, always keeping a wary eyeon Joyce, whoseemed engrossed in conversation with the generalsecretary of the TradesUnion Council.Raymond moved on to the American ambassador, who wastelling JamieSinclair, one of the new intake from Scotland, how muchhe had enjoyedthe Edin23FIRST AMONG EQUALSburgh Festival that summer. Raymond envied Sinclair therelaxed clubable
  24. 24. manner that was the stamp of his aristocratic family. Heinterrupted theirflow of conversation awkwardly. "I was interested to readJohnsons latestcommuniqu& on Vietnam, and I must confess that theescalation . . ."... kAlhats he interrogating you about?" asked a voicefrom behind him. Raymond turned to find the PrimeMinister by his side. "I think I should warn you, Ambassador," continued Mr. Wilson, "that RaymondGould is one of the brighter efforts weve produced thistime, and quite capable of quoting you verbatim yearsafteryouve forgotten what you thought you said.""Its not that long ago they used to say the same sortof thing aboutyou," the ambassador replied.The Prime Minister chuckled, slapped Raymond on theshoulder and movedon to another group of guests.Raymond rankled at the condescension he imagined hedheard in the PrimeMinisters tone, only too aware that his nervousness hadled him tocommit a social gaffe. As in the past, his humiliationturned quicklyinto anger against himself. He knew that the PrimeMinisters words hadcontained some genuine admiration, for if Raymond hadgained anyreputation in his first six weeks in Parliament, it wasas one of theLabour Partys intellectuals. But he felt the familiarfear that he wouldultimately fail to turn his mental acuity into thecurrency of politics.Whereas some of his peers among the new intake of N4Ps,inen like SimonKerslake, had delivered niaiden speeches that niade theveterans inParliament sit up and take notice, Raymonds firsteffort had not beenwell received; reading nervously from a preparedmainuseript, he had beenunable to make the House hang on his every word.
  25. 25. Rooted to the spot, feeling the familiar blush rise tohis face, Raymondwas determined to remain calm. His career, he assuredhimself for theumpteenth time,24FIRST AMONG EQUALSwould simply have to follow an unusual path. He hadalready begun to workto that end, and if he could pull it off, few memberswould be able toignore or challenge him.Reassured, Raymond moved on to be introduced to severalpeople about whomhe had only read in the past; he was surprised to findthat they treatedhim as an equal. At the end of the evening, after theyhad stayed whathe later told Joyce had been a little too long, he drovehis wife backto their home on Lansdowne Road.On the way he talked nonstop about all the people he hadmet, what hethought of them, describing their jobs, giving her hisimpressions,almost as if she hadnt been there.They had seen little of each other during SimonKerslakes first sixweeks in Parliament, which made tonight even morespecial. The LabourParty might have returned to power after thirteen years,but with amajority of only four, it was proving almost impossiblefor Simon to getto bed much before midnight. He couldnt see any easingof the pressureuntil one party had gained a sensibleworking majority,and that would nothappen until there was another General Election. Butwhat Simon fearedmost, having won his own constituency with the slimmest
  26. 26. of majorities,was that such an election would unseat him, and that hemight end up withone of the shortest political careers on record.That was why Lavinia was so good for him. He enjoyed thecompany of thetall, willowy girt who couldnt pronounce her Ws, and hewas angered bythe gossip that he knew surrounded their relationship.True, his political career had been off to a slow startbefore hed metLavinia Maxwell- Harrington. After Oxford, throughouthis two years ofNational Service with the Sussex Light Infantry, hednever lost sightof his loal. When he sought a position at the BBC as agen25FIRST AMONG EQUALSeral trainee, his natural ability to shine at interviewssecured himthejob, but he used every spare moment to advance hispolitical ambitions:he quickly joined several Tory organizations, writingpamphlets and speak-ing at. weekend conferences. However, hed never beentaken seriously asa prospective candidate until 1959, when, during theGeneral Election, hishard work earned him the post of personal assistant tothe party chairman.During the campaign he had met Lavinia MaxwellHarringtonat a dinnerparty held at Harrington Hall in honorof his chairman.Lavinias father,Sir Rufus Maxwell-Harrington, had also been, "sometimein the dim distantpast," as Lavinia described it, chairman of the ToryParty.When the Conservatives had been returned to power Simonfound himseltafrequent weekend guest at Harrington. Hall. By the timethe 1964 electionhad been called, Sir Rufus had passed Simon for
  27. 27. membership of theCa.rlton-the exclusive Conservative club in St.Jarnes--and rumors of animminent engagement between Simon and Lavinia wereregularly hinted atin the gossip columns of the London press.In the surnmer of 1964, Sir Rufuss influence had onceagain proveddecisive, and Simon was offered the chance to defend themarginalconstituency of Coventry Central. Simon retained theseat for the Toriesat the General Election by a slender nine hundred andseventy-ODe votes.Simon parked his MGB outside Number 4 Chelsea Square andchecked hiswatch. He cursed at being once again a few minutes late,although herealized Lavinia was well versed in the voting habits ofpoliticians. Hepushed back the mop of brown hair that perpetually fellover hisforehead, buttoned up his new blazer and straightenedhis tie. He cursedagain as he pulled the little brass bell knob. He hadforgotten to pickup the roses26FIRST AMONG EQUALShe had ordered for Lavinia, although he had passed theshop on the way.The butler answered the door and Simon was shown to thesitting room tofind Lavinia and Lady MaxwellHarrington discussing theforthcomingChelsea Ball."Oh, Simon darling," began Lavinia, turning her slimbody toward him."How super to see you."Simon smiled. fie still hadnt quite got used to thelanguage used bygirls who lived between Sloane Square and Kensington.
