First among equals by jeffery archer
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First among equals by jeffery archer Document Transcript

  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. "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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. "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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. "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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. "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. "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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. "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. 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.
  • 66. "In accordance with Section Sixteen of theRepresentation of the People Actof 1949 and Rule Fifty of the Parliamentary ElectionRules in the secondschedule to that Act, I am obliged to decide betweentied candidates bylot," be announced. "I have spoken with the LordChancellor and he hasconfirmed that the drawing of straws or the toss of acoin may constitutedecision by lot for this purpose. Both candidates haveagreed to the lattercourse of action."Pandemonium broke out again as Simon and Abbott stoodmotionless on eachside of the town clerk waiting for their fate to bedetermined."Last night I borrowed from Barclays Bank," continuedthe town clerk,aware that ten million people were watching him ontelevision for the firstand probably the last time in his life, "a goldensovereign. On one side isthe head of King George the Third, on the otherBritannia. I shall invitethe sitting member, Mr. Kerslake, to call hispreference." Abbott curtlynodded his agreement. Both men inspected the coin.The town clerk rested the golden sovereign on his thumb,Simon and Abbottstill standing on either side of him. He turned to Simonand said, "Youwill call, Mr. Kerslake, while the coin is in the air."The silence was such that they might have been the onlythree people in theroom. Simon could feel his heart thumping in his chestas the town clerkspun the coin high above him."Tails," he said clearly as the coin was at its zenith.64FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe sovereign hit the floor and bounced, turning over
  • 67. several times beforesettling at the feet of the town clerk.Simon stared down at the coin and sighed audibly. Thetown clerk clearedhis throat before declaring, "Following the decision bylot, I declare theaforementioned Mr. Simon Kerslake to be the duly electedMember ofParliament for Coventry Central."Simons supporters charged forward and on to the stageand carried him ontheir shoulders out of the City Hall and through thestreets of Coventry.Simons eyes searched for Elizabeth but she was lost inthe crush.Barclays Bank presented the golden sovereign to themember the next day,and the editor of the Coventry Evening Telegraph rang toask if there hadbeen any particular reason why he had selected tails."Yes," Simon replied. "George the Third lost America forus. I wasnt goingto let him lose Coventry for me."Raymond Gould increased his majority to 12,413 in linewith Laboursmassive nationwide victory, and Joyce was ready for aweeks rest.Charles Hampton could never recall accurately the sizeof his own majoritybecause, as Fiona explained to the old earl thefollowing morning, "Theydont count the Conservative vote in Sussex Downs,darling, they weigh it."Simon spent the day after the election traveling aroundthe constituencyhoarsely thanking his supporters for the hard work theyhad put in. For hismost loyal supporter, he could manage only four morewords: "Will you marryme?"
  • 68. 656IN M13ST DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIEs a newly elected leaderenjoys a transitional period during which he is able toannounce the policies he intends to pursue and whom hehas selected to implement them. But in Britain, MPs sitby their phones and wait for forty-eight hours immediately after the election results have been declared. If acall comes in the first twelve hours, they will be askedtojoin the Cabinet of twenty, during the second twelvegiven. a position as one of the thirty Ministers of State,and the third twelve, made one of the forty Under Secretaries, of State, and during the final twelve, a parliamentary private secretary to a Cabinet Minister. If the phonehasnt rung by then, they remain on the back benches.Raymond returned from Leeds the moment the count wasover, leaving Joyceto carry out the traditional "thank you" drive acrosstheconstituency-When he wasnt sitting by the phone the following dayfie was walkingaround it, nervously pushing his glasses back up on hisnose. The firstcall came from his mother, who had rung to congratulatehim."On what?" he asked. "Have you heard something?"66FIRST AMONG EQUALS"No, love," she said, "I just rang to say how pleased Iwas about yourincreased majority."460h.""And to add how sorry we were not to see you before youleft theconstituency, especiaUy as you had to pass the shop onthe way to thehighway."Raymond remained silent. Not again, Mother, he wanted to
  • 69. say.The second call was from a colleague inquiring ifRaymond had beenoffered a job."Not so far," he said before learning of hiscontemporarys promotion.The third call was from one of Joyces friends."When will she be back?" another Yorkshire accentinquired.."Ive no idea," said Raymond, desperate to get thecafler off the line."ID caH again this afternoon, then.""Fine," said Raymond putting the phone down quickly.He disappeared into the kitchen to make himself a cheesesandwich, butthere wasnt any cheese, so he ate stale bread smearedwiththree-week-old butter. He was halfway through a secondslice when thephone rang."Raymond?"He held his breath."Noel. Brewster."He exhaled in exasperation as he recognized the vicarsvoice."Can you read the second lesson when youre next up inLeeds? We hadrather hoped you would read it this morning-your dearwife...""Yes," he promised. "The first weekend I am back inLeeds." The phonerang again as soon as he placed it back on the receiver."Raymond Gould?" said an anonymous voice."Speaking," he said.67FIRST AMONG EQUALS"The Prime Minister will be with you in one moment."Raymond waited. The front door opened and another voiceshouted, "Its onlyme. I dont suppose you found anything to eat. Poorlove." Joyce joinedRaymond in the drawing room.