  28. 28. "I (to hope youve managed to escape from that dreadfulplace for therest of the evening," she said."Absolutely," Simon found himself saying, "and Ive evencaptured a tableat the Caprice.""Oh, goody," said Lavinia. "And are they expecting youto return and votefor some silly bill on the hour of ten?""No, Im yours all night," said Simon, regretting thewords as soon ashe had said them. He caught the coot expression on theface of LadyMaxwell-Harrington and cursed for a third time.273CHARLES HAMPTON drove his Daimler from the Commons to hisfathers bankin the city. He still thought of Hamptons ofThreadneedle Street as hisfathers bank although for two gererations the family hadbeen onlyminority sb.areholders, with Charles himself inpossession ofa mere 2percent of the stock. Nevertheless, as his brother Rupertshowed no desireto represent the farnily intefests, the 2 percentguaranteed Charles aplace on the board and an income sufficient to insurethat his paltryparlianientary salary of f 1,750 a year was adequatelysupplemented.Froin the day Charles had first taken his place on theboard ofHamptons, he had had no doubt that the new chairman.Derek Spencer,considered him a dangerous rivai. Spenccr had lobbied tohave Rupertreplace his father upon the latters retirement, andonly because ofCharless insistence had Spencer failed to move the oldearl to his way
  29. 29. of thinking.When Charles went on to win his seat in Parliament,Spencer at onceraised the problem that his burdensome responsibilitiesat the Housewould prevent him from carrying; out his day to dayduties to the board.How-28FIRST AMONG EQUALSever, Charles was able to convince a majority of hisfellow directors ofthe advantages of having someone from the board atWestminster, althoughthe rules dictated that his private employment would haveto cease if hewas ever invited to be a Minister of the Crown.Charles left the Daimler in Hamptons courtyard. Itamused him toconsider that his parking space was worth twenty timesthe value of thecar. The area at the front of Hamptons was a relic ofhisgreat-grandfathers day. The twelfth Ear[ of Bridgewaterhad insisted onan entrance large enough to allow a complete sweep forhis coachand tour.That conveyance had long disappeared, to be replaced bytwelve parkingspaces for Hampton directors. Derek Spencer, despite allhisgrammar-school virtues, had never suggested that theland be used for anyother purpose.The young girl seated at the reception desk abruptlystopped polishingher nails in time to say "Good morning, Mr. Charles," ashe came throughthe revolving doors and disappeared into a waitingelevator. A fewmoments later Charles was seated behind a desk in hissmall oak-paneled
  30. 30. office, a clean white memo pad in front of him. Hepressed a button onthe intercom and told his secretary that he did not wantto be disturbedduring the next hour.Every Conservative member of Parliament assumed thatafter his defeat inthe election Sir Alec DouglasHome would soon step downas Leader of theOpposition. Now, in the spring of 1965, Charles knew hehad to decidewhose coattail to hang onto. While he remained inOpposition, his onlyhope was of being offered a junior Shadow post, but thatcould turn outto be the stepping-stone to becoming a GovernmentMinister if theConservatives won the next election. He faced the firstmajor test of hiscareer.Sixty minutes later the white pad had twelve namespenciled on it, butten already had lines drawn through 29FIRST AMONG EQUALSthem. Only the names of Reginald Maudling and EdwardHeath remained.Charles tore off the piece of paper and the indentedsheet underri-eath andput them both through the shredder by the side of hisdesk. He tried tosummon up some interest in the agenda for the banksweekly board meeting;only or.e item, item seven, seemed to be of anyimportance. Just beforeeleven, he gathered up his papers and headed toward theboardroom. Most ofhis colleagues were already seated when Derek Spencercalled item number Ias the boardroom clock chimed the hour.During the ensuing predictable discussion on bank rates,the movement inmetal prices, Eurobonds and client-investment policy,Charless mind kept
  31. 31. wandering back to the forthcoming Leadership electionand the importance ofbacking the winner if he was to be quickly promotedfrorn the back benches.By the time they reached item 7 on the agenda Charleshad made tip hiswind. Derek Spencer opened a discussion or, the proposedloans to Mexicoand Poland, and most of the board members agreed withhim that the bankshould participate in one, but not risk both.Charless thoughts, however, were not in Mexico City orWarsaw. They werefar nearer home, and when the chairman called for avote, Charles didntregister."Mexico or Poland, Charles? Which do you favor?""Heath," he replied."I beg, your pardon," said Derek Spencer.Charles snapped back from Westminster to ThreadneedleStreet to findeveryone at the boardroom table staring at him. With theair of a man whohad been giving the matter considej able thought,Charles said firmly,"Mexico," and added, "The great difference between thetwo countrie,, canbest be gauged by their attitudes to repayment. Mexicomight not want torepay, but Poland wont be able to, so why not limit ourrisks and backMexico? If it comes to litigation Id prefer to beagainst 30FIRST AMONG EQUALSsomeone who wont pay rather than someone who cant." Theolder membersaround the table nodded in agreement; the right son ofBridgewater wassitting on the board.When the meeting was over Charles joined his colleaguesfor lunch in thedirectors dining room. A room containing two Hogarths,a Brueghel, a
  32. 32. Goya and a Rembrandt-Just another reminder of hisgreat-grandfathersability to select winners--could distract even the mostself-indulgentgourmet. Charles did not wait to make a decision betweenthe Cheddar andthe Stilton as he wanted to be back in the Commons forQuestion Time.On arriving at the House he immediately made his way tothe smoking room,long regarded by the Tories as their preserve. There inthe deep leatherarmchairs and cigar-laden atmosphere the talk wasentirely of who wouldbe Sir Alec Homes successor.Later that afternoon Charles returned to the Commonschaniber, He wantedto observe Heath and his Shadow team deal withGovernment amendments oneby one. Heath was on his feet facing the Prime Minister,his notes oa thedispatch box in front of him.Charles was about to leave the chamber when RaymondGould rose to movean amendment from the back benches. Charles remainedalued to his seat.He had to0listen with grudging admiration as Raymonds intellectualgrasp and forceof argument easily compensated for his lack of oratoricalskill. AlthoughGould was a cut above the rest of the new intake on theLabour benches,he didnt frighten Charles. Twelve generations of cunningand businessacumen had kept large parts of Leeds in the hands of theBridgewaterfamily without the likes of Ra, mond Gould even beingaware of it.YCharles took supper in the members dining room thatnight and sat in thecenter of the room at the large table occupied by Tory
  33. 33. backbenchers.There was only one31FIRsr AMONG EQUALStopic of conversation, and as the same two names keptemerging it wasobvious that it was going to be a very close-run race.When Charles arrived back at his Eaton Square home afterthe ten olcloc~vote, his wife, Fiona, was already tucked up in bedreading GrahamGreenes The Comedians."They let you out early tonight.""Not too bad," said Charles, and began regaling her withhow he had spenthis day, before disappearing into the bathroom.Charles imagined he was cunning, but his wife, LadyFiona Hampton, ndeCampbell, only daughter of the Duke of Falkirk, was in adifferentleague. She and Charles had been selected for each otherby their grand-parents and neither had questioned or doubted the wisdomof the choice.Although Charles had squired numerous girlfriends beforetheir marriage,he had always assumed he would return to Fiona.Charless father, thefourteenth earl, had always maintained that thearistocracy was becomingfar too lax and sentimental about love. "Women," hedeclared, "are forbearing children and insuring a continuation of the maleline." The oldearl became even more firm in his convictions when hewas informed thatRupert showed little interest in the opposite sex andwas rarely to befound in womens company.Fiona would never have dreamed of disagreeing with theold earl to hisface and was herself delighted by the thought of giving
  34. 34. birth to a sonwho would inherit the earldom. But despite enthusiasticand thencontrived efforts Charles seemed unable to sire an heir.Fiona wasassured by a Harley Street physician that there was noreason she couldnot bear children. The specialist had suggested thatperhaps her husbandpay the clinic a visit. She shook her head, knowingCharles would dis-32FIRST AMONG EQUALSmiss such an idea out of hand, no matter how much hewanted a son.Fiona spent much of her spare time in their Sussex Eastconstituencyfurthering Charless political career. She had learnedto live with thefact that theirs was not destined to be a romanticmarriage and hadalmost resigned herself to its other advantages.Although many menconfessed covertly and overtly that they found Fionaselegant bearingattractive, she had either rejected their advances orpretended not tonotice them.By the time Charles returned from the bathroom in hisblue silk pajamasFiona had formed a plan, but first she needed somequestions answered."Whom do you favor?""It will be a close-run thing, but I spent the entireafternoon observingthe serious candidates.""Did you come to any conclusions?" Fiona asked."Heath and Maudling are the most likely ones, though tobe honest Ivenever had a conversation with either of them that lastedfor more thanfive minutes."
  35. 35. "In that case we must turn disadvantage into advantage.""What do you mean, old girl?" Charles asked as heclimbed into bed besidehis wife."Think back. When you were President of Pop at Eton,could you have puta name to any of the first-year boys?""Certainly not," said Charles."Exactly. And Id be willing to bet that neither Heathnor Maudfing couldput a name to twenty of the new intake on the Torybenches.""Where are you leading me, Lady Macbeth?""No bloody hands will be needed for this killing.Simply, having chosenyour Duncan, you volunteer to organize the new intakefor him. If hebecomes Leader, hes33FIRST AMONG EQUALSbound to feel it would be appropriate to select one ortwo new faces for histeam.""You really are a Campbell.""Well, lets sleep on it," said Fiona, turning out thelight on her side ofthe bed.Charles didnt sleep on it but lay restless most of thenight turning overin his mind what she had said. When Fiona awoke the nextmorning shecarried on the conversation as if there had been nobreak in between."Better still," she continued, "before the man youchoose announces he isa candidate, demand that he run on behalf of the newmembers.""Clever," said Charles."Whom have you decided on?""Heath," Charles replied without hesitation."Ill back vour political judgment," said Fiona. "Justtrust me wh~n it
  36. 36. comes to tactics. First, we compose a letter."In dressing gowns, on the floor at the end of the bed,the two elegantfigures drafted and redrafted a note to Edward Heath. Atnine-thirty it wasfinally composed and sent around by hand to his rooms inAlbany.The next morning Charles was invited to the smallbachelor flat for coffee.They talked for over an hour and tile dzal was struck.Charles thought Sir Alec would announce his resignationin the late summer,which would give him eight to ten weeks to carry out acampaign. Fionatyped out a list of all the new members, and during thenext eight weeksevery one of them was invited to their Eaton Squarehouse for drinks. Fionawas subtle enough to see that members of the lower housewere outnumberedby other guests, often from the House of Lords. Heathmanaged to escapefrom his front-bench duties on the Finance Bill to spendat least an hourwith the Hamptons once a week. As tile day ofSir AlecHomes resignationdrew nearer-, Charles remained confident that he hadcarried 34FIRST AMONG EQUALSout his p~lan in a subtle and discreet way. He would havebeen willing toplace a wager that no one other than Edward Heath had anyidea how deeplyhe was involved.One man who attended the second of Fionas soirees sawexactly what wasgoing on. While many of the guests spent their timeadmiring the Hamptonart collection, Simon Kerslake kept a wary eye on hishost and hostess.Kerslake was not convinced that Edward Heath would winthe forthcoming
  37. 37. election for Leader of the Opposition and felt confidentthat ReginaldMaudling would turn out to be the partys naturalchoice. Maudling was,after all, Shadow Foreign Secretary, a former chancellorand far seniorto Heath. More important, he was a married man. Simondoubted the Torieswould ever pick a bachelor to lead them.As soon as Kerslake had left the Hamptons he jumped intoa taxi andreturned immediately to the Commons. He found ReoinaldMaudling in themembers dining room. Fie waited until Maudling hadfinished his rnealbefore asking if they could have a few moments alone.The tall, shamblingMaudling was not altogether certain of the name of thenew member. Hadhe seen him just roaming around the building, he wouldhave assumed that,with such looks, lie was a television newscastercovering the Leadershipcontest. He leaned over and invited Simon to join himfor a drink in hisoffice.Maudling listened intently to all that the enthusiasticyoung man had tosay and accepted the judgment of the well-informedmember withoutquestion. It was agreed that Simon should try to counterthe Hampton cam-paign and report back his results twice a week.While Hampton could call on all the powers and influenceof his Etonianbackground, Kerslake weighed up the advantages anddisadvantages of hiscompetition in a manner that would have impressed aHarvard Busi35FIRST AMONG EQUALSness School graduate. He did not own a palatial home inEaton Square inwhich Turners and Holbeins were to be found on the walls,
  38. 38. not in books. Healso lacked a glamorous socicty wife-- though he hopedthat would not be thecase for much longer. He had no money to speak of, but hehad scrapedtogether enough from his employment at BBC to move fromhis tiny flat inEarls Court to a small house on the corner of BeaufortStreet in Chelsea.Lavinia now stayed the night more often, but he hadntbeen able to convinceher to reside there on a more permanent basis."You dont have enough closet space for my shoes," sheonce told him.It didnt stop Simon from enjoying her company andremaining aware of herfeel for politics. Over dinner the night he had seenMaudling she demandedto know, "But why do you support Reggie Maudling?""Reggie has a great deal more experience of governmentthan Heath, and inanv case hes more caring about those around him.""But Daddy says Heath is so much more professional,,"said Lavinia."That may be the case, but the British have alwayspreferred good amateursto run their government," said Simon.. And no betterexamnle of that thanyour father, Simon thought to himself."If you believe all that stuff about amateurs, whybother to become soinvolved yourself?"Simon considered the question for some time beforetaking a sip of wine."Because, frankly, I dont come from the sort ofbackground thatautomatically commands, the center of the Tory stage.""True," said Lavinia, grinning. "But I do."Simon spent the following days trying to work out thecertain Maudling andcertain Heath supporters, although many members claimedto favor bothcandidates, according to who asked them. These he listedas