  • 70. Without looking at his wife, he waved his hand at her tokeep quiet."Raymond," said a voice on the other end of the line."Grood afternoon, Prime Minister," he replied, ratherformally, in responseto Harold Wilsons more pronounced Yorkshire accent."I was hoping you would feel able to join the new teamas Under Secretaryfor Employment?"Raymond breathed a sigh of relief It was exactly whathed hoped for. "Idbe delighted, sir," replied the new Minister."Good, that will give the trade union leaders somethingto think about."The phone went dead.Raymond Gould, Under Secretary of State for Employment,sat motionless onthe next rung of the ladder.As Raymond left the house the next morning, he wasgreeted by a driverstanding next to a gleaming black Austin Westminster.Unlike his ownsecondhand Volkswage n, it glowed in the morning light.The rear door wasopened and Raymond climbed in to be driven off to thedepartment. By hisside on the back seat was a red leather box the size ofa very thickbriefcase with gold lettering running along the edge."Under Secretary ofState for Employment." Raymond turned the small key,knowing what Alicemust have felt like on her way down the rabbit hole.When Charles Hampton returned to the Commons on Tuesdaythere was a notefrom the Whips office waiting for him on the membersletter board. One ofthe En-68FIRST AMONG EQUALSvironment team had lost his seat in the General Election
  • 71. and Charles hadbeen promoted to number two on the Opposition bench inthat department,to shadow the Government Minister of State. "No morepreservation oftrees. Youll be on to higher things now," chuckled theChief Whip."Pollution, water shortage, exhaust fumes . . ."Charles smiled with pleasure as he walked through theCommons,acknowledging old colleagues and noticing a considerablenumber of newfaces. He didnt stop to talk to any of the newcomers ashe could not becertain if they were Labour or Conservative, and, giventhe electionresults, most of them had to be the former. As for hisolder colleagues,many wore forlorn looks on their faces. For some itwould be aconsiderable time before they were offered the chance ofoffice again,while others knew they had served as Ministers for thelast time. Inpolitics, hed quickly learned, the luck of age andtiming could play avital part in any mans career, however able he mightbe. But atthirty-five, Charles could easily dismiss such thoughts.Charles proceeded to his office to check over theconstituency mail.Fiona had reminded him of the eight hundred letters ofthanks to theparty workers that had to be sent out. He groaned at themere thought ofit."Mrs. Blenkinsop, the chairman of the Sussex LadiesLuncheon Club, wantsyou to be their guest speaker for their annual lunch,"his secretary toldhim once he had settled."Reply yes~whats the date?" asked Charles, reaching forhis diary."June sixteenth."