  39. 39. 36FIRST AMONG EQUALSdoubtfuls. When Enoch Powell threw his cap into the ring,Simon could notfind a single new member other than Alec Pimkin whoopenly supported him.Simon made no attempt to influence Pimkins vote. Thesmall rotund figurecould be observed waddling between the members bar andthe dining roomrather than the chamber and the library. He would haveundoubtedlyconsidered Simon "below his station." Even if he had notbeen voting forPowell, it was no secret that he was slightly in awe ofhis old schoolchum Charles Hampton, and Simon would find himself thirdin line. Thatleft forty members from the new intake who still had tobe followed up.Simon estimated twelve certain Heath, eleven certainMaudling and onePowell, leaving sixteen undecided. As the day of theelection drew nearerit became obvious that few of the remaining sixteenactuaRy knew eithercandidate well, and that most were still not sure f6iwhom they shouldvote.Because Simon could not invite them all to his smallhouse on the comerof Beaufort Street, he would have to go to them. Duringthe last sixweeks of the race he accompanied his chosen Leader totwenty-three newmembers constituencies, from Bodmin to Glasgow, fromPenrith to GreatYarmouth, briefing Maudling studiously, before everymeeting.Gradually it became obvious that Charles Hampton andSimon Kerslake werethe chosen lieutenants among the new Tory intake. Some
  40. 40. members resentedthe whispered confidences at the Eaton Square cocktailparties, or thediscovery that Simon Kerslake had visited theirconstituencies, whileothers were simply envious of the reward that wouldinevitably be heapedon the victor.On July 22, 1965, Sir Alec Douglas-Home made his formalannouncement ofresignation to the 1922 Committee, comprised of all theTorybackbenchers.The date chosen for the Party Leadership election was37FIRST AMONG EQUALSjust five days away. Charles and Simon began avoidingeach other, and Fionastarted referring to Kerslake, first in private, then inpublic, as "thatpushy self-made man." She stopped using the expressionwhen Alec Pimkinasked in afl innocence whether she was referring toEdward Heath.On the morning of the secret ballot both Simon andCharles voted early andspent the rest of the day pacing the corridors of theCommons trying toassess the result. By lunchtime they were both outwardlyexuberant, whileinwardly despondent.At two-fifteen they were seated in the large committeeroom to hear thechairman of the 1922 Committee make the historicannouncement:"The result of the election for Leader of theConservative ParliamentaryParty is as follows:EDWARD HEA,rH 150 votesRE(31NAL.D MAUDLING 133 votes
  41. 41. ENOCH POWELL 15 votesCharles and Fiona opened a bottle of Krug while Simontook Lavinia to theOld Vic to see The Royal Hunt of the Sun.He slept the entire way through Robert Stephensbriffiant performancebefore being driven home in silence by Lavinia."Well, I must say you were exciting company tonight,"she said."I am sorry, but Ill promise to make up for it in thenear future," saidSimon. "Lets have dinner at Annabels on-" Simonhesitated w"Monday. Letsmake it a special occasion."Lavinia smiled for the first time that night.When Edward Heath announced his Shadow Govermnent team,Reggie Maudling wasnamed Deputy 38FIRST AMONG EQUALSLeader. Charles Hampton received an invitation tojoin theShadowEnvironment team as its junior spokesman.He was the first of the new intake to be givenfrontbenchresponsibilities.Simon Kerslake received a handwritten letter from ReggieMaudlingthanking him for his valiant efforts.394IT TOOK SIMON ALN40ST A WEEK to stop sulking over Heathselection, and bythen he had decided on a definite course of action forthe future. Havingchecked the Whips office carefully for the Monday votingschedule, and seenthere were no votes expected after six oclock, he bookeda table atAnnabels for ten. Louis promised him an alcove table
  42. 42. hidden discreetly fromthe dance floor.On Monday morning Simon perused the shop windows in BondStreet beforeemerging from Cartiers with a small blue leather boxwhich he placed inthe pocket of his jacket. Simon returned to the Commonsunable toconcentrate fully on the orders of the day.fie left the Commons a little after seven to return toBeaufort Street. Onarrival home he watched the earlyevening news beforewashing his hair andtaking a shower. He shaved for a second time that day,removed the pinsfroin an evening dress shirt that had never been takenfrom its wrapper andlaid out his dinner jacket.At nine oclock he transferred the little box from hiscoat pocket to hisdinner jacket, checked his bow tie,40FIRST AMONG EQUALSand as he left, he double-locked the front door of hislittle house.When he reached Chelsea Square a few minutes later heparked his MGBoutside Number 4 and once again the omniscient butlerushered himthrough. Simon could hear Lavinias high tones comingfrom the drawingroom, but it was not until he walked in that he realizedit was herfather she was addressing."Hello, Simon.""Good evening," Simon said, before kissing Laviniagently on the cheek.She was dressed in a long green chiffon pown that lefther creamy whiteshoulders bare."Daddy thinks he can help with Ted Heath," wereLavinia"s opening words.
  43. 43. "What do you mean?" asked Simon, puzzled."Well," began Sir Rufus, "you might not have backed ournew Leader in hisstruggle, but I did, and although I say it m, self, Istill have a fairbit of influence with him." YSimon accepted the sweet sherry Lavinia thrust into hishand."Im having lunch with Mr. Heath tomorrow and thoughtId put in a wordon your behalf.""Thats very kind of you," said Simon, still hating thefact thatcontacts seemed more important than ability."Not at all, old boy. To be honest, I almost look uponyou as one of thefamily nowadays," added Sir Rufus, grinning.Simon nervously touched the little box in his insidepocket."Isnt that super of Daddy?" said Lavinia."It certainly is," said Simon."Thats settled then," said Lavinia. "So lets be off toAnnabels.""Fine by nie," said Simon. "I have a table booked forten oclock," headded, checking his watch."Is the place any good?" inquired Sir Rufus.41FIRST AMONG EQUALS"It"s super, Daddy," declared Lavinia, "you should tryit sometime.-"Those damn clubs never last. If its still around thistime next year Illconsider joining.""Perhaps you wont be around this time next year,Daddy," said Lavinia,giggling.Simon tried not to laugh."If she had spoken to me like that a few years ago, Idhave put her overmy knee," he informed Simon.This time Simon forced a laugh.