  • 72. "Stupid women, thats Ladies Day at Ascot. Tell her thatIm deliveringa speech at an environmental conference, but Ill becertain to makemyself free for the function next year."69FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe secretary looked up anxiously."Dont worry," said Charles. "Shell never find out."The secretary movedon to the next letter.Simon had placed the little sapphire ring surrounded bydiamonds on thethird finger of her left hand. Three months later a widegold band joinedthe engagement ring.After Mr. and Dr. Kerslake had returned home from theirhoneymoon in Italythey both settled happily into Beaufort Street.Elizabeth found it quiteeasy to fit all her possessions into the little Chelseahouse, and Simonknew after only a few weeks that he had married a quiteexceptional woman.In the beginning the two of them had found it difficultto mesh theirdemanding careers, but they soon worked out acomfortable routine. Simonwondered if this could continue as smoothly if theydecided to start afamily or he was made a Minister. But the latter couldbe years away; theTories would not change their Leader until Heath hadbeen given a secondchance at the polls.Simon began writing articles for the Spectator and forthe Sunday Expresscenter pages in the hope of building a reputationoutside the House whileat the same time supplementing his parliamentary salaryof three thousand
  • 73. four hundred pounds. Even with Elizabeths income as adoctor, he wasfinding it difficult to make ends meet, and yet hedidnt want to worry hiswife. He envied the Charles Hamptons of this world whodid not seem to givea second thought about expenditure. Simon wondered ifthe damn man had anyproblems at all. He ran a finger down his own bankaccount: as usual therewas a figure around five hundred pounds in the righthandmargin, and asusual it was in red.He pressed on with demanding questions to the PrimeMinister each Tuesdayand Thursday. Even after this became routine, heprepared himself with hisusual thor-70FIRST AMONG EQUALSoughness, and on one occasion he even elicited praisefrom his normallytaciturn Leader. But he found as the weeks passed thathis thoughtscontinually returned to finance~--or his lack of it.That was before he met Ronnie Nethercote.Raymonds reputation was growing. He showed no signs ofbeing overcome byhis major role in a department as massive as Employment.Most civilservants who came in contact with Raymond thought of himas brilliant,demanding, hardworking and, not that it was everreported to him, arrogant.His ability to cut a junior civil servant off inmid-sentence or to correcthis principal private secretary on matters of detail didnot endear himeven to his closest staff members, who always want to beloyal to theirMinister.
  • 74. Raymonds work load was prodigious, and even thePermanent Secretaryexperienced Goulds unrelenting "Dont make excuses"when he tried to trimone of Raymonds private schemes. Soon senior civilservants were talkingof when, not whether, he would be promoted. HisSecretary of State, likeall men who were expected to be in six places at once,often asked Raymondto stand in for him, but even Raymond was surprised whenhe was invited torepresent the Department as guest of honor at the annualConfederation ofBritish Industries dinner.Joyce. checked to see that her husbands dinner jacketwas well brushed,his shirt spotless and his shoes shining like a guardofficers. Hiscarefully worded speech-a combination of civil-servantdraftsmanship and afew more forceful phrases of his own to prove to theassembled capitaliststhat not every member of the Labour Party was a "ravingcommie"-was safelylodged in his inside pocket. His driver ferried him fromhis Lansdowne Roadhome toward the West End.Raymond enjoyed the occasion, and, although he was71FIRST AMONG EQUALSnervous when he rose to represent the Government in replyto the toast ofthe guests, by the time he had resurned his seat he feltit had been one ofhis better efforts. The ovation that followed wascertainly more thanpolite, coming from what had to be classified as anaturally hostileaudience."That speech was dryer than the Chablis," one guestwhispered in the