  44. 44. "Come on, Simon," said Lavinia, "or well be late.Night-night, Daddy."Lavinia gave her father a peck on the cheek. Simon shookhands with SirRufus rather formally before escorting Lavinia to hiscar."Isnt that wonderful news?" she said as Simon turnedthe ignition key."Oh, yes," said Simon, guiding the car into the FulhamRoad. "Very kind ofyour father." A few spots of rain iriade him turn on thewindshield wipers."Mummy thinks you ought to be made a Shadow Spokesman.""Not a hope," said Simon."Dont be such a pessimist," said Lavinia. "With myfamily behind youanything could happen."Sirnon felt a little sick."Arid Mummy knows all the influential women in theparty."Simon had a feeling that was no longer going to be quiteso important witha bachelor in command.Simon swung the car into Belgrave Square and on uptoward Hyde Park Corner."Arid did I tell you about the Hunt Ball next month?Absolutely everyone isexpected to be there, I mean everyone.""No, you didnt mention it," said Simon, who had neveradmitted to Laviniathat he couldnt stand Hunt Balls.42FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon saw the cat run out in front of the doubledeckerbus and threw onhis brakes just in time. "Phew, that was close," hesaid. But a momentlater Lavinia screamed. Simon turned to see a trickle ofblood runningdown her forehead-"Oh, God, Im bleeding. Get me to a hospital," she said,and began to
  45. 45. sob.Simon drove quickly on to St. Georges Hospital on thecorner olHydePark and leaped out, leaving his car on a double yellowline. He ranaround to the passenger side and helped Lavinia out,guiding her slowlyto the emergency entrance. Although blood was stilltrickling downLavinias face, the cut above her eyebrow didnt lookall that deep toSimon. He took off his dinnerjacket and put. it over herbare shoulders,doing everything he could to comfort her, but shecontinued to shake.It must have been the fact that Simon was in eveningclothes that madethe duty nurse move a little more quickly than usual.They were usheredthrough to a doctor only a few minutes after arrival."Its all ever my beautiful dress," said Lavinia betweensobs."The stain will wash out," said the doctormatterof-factlY."But will I be left with a scar for the rest of mylife?" asked Lavinia.Simon watched with silent admiration. She was completelyin control ofeverything around her."Good heavens, no," replied the doctor, "its only aflesh wound. Itwont even require stitches. The most you mightexperience is a smallheadache." Thedoctordamped the blood away beforecleaning the wound."There will be no sign of the cut after a couple ofweeks.""Are you certain?" demanded Lavinia.Simon couldnt take his eyes off her."Absolutely certain," said the doctor, finally placing asmall piece ofadhesive across the wound. "Perhaps it43
  46. 46. FIRST AMONG EQUALSwould be wise for you to go home and change your dress ifYou are stillplanning to go out to dinner.""Of course, Dr. Drummond," said Simon, checking the nameon the littlelapel badge. "Ill see shes taken care of."Simon thanked the doctor and then helped Lavinia to thecar before drivingher back to Chelsea Square. Lavinia didnt stopwhimpering all the wayhome, and she didnt notice that Simon hardly spoke.Lady MaxwellHarringtonput her daughter to bed as soon as Simon had told herwhat had happened.When mother and daughter disappeared upstairs, Simonreturned to BeaufortStreet. He removed the little box from his blood-staineddinner jacket andplaced it by the side of his bed. He opened it andstudied the sapphirc setin a circle of small diamonds. He was now certain of thehand he wanted tosee wear the ring.The next morning Simon telephoned to find that Laviniawas fully recovered,but Daddy had thought it might. be wise for her to spendthe rest of theday in bed. Simon concurred and promised to drop in tosee her sometimeduring the evening.Once Simon had reached his office in the Commons hephoned St. GeorgesHospital, and they told him that Dr. Drummond would beoff duty until laterthat afternoon. It didnt take the skill of SherlockHolmes to find Dr. E.Drummonds telephone number in the London directory."Its Simon Kerslake," he said when Dr, Drummondanswered the phone. "Iwanted to thank you for the trouble you took overLavinia last night.""It was no trouble, no trouble at all-in fact it was the
  47. 47. least of lastnights problems."Sirnon laughed nervously and asked, "Are you free forlunch by any chance?"Dr. Drummond sounded somewhat surprised, but aareedafter Simon hadsuggested the Coq dOr, which 44FIRST AMONG EQUALSwas conveniently near St. Georges Hospital. They agreedto meet at one.Simon arrived a few minutes early, ordered a lager andwaited at the bar.At five past one the maitre d brought the doctor to hisside."It was good of you to come at such short notice," saidSimon, aftershaking hands."It was irresistible. Its not often I get invited tolunch when all Ihqve done is clean up a flesh wound."Simon laughed and found himself staring at the beautifulwoman. Herecalled the calm poise of yesterday, but today sherevealed aninfectious enthusiasm that Sinion found irresistible.The maitre dguided them to a table in the comer of the room. Simonstared once againat the slim, fair woman, whose large brown eyes had kepthini awake mostof the night. He couldnt help noticing, men stop inmid-sentence to takea closer look as she passed each table."I know it sounds silly," he said after they had satdown, "but I dontknow your first name.""Elizabeth," she said, smiling."Mines Simon.""I remember," said Elizabeth. "In fact I saw you onPanorama last monthgiving your views on the state of the National HealthService.""Oh," said Simon, sounding rather pleased. "Did it come
  48. 48. over all right?""You were brilliant," replied Elizabeth.Simon smiled."Onl, an expert would have realized you hadnt thefaintest idea what youwere talking about." Simon was momentarily stunned andthen burst outlaughing.Over a ni,.-al Simon couldnt remember ordering, helearned thatElizabeth had been to school in London before trainingat St. ThomassHospital. "I am only working relief at St. Georges thisweek," sheexplained, "before I take up a ftill-time post in thegynecology de-45FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSpartrnent of St. Marys, Paddington. If MissMaxwellHarrington had come tothe hospital a week later, we would never have met. Howis she, by the way?""Spending the day in bed.""Youre not serious?" said Elizabeth. "I only sent herhome to change herdress, not convalesce."Simon burst out laughing again."Im sorry, I probably insulted a dear friend of yours.""No," said Simon, "that was yesterday."Sirrion returned to Chelsea Square that night andlearned, while sitting onthe end of Lavinias bed, that Dadd, had "fixed"TedHeath, and Simon couldexpect yto hear from him in the near future. It didnt stop Simonfrom tellingLavinia the truth about his meeting with ElizabethDrummond, even though hehad no way of knowing Elizabeths feelings. Simon wassurprised at how wellLavinia appeared to take the news. He left a few minutes