  • 75. chairmans ear, but he had to agree that with men likeGould in highoffice, it was going to be a lot easier to live with aLabour Government.The man on Simon Kerslakes left was far more blunt invoicing his opinionof Raymond Gould. "Bloody man thinks like a Tory, talkslike a Tory, so whyisnt he a Tory9" he demanded.Simon grinned at the prematurely balding man who hadbeen expressing hisequally vivid views throughout dinner. At over twohundred pounds, RonnieNethercote looked as if he was trying to escape fromevery part of hisbulging dinner jacket."I expect," said Simon in reply, "that Gould, born inthe thirties andliving in Leeds, would have found it hard to join theYoung Conservatives.""Balls," said Ronnie. "I managed it and I was born inthe East End ofLondon without any of his advantages. Now tell me, Mr.Kerslake, what doyou do when youre not wasting your time in the House ofCommons?"Raymond stayed on after dinner and talked for some timeto the captains ofindustry. A little after eleven he left to return toLansdowne Road.As his chauffeur drove slowly away from Grosvenor Housedown Park Lane, theUnder Secretary waved expansively back to his host.Someone else waved inreply. At first Raymond only glanced out the window,assuming it wasanother dinner guest, until he saw her legs. Standing onthe corner outsidethe gas station on Park Lane stood a young girl smilingat him invitingly,her 72FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 76. white leather miniskirt so short it might have beenbetter described as ahandkerchief Her long legs reminded him of Joyces tenyears before. Herfinely curled hair and the set of her hips remainedfirmly implanted inRaymonds mind all the way home.When they reached Lansdowne Road, Raymond climbed out ofthe official carand said goodnight to his driver before walking slowlytoward his frontdoor, but he did not take out his latchkey. He waiteduntil he was sure thedriver had turned the comer before looking up andchecking the bedroomwindow. All the lights were out. Joyce must be asleep.He crept down the path and back on to the pavement, thenlooked up and downthe road, finally spotting the space in which Joyce hadparked theVolkswagen. He checked the spare key on his key ring andfumbled about,feeling like a car thief. It took three attempts beforethe motorspluttered to life, and Raymond wondered if he wouldwake up the wholeneighborhood as he moved off and headed back to ParkLane, not certain whatto expect. When he reached Marble Arch, he traveledslowly down in thecenter stream of traffic. A few dinner guests in eveningdress were stillspilling out of Grosvenor House. He passed the gasstation: she hadntmoved. She smiled again and he accelerated, nearlybumping into the car infront of him. Raymond traveled back up to Marble Arch,but instead ofturning toward home, he drove down Park Lane again, thistime not soquickly and on the inside lane. He took his foot off theaccelerator as heapproached the gas station and she waved again. Hereturned to Marble Arch
  • 77. before repeating his detour down Park Lane, this timeeven more slowly. Ashe passed Grosvenor House for a third time, he checkedto be sure thatthere were no stragglers still chatting on the pavement.It was clear. Hetouched the brakes and his car came to a stop justbeyond the gas station.He waited.73FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe girl looked up and down the street before strollingover to the car,opening the passenger door and taking a seat next to theUnder Secretary ofState for Employment."LoH:)king for business?""What do you mean?" asked Raymond hoarsely."Come on, darling. You cant imagine I was standing outthere at this timeof night hoping to get a suntan."Raymond turned to look at the girl more carefully andwanted to touch herdespite the aura of cheap perfume. Her black blouse hadthree buttonsundone; a fourth would have left nothing to theimagination."Its ten pounds at my place.""Wheres your place?" he heard himself say."I use a hotel in Paddington.""How do we get there?" he asked, putting his handnervously through his redhair."Just head up to Marble Arch and Ill direct you."Raymond pulled out and went off toward Hyde Park Comerand drove aroundbefore traveling on toward Marble Arch once again."Im Mandy," she said. "Whats your name?"Raymond hesitated. "Malcolm.""And what do you do, Malcolm, in these hard times?""I ... I sell secondhand cars.""Havent picked out a very good one for yourself, have