  49. 49. later to return tothe House of Commons in tinne for the ten oclock vote.In the corridor tLe Chief Whip took him aside and askedif he could sec himin his office at twelve the next morning. Simon readilyagreed. After thevote he wandered into the Whips office in the hope thatsome clue would begiven as to why the Chief Whip wanted to see him."Congratulations, said a junior whip, looking up fromhis desk."Ont what?" said Simon apprehensively."Oh hell, have I let the cat out of the bag?""I dont think so," said Simon. "The Chief Whip hasasked to see me attwelve tomorrow.""I never said a word," said the junior whip, and buriedhis head in somepapers. Simon smiled and returned home.He was unable to sleep much that night or stand still46FIRST AMONG EQUALSmost of the following morning and was back in the Whipsoffice by ten totwelve. He tried not to show too much anticipation.Miss Norse, the Chief Whips aging secretary, looked upfrom. hertypewriter. The tapping stopped for a moment."Good morning, Mr. Kerslake. Im afraid the Chief Whiphas been held upin a meeting with Mr. Heath.""I fully understand," said Simon. "Am I to wait, or hashe arrangedanother appointment?""No," said Miss Norse, sounding somewhat surprised."No," she repeated."He simply said that whatever he wanted to see you aboutwas no longerimportant, and he was sorry to have wasted your time."Simon turned to leave, immediately realizing what hadhappened. He wentstraight to the nearest telephone booth and dialed five
  50. 50. digits ofLavinias home number, and then hung up suddenly. Hewaited for a few mo-ments before he dialed seven digits.It was a few minutes before they found her."Dr..Druaimond," she said crisply."Elizabetb, its Simon Kerslake. Are you free fordinner?""Why, does Lavinia need her Band-Aid changed?""No," said Simon, "Lavinia died-somewhat prematurely."Elizabeth ~:,huckled. "I do hope its not catching," shesaid, beforeadding, "Im afraid I dont get off until tenthirty.""Neither do I," said Simon, "so I could pick you up atthe hospital.""You sound a bit low," said Elizabeth."Not low----older," said Simon. "Ive grown up abouttwenty.years in thelast two days."Although he wasnt much more than a glorified messengerboy, CharlesHampton was enjoying the chal47FIRST AMONG EQUALSlenge of his new appointment as a junior Oppositionspokesman inEnvironment. At least he felt he was near the center ofaffairs. Even if hewas not actually making decisions on future policy, hewas at leastlistening to them. Whenever a debate on housing tookplace in the Commons,he was allowed to sit on the front bench along, with therest of theConservative team. He had already caused the defeat oftwo minor amendmentson the Town and Country Planning Bill, and had added oneof his own,relating to the protection of trees. "it isnt preventinga world war," headmitted to Fiona, "but in its own way its quiteimportant, because if wewin the next General Election, Im now confident of
  51. 51. being, offered a junioroffice. Then Ill have a real chance to shape policy."Fiona continued to play her part, hosting monthly dinnerparties at theirEaton Square house. By the end of the year every memberof the ShadowCabinet had been to dinner at least once at theHamptons, where Fionanever allowed a menu to be repeated or wore the samedress twice.When the parliamentary year began again in October,Charles was one ofthenames continually dropped by the political analysts assomeone to watch."He makes things happen," was the sentiment that wasexpressed again andagain. 1- le could barely cross the members lobbywithout a reporterstrying to solicit his views on everything from buttersubsidies to rape.Fiona clipped out of the papers every mention of herhusband and couldnthelp noticing that only one new member was receivingmore press coveragethan Charles-a young man t"rom Leeds named RaymondGould.Ra, mond Gould could be found tapping away late Yinto the night on his ancient typewriter with his phoneoff the hook. He waswriting page after page, checking,48FIRST AMONG EQUALSthen rechecking the proofs, and often referring to thepiles of books thatcluttered his desk.When Raymonds Full Emplo~vment at Any Cost? waspublished and subtitled"Reflections of a Worker Educated After the Thirties,"it caused animmediate sensation. The suggestion that the unionswould become impotent
  52. 52. and the Labour Party would need to be more innovative tocapture theyoung vote was never likely to endear him to the Partysrank and file.Raymond had anticipated that it would provoke a storm ofabuse from unionleaders, and even among some of his more leftwingcolleagues. But whenA.J.P. Taylor suggested in the London Times that it wasthe most profoundand realistic look at the Labour Party since AnthonyCroslands TheFuture oj* Socialism, and had produced a politician ofrare honesty andcourage, Raymond knew his strategy and hard work werepaying dividends.He found himself a regular topic of conversation atevery politicaldinner party in London.Joyce thought the book a magnificent piece ofscholarship, and she spenta considerable time trying to convince trade unioniststhat, in fact, itshowed a passionate concern for their movement, while atthe same timerealistically, considering the Labour Partys chances ofgoverning in thenext decade.The Labour Chief Whip took Raymond aside and told him,"Youve caused aright stir, lad. Now keep your head down for a fewmonths and youllprobably find every Cabinet tnember quoting you as if itwas partypolicy."Raymond took the Chief Whips advice, but he did nothave to wait months.Just three weeks after the books publication Raymondreceived a missivefrom Number 10 requesting him to check over the PrimeMinisters speechto the Trade Union Conference and add any suggestions hemight have.Raymond read the
  53. 53. 49FIRST AMONG EQUALSnote agai a, delighted by the recognition it acknowledged.He be-an to hope he might be the first of the new in-Ltake to be invited to join the Government front bench.Simon Kerslake looked upon the defeat of Maudling andhis own failure to beoffered a post in the Whips office as only temporarysetbacks. He soonbegan to work on a new strategy for gaining hiscolleagues respect.Realizing that there was a fifteen-minute period twice aweek when someonewith his oratorical skills could command notice, heturned all his cunningagainst the Government benches. At the beginning of anew session each weekhe would carefully study the agenda and in particularthe first fivequestions listed for the Prime Minister on Tuesdays andThursdays.Supplementary questions were required to have only theloosest associationwith the subject of the main question. This meant thatalthough Ministerswere prepared for the first question, they could neverbe sure whatsupplementaries would be thrown at them. Thus, everyMonday morning Simonwould prepare a supplementary for at least threequestions. These heworded, then reworded, so that they were biting or wittyand always likelyto embarrass the Labour Government. Although preparationcould take severalhours, Simon would make them sound as though they hadbeen jotted down onthe back of his agenda paper during Question Time--andin fact would even
  54. 54. do so. He remembered Churchills comment after beingpraised for abrilliant rejoinder, "All my best off-the-cuff remarkshave been prepareddays before."Even so, Simon was surprised at how quickly the Housetook it for grantedthat he would be there on the attack, probing,demanding, harrying thePrime Ministers every move. Whenever he rose from hisseat, the Partyperked up in anticipation, and many of his inter-50FIRST AMONG EQUALSruptions reached the political columns of the Pewspapersthe nexi day. TheLabour Party had become painfully aware ofK~rslakescontribution atQuestion Time.Uvemplo~inent was the subject ofthat days question.Simon was q uickly onhis feet, leaning forward, jabbing a finger in tbe.direction of theGovernment front bench."With the appointment of four extra Secretaries ofState this week thePrime Minister can at least claim he has fullemp~oyrnent- - in theCabinet."The Prime Minister sank lower into his seat, lookingforward to tho recess.No one wits more delighted than Simon when lie read inthe Sun4ay ExpressCrossbencher column that "Prime Minister Wilson maydislike Edward Heath,but he detests Smnon Kerslake." Simon smiled. pleased tofind that realresults had come from his own efforts, not from outside-_ontacts.51PART TWO