  • 78. you?" She laughed.Raymond made no comment. It didnt stop Mandy."Whats a secondhand-car salesman doing dressed up likea toff, then?"Raymond had quite forgotten he was still in black tie."Ive. . Just been to a convention ... at the ... HiltonHotel.""Lucky for some," she said, and lit a cigarette. "Ivebeen standingoutside Grosvenor House all night in the hope of gettingsome rich fellerfrom that posh party."74FIRST AMONG EQUALSRaymonds cheeks nearly turned the color of his hair."Slow down and takethe second on the left."He followed her instructions until they pulled upoutside a small dingyhotel. "Ill get out first, then you," she said. "Justwalk straightthrough reception and follow me up the stairs." As shegot out of the carhe nearly drove off and might have done so if his eyehadnt caught. thesway of her hips as she walked back toward the hotel.He obeyed her instructions and climbed several flightsof narrow stairsuntil he reached the top floor. As he approached thelanding, a largebosomy blonde passed him on the way down."Hi, Mandy," she shouted back at her friend."Hi, Sylv. Is the room free?""Just," said the blonde sourly.Mandy pushed open the door and Raymond followed her in.The room wassmall and narrow. In one comer stood a tiny bed and athreadbare carpet.The faded yellow wallpaper was peeling in severalplaces. There was awashbasin attached to the wall; a dripping tap had lefta brown stain on
  • 79. the enamel.Mandy put her hand out and waited."Ah, yes, of course," said Raymond, taking out hiswallet to find he onlyhad nine pounds on him.She scowled. "Not going to get overtime tonight, am 1,darling?" shesaid, tucking the money carefully away in the comer ofher bag beforematter-of-factly taking off all her clothes.Although the act of undressing had been totally sexless,he was stillamazed by the beauty of her body, Raymond felt somehowdetached from thereal world. He watched her, eager to feel the texture ofher skin, butmade no move. She lay down on the bed."Lets get on with it, darling. Ive got a living toearn."Raymond undressed quickly, keeping his back to the75FIRST AMONG EQUALSbed. He folded his clothes in a neat pile on the floor asthere was nochair. Then he lay down on top of her. It was all over ina few minutes."Come quickly, dont you, darling?" said Mandy,grinning.Raymond turned away from her and started washing himselfas best he couldin the little basin. He dressed hurriedly realizing hemust get out of theplace as rapidly as possible."Can you drop me back at the gas station?" Mandy asked."Its exactly the opposite direction for me," he said,trying not to soundanxious as he made a bolt for the door. He passed Sylvon the stairsaccompanied by a man. She stared at him more closely thesecond time. TheMinister was back in his car a few moments later. Hedrove home quickly,
  • 80. but not before opening the windows in an attempt to getrid of the smell ofstale tobacco and cheap perfume.Back in Lansdowne Road, he had a long shower beforecreeping into bed nextto Joyce; she stirred only slightly.Charles drove his wife down to Ascot early to be sure toavoid thebumper-to-bumper traffic that always developed later inthe day. With hisheight and bearing, Charles Hampton was made for tailsand a topper, andFiona wore a hat which on anyone less self-assured wouldhave lookedridiculous. They had been invited to join the Macalpinesfor the afternoon,and when they arrived they found Sir Robert awaitingthem in his pfivatebox."You must have left home early," said Charles, knowingthe Macalpines livedin central London."About thirty minutes ago," he said, laughing. Fionalooked politelyincredulous."I always come here by helicopter," he explained.76FIRST AMONG EQUALSThey lunched on lobster and strawberries accompanied bya fine vintagechampagne, which the waiter kept pouring and pouring.Charles might nothave drunk quite so much had he not picked the winninghorses in thefirst three races. He spent the fifth race stumped in achair in thecomer of the box, and only the noise of the crowd kepthim from noddingoff.If they hadnt waited for a farewell drink after thelast race, Charlesmight have got away with it. He had forgotten that his
  • 81. host was returningby helicopter.The long tail of cars across Windsor Great Park all theway back to thehighway made Charles very shorttempered. When heeventually reached themain road he put his Daimler into fourth gear. He didntnotice thepolice car until the siren sounded and he was directedto pull over."Do be careful, Charles," whispered Fiona."Dont worry, old girl, I know exactly how to deal withthe law," hesaid, and wound down his window to addrem the policemanwho stood by thecar. "Do you realize who I am, officer?""No, sir, but I would like you to accompany me--2"Certainly not, officer, I am a member of...""Do be quiet," said Fiona, "and stop making such a foolof yourself.""Parliament and I will not be treated . ."Have you any idea how pompous you sound, Charles?""Perhaps you will be kind enough to accompany me to thestation, sir?""I want to speak to my lawyer.""Of course, sir. As soon as we reach the station."When Charles arrived at the constabulary he proved quiteincapable ofwalking a straight line and refused to provide a bloodsample."I am the Conservative MP for Sussex Downs."Which will not help you, Fiona thought, but he was77FIRST AMONG EQUALSpast listening and only demanded that she phone thefamily solicitor atSpeechly, Bircham and Soames.After Ian Kimmins had spoken, first gently, then firmly,to Charles, hisclient eventually cooperated with the police.Once Charles had completed his written statement, Fionadrove him home,