  55. 55. Junior Officek%ñ~-ow1966-119725THE BRITISH CONSTITUTION remains one of the greatmysteries to almost allwho were not born on that little island in the North Sea,and to aconsiderable number of those who have never left itsshores. This may bepartly because, unlike the Americans, the British havehad no writtenconstitution since Magna Carta in 1215 and since thenhave acted only onprecedent.A Prime Minister is elected for a term of five years,but he can "go to thecountry" whenever he thinks fit, which inevitably meanswhen he considershe has the best chance of winning a General Election. Ifthe government ofthe day has a large majority in the Commons, theelectorate expects it toremain in power for at least four of the five years. Insuch circumstances"to go early" is considered opportunistic by the votersand for that reasonoften backfires. But when a partys majority in theHouse is small, as wasthe case with Harold Wilsons Labour Government, thepress never stopsspeculating on. the date of the next election.The only method the Opposition has for removing theGovernment in underfive years is to call for a vote of55FIRST AMONG EQUALS"noconfidence" in the House of Commons. If the Government
  56. 56. is defeated, thePrime Minister has to call an election within a fewweeks--which may wellnot be to his advantage. In law, the monarch has thefinal say, but for thepast two hundred years the Kings and Queens of Englandhave only rubber-stamped the Prime Ministers decision, although they havebeen known tofrown.By 1966 Harold Wilson was left with little choice. Givenhis majority ofonly four, everyone knew it would not be long before hehad to call aGeneral Election. In March of 1966 he sought an audiencewith the Queenandshe agreed to dissolve Parliament immediately. Theelection campaignstarted the next day."Youll enjoy this," said Simon as he walked up to thefirst door. Elizabethremained uncertain, but could think of no better way tofind out what grassroots politics was really like. She had taken the fewdays vacation due herin order to spend them in Coventry with Simon. It hadnever crossed her mindthat she might fall for a politician, but she had toadmit that hisvote-catching charm was proving irresistible compared toher colleaguesbedside manner.Simon Kerslake, with such a tiny majority to defend,began spending hisspare time in his Coventry constituency. The local peopleseemed pleasedwith the apprenticeship of their new member, but thedisinterestedstatisticians pointed out that a swing of less than Ipercent would removehim from the House for another five years. By then his
  57. 57. rivals would be onthe second rung of the ladder.The Tory Chief Whip advised Simon to stay put in Coventryand not toparticipate in any further parliamentary business."Therell be no moreimportant issues between now and the election," heassured him. "The mostworthwhile thing you can do is pick up votes in theconstituency, not givethem in Westminster."56FIRST AMONGEQUALSSimons opponent was the former member, Alf Abbott, whobecameprogressively confident of victory as the national swingto Labouraccelerated during the campaign. The smaller LiberalParty fielded acandidate, Nigel Bainbridge, but he admitted openly thathe could onlycome in third.For their first round of canvassing, Elizabeth wore heronly suit, whichshe had bought when she had been interviewed for herfirst hospital job.Simon admired her sense of propriety, and whileElizabeths outfit wouldsatisfy the matrons in the constituency, her fair hairand shm figurestill had the local press wanting to photograph her.The street list of names was on a card in Simonspocket."Good morning, Mrs. Foster. My name is Simon Kerslake.Im yourConservative candidate.""Oh, how nice to meet you. I have so much I need todiscuss withyou-wont you come in and have a cup of tea?""Its kind of you, Mrs. Foster, but I have rather a lot
  58. 58. of ground tocover during the next few days." When the door closed.Simon put a redline through her name on his card."How can you be sure shes a Labour supporter?" demandedElizabeth. "Sheseemed so friendly.""The Labourites are trained to ask all the othercandidates, in for teaand waste their time. Our side will always say, Youhave my vote, dontspend your time with me and let you get on to those whoare genuinelyuncommitted."Elizabeth couldnt hide her disbelief. "That onlyconfirms my worst fearsabout politicians," she said. "How can I have fallen forone?""Perhaps you mistook me for one of your patients.""My patients dont tell me they have broken arms whentheyre goingblind," she said.57FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSMrs. Fosters next-door neighbor said, "I always voteConservative."Simon put a blue line through the name and knocked onthe next door."My name is Simon Kerslake and I...""I know who you are, young man, and Ill have none ofyour politics.""May I ask who you will be voting for?" asked Simon."Liberal.""Why?" asked Elizabeth."Because I believe in supporting the underdog.""But surely that will turn out to be a waste of a vote.""Certainly not. Lloyd George was the greatest PrimeMinister of thiscentury.""But. . _" began Elizabeth enthusiastically. Simon put ahand on her arm."Thank you, sir, for your time," he said, and prodded
  59. 59. Elizabeth gently downthe path."Sorry, Elizabeth," said Simon, when they were back onthe pavement. "Oncethey mention Lloyd George we have no chance: theyreeither Welsh or haveremarkably long memories."He knocked on the next door."My name is Simon Kerslake, I...""Get lost, creep," came back the reply."Who are you calling creep?" Elizabeth retaliated as thedoor was slammedin their faces. "Charming man," she added."Dont be offended, Dr. Drummond. He was referring tome, not you.""What shall I put by his name?""A question mark. No way of telling who he votes for.Probably abstains."He tried the next door."Hello, Simon," said a jolly red-faced lady before hecould open his mouth."Dont waste your time on me, Ill always vote for you.""Thank you, Mrs. Irvine," said Simon, checking his58FIRST AMONG EQUALShouse list. "What about your next-door neighbor?" heasked, pointing back."Ah, hes an irritable old basket, but Ill see he getsto the polls on theday and puts his cross in the right box. Hed better, orIll stop keepingan eye on his greyhound when hes out.""Thank you very much, Mrs. Irvine.""One more blue," said Simon."And you might even pick up the greyhound vote."They covered four streets during the next three hours,and Simon put bluelines only through those names he was certain wouldsupport him on electionday."Why do you have to be so sure?" asked Elizabeth."Because when we phone them to vote on Election Day we
  60. 60. dont want to remindthe Opposition, let alone arrange a ride for someone whothen takespleasure in voting Labour."Elizabeth laughed. "Politics is so dishonest.""Be happy youre not going out with an AmericanSenator," said Simon,putting another blue line through the last name in thestreet. "At least wedont have to be millionaires to run.""Perhaps Id like to marry a millionaire," Elizabethsaid, griinning."On a parliamentary salary it will take me about twohundred and forty-twoyears to achieve.""Im not sure I can wait that long."Four days before the election Simon and Elizabeth stoodin the wings behindthe stage of Coventry Town Hall with Alf Abbott, NigelBainbridge and theirwives for a public debate. The three couples madestilted conversation. Thepolitical correspondent of the Coventry EveningTelegraph acted aschairman, introducing each of the protagonists as theywalked onto thestage, to applause from different sections of the hall.Simon spoke first,holding the attention of the large audience for over 59FIRST AMONG EQUALStwenty minutes. Those who tried to heckle him ended upregretting havingbrought attention to themselves. Without once referringto his notes, hequoted figures and clauses from Government bills with anease that impressedElizabeth. During the questions that followed, Simon onceagain proved to befar better informed than Abbott or Bainbridge, but he wasaware that thepacked hall held only seven hundred that cold Marchevening, while elsewhere