  • 82. praying that his stupidity would pass unnoticed by thepress.787"YOU DONT LIKE tum because he comes from the East End,"said Simon, aftershe had read the letter."Thats not true," replied Elizabeth. "I dont like himbecause I donttrust him.""But youve only met him twice.""Once would have been quite enough.""Well, I can tell you Im impressed by the notinconsiderable empire hesbuilt up over the last ten years, and frankly its anoffer I cantrefuse," said Simon, pocketing the letter."But surely not at any cost?" said Elizabeth."I wont be offered many chances like this," continuedSimon. "And wecould use the money. The belief people have that everyTory MP has somelucrative sinecure and two or three directorships isplain daft, and youknow it. Not one other serious proposition has been putto me since Ivebeen in the House, and another two thousand pounds ayear for a monthlyboard meeting wouldcome in very handy.""And what else?""What do you mean, what else?""What else does Mr. Nethercote expect for his two79FIRST AMONG EQUALSthousand pounds? Dont be naive, Simon, hes not offeringyou that kind ofmoney on a plate unless hes hoping to receive somescraps back.""Well, maybe I have a few contacts and a littleinfluence with one or two
  • 83. people."Ill bet.""Youre just prejudiced, Elizabeth.""Im against anything that might in the long run harmyour career, Simon.Struggle on, but never sacrifice your integrity, asyoure so fond ofreminding the people of Coventry."When Charles Hamptons drunk-driving charge came up infront of the ReadingBench he listed himself as C. G. Hampton-no mention ofMP. Under professionhe entered "Banker."He came sixth in the list that morning, and on behalf ofhis absent clientIan Kimmins apologized to the Reading magistrates andassured them it wouldnot happen again. Charles received a fifty-pound fineand was banned fromdriving for six months. The whole case was over in fourminutes.When Charles was told the news by telephone later thatday, he wasappreciative of Kimminss sensible advice and felt hehad escaped lightlyin the circumstances. He couldnt help remembering howmany column inchesGeorge Brown, the Labour Foreign Secretary, had enduredafter a similarincident outside the Hilton Hotel.Fiona kept her own counsel.At the time, Fleet Street was in the middle of the"silly season," thatperiod in the summer when the press is desperate fornews. There had onlybeen one cub reporter in the court when Charless casecame up, and evenlie was surprised by the interest the nationals took inhis little scoop.The pictures of Charles taken so discreetly outside theHamptons countryhome were glar80FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 84. ingly large the following morning. Headlines ranged from"Six Months Banfor Drunk Driving-Son of Earl" to "MPs Ascot Binge Endsin Heavy Fine."Even the Times mentioned the case on its home news page.By lunchtime the same day every Fleet Street newspaperhad tried tocontact Charles-and so had the Chief Whip. When he didtrack Charles downhis advice was short and to the point. A junior ShadowMinister cansurvive that sort of publicity once--not twice."Whatever you do, dont drive a car during the next sixmonths, and dontever drink and drive again."Charles concurred, and after a quiet weekend hoped hehad heard the lastof the case. Then he caught the headline on the frontpage of the SussexGazette: "Member Faces No-Confidence Motion." Mrs.Blenkinsop, thechairman of the Ladies Luncheon Club, was proposing themotion, not forthe drunken driving, but for deliberately misleading herabout why he hadbeen unable to fu)fill a speaking engagement at theirannual luncheon.Raymond had become so used to receiving files marked"Strictly Private,""Top Secret," or even "For Your Eyes Only" in hisposition as aGovernment under secretary that he didnt give a secondthought to aletter marked "Confidential and Personal" even though itwas written ina scrawled hand. He opened it while Joyce was boilinghis eggs."Four minutes and forty-five seconds, just the way youlike them," shesaid as she returned from the kitchen and placed twoeggs in front ofhim. "Are you all right, dear? Youre white as a sheet."