  61. 61. in Coventry were fifty thousand more voters, most of themglued to theirtelevision watching "Ironside."Although the local press proclaimed Simon the victor ofa one-sided debate,he remained downcast by the national papers, which werenow predicting alandslide for Labour.On election morning Simon picked up Elizabeth at six sohe could be amongthe first to cast his vote at the local primary school.They spent the restof the day traveling from polling hall to Partyheadquarters, trying tokeep up the morale of his supporters. Everywhere theywent, the committedbelieved in his victory but Simon knew it would beclose. A seniorConservative backbencher had once told him that anoutstanding member couldbe worth a thousand personal votes, and a weak opponentmight sacrificeanother thousand. Even an extra two thousand wasntgoing to be enough.As the Coventry City Hall clock struck nine, Simon andElizabeth sat downon the steps of the last polling hall. He knew there wasnothing he coulddo now--4he last vote had been cast. Just then, ajollylady, accompanied bya sour-faced man, was coming out of the hall. She had asmile ofsatisfaction on her face."Hello, Mrs. Irvine," said Simon. "How are you?""Im fine, Simon." She smiled."Looks like she fixed the greyhound vote," Elizabethwhispered in Simonsear."Now dont fret yourself, lad," Mrs. Irvine continued. 60FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I never failed to vote for the winner in fifty-twoyears, and thatslonger than youve lived." She winked and led the
  62. 62. sour-faced man away.A small band of supporters accompanied Simon andElizabeth to the CityHall to witness the count. As Simon entered the hall,the first personhe saw was Alf Abbott, who had a big grin on his face.Simon was notdiscouraged by the smile as he watched the little slipsof paper pour outof the boxes. Abbott should have remembered that thefirst boxes to becounted were always from the city wards, where most ofthe committed La-bourites lived.As both men walked around the tables, the little pilesof ballots beganto be checked-first in tens, then hundreds, until theywere finallyplaced in thousands and handed over to the town clerk.As the night drewon, Abbotts grin turned to a smile, from a smile to apoker face, andfinally to a look of anxiety as the piles grew closerand closer in size.For over three hours the process of emptying the boxescontinued and thescrutineers checked each little white slip beforehanding in their ownrecords. At one in the morning the Coventry town clerkadded up the listof numbers in front of him and asked the threecandidates to join him.He told them the results.Alf Abbott smiled. Simon showed no emotion, but calledfor a recount.For over an hour, he paced nervously around the room asthe scrutineerschecked and double-checked each pile: a change here, amistake there, alost vote discovered, and, on one occasion, the name onthe top of thepile of one hundred votes was not the same as theninety-nine beneath it.At last the scrutineers handed back their figures. Once
  63. 63. again the townclerk added up the columns of numbers before asking thecandidates tojoin him.61FIRST AMONG EQUALSThis time Simon smiled, while Abbott looked surprisedand demanded afurther recount. The town clerk acquiesced, but said ithad to be the lasttime. Both candidates agreed in the absence of theirLiberal rival, who wassleeping soundly in the comer, secure in the knowledgethat no amount ofrecounting would alter his position in the contest.Once again the piles were checked and doublechecked andfive mistakes werediscovered in the 42,588 votes cast. At 3:30 A.M. withcounters andcheckers falling asleep at their tables, the town clerkonce more asked thecandidates to join him. They were both stunned when theyheard the result,and the town clerk informed them that there would be yeta further recountin the morning when his staff had managed to get somesleep.All the ballots were then replaced carefully in theblack boxes, locked andleft in the safekeeping of the local constabulary, whilethe candidatescrept away to their beds. Simon and Elizabeth bookedinto separate rooms atthe Leofric Hotel.Simon slept in fits and starts through the remainder ofthe night.Elizabeth brought a cup of tea to his room at eight thesame morning tofind him still in bed."Simon," she said, "you look like one of my patientsjust before anoperation."
  64. 64. "I think Ill skip this operation," he said, turningover."Dont be such a wimp, Simon," she said rather snappily."Youre still themember, and you owe it to your supporters to remain asconfident as theyfeel."Simon sat up in bed and stared at Elizabeth. "Quiteright," he said,stretching for his tea, unable to hide the pleasure hefelt in discoveringhow much she had picked up of the political game in sucha short time.Simon had a long bath, shaved slowly, and they were backat the Town Halla few minutes before the count was due to recommence. AsSimon walked upthe steps62FIRST AMONG EQUALShe was greeted by a battery of television cameras andjournalists who hadheard rumors as to why the count had been held upovernight and knew theycouldnt afford to be absent as the final drama unfolded.The counters looked eager and ready when the town clerkchecked his watchand nodded. The boxes were unlocked and placed in frontof the staff forthe fourth time. Once again the little piles of ballotsgrew from tensinto hundreds and then into thousands. Simon pacedaround the tables,more to bum up his nervous energy than out of a desireto keep checking.He had thirty witnesses registered as his countingagents to make surehe didnt lose by sleight of hand or genuine mistake.Once the counters and scrutineers had finished, they satin front oftheir piles and waited for the slips to be collected forthe town clerk.
  65. 65. When the town clerk had added tip his little columns offigures for thefinal time he found that four votes had changed hands.He explained to Simon and Alf Abbott the procedure heintended to adoptin view of the outcome. He told both candidates that hehad spoken toLord Elwyn Jones at nine that morning and the LordChancellor had readout the relevant statute in election law that was to befollowed in suchan extraordinary circumstance.The town clerk walked up on to the stage with SimonKerslake and AlfAbbott in his wake, both looking anxious.Everyone in the room stood to be sure of a better viewof theproceedings. When the pushing back of chairs, thecoughing and thenervous chattering had stopped, the town clerk began.First he tapped themicrophone that stood in front of him to be sure it wasworking. The me-tallic scratch was audible throughout the silent room.Satisfied, hebegan to speak."I, the returning officer for the district of CoventryCentral, herebydeclare the total number of votes cast for eachcandidate to be asfollows:63FIRST AMONG EQUALSALF ABBOTT, (LABOUR) 18,437NIGEL BAINBRIDGE, (LIBERAL) 5,714SIMON KERSLAKE, (CONSERVATIVE) 18,437The supporters of both the leading candidates eruptedinto a noisy frenzy.It was several minutes before the town clerks voicecould be heard abovethe babble of Midland accents.

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