  • 85. Raymond recovered quickly, sticking the letter into apocket, beforechecking his watch. "Havent time for the other egg," hesaid. "Imalready late for Cabinet committee, I must dash."Strange, thought Joyce, as her husband hurried to the81FIRST AMONG EQUALSdoor. Cabinet committees didnt usually meet until ten,and he hadnt evencracked open his first egg. She sat down and slowly ateher husbandsbreakfast, wondering why he had left all his mail behind.Once he was in the back of his official car Raymond readthe letter again.It didnt take long.DEAR "MALCOLM,""I enjoid our little get together the other evening andfive hundrudpounds would help me toforget it onceandfor all.Love, MA ND YP.S. Ill be in touch again soon.He read the letter once more and tried to compose histhoughts. There wasno address on the top of the notebook paper. Theenvelope gave no clue asto where it had been posted.When his car arrived outside the Department ofEmployment Raymond remainedin the back seat for several moments."Are you feeling all right, sit?" his driver asked."Fine, thank you," he replied, and jumped out of the carand ran all theway up to his office. As he passed his secretarys deskhe barked at her,"No interruptions.""You wont forget Cabinet committee at ten oclock, willyou, Minister?""No," replied Raymond sharply and slammed his office
  • 86. door. Once at his deskhe tried to calm himself and to recall what he wouldhave done had he beenapproached by a client as a barrister at the bar: Firstinstruct a goodsolicitor. Raymond considered the two most capablelawyers in England to beArnold Goodman and Sir Roger Pelham. Goodman was gettingtoo high a profilefor Raymonds liking whereas Pelham was just as soundbut virtually unknownto the general pub82FIRST AMONG EQUALSlic. He called Pelhams office and made an appointment tosee him thatafternoon.Raymond hardly spoke in Cabinet committee, but as mostof his colleagueswanted to express their own views, nobody noticed. Assoon as the meetingwas over, Raymond hurried out and took a taxi to HighHolborn.Sir Roger Pelham rose from behind his large Victoriandesk to greet thejunior Minister."I know youre a busy man, Gould," Pelham said as hefell back into hisblack leather chair, "so I shant waste your time. Tellme what I can dofor you.""It was kind of you to see me at such short notice,"Raymond began, andwithout further word handed the letter over."Thank you," the solicitor said courteously, and,pushing his half-moonspectacles higher up his nose, he read the note threetimes before hemade any comment."Blackmail is something we all detest," he began, "butit will benecessary for you to tell me the whole truth, and dontleave out anydetails. Please remember I am on your side. Youll
  • 87. recall only too wellfrom your days at the bar what a disadvantage one laborsunder when oneis in possession of only half the facts."The tips of Pelhams fingers touched, forming a smallroof in front ofhis nose as he listened intently to Raymonds account ofwhat hadhappened that night."Could anyone else have seen you?" was Pelhams firstquestion.Raymond thought back and then nodded. "Yes," he said."Yes, Im afraidthere was another girl who passed me on the stairs."Pelham read the letter once more."My, immediate advice," he said, looking Raymond in theeye and speakingslowly and deliberately, "and you wont like it, is todo nothing.""But what do I say if she contacts the press?""She will probably get in touch with someone from83FIRST AMONG EQUALSFleet Street anyway, even if you pay the five hundredpounds or however manyother five hundred pounds you can afford. Dont imagineyoure the firstMinister to be blackmailed, Mr. Gould. Every homosexualin the House fivesin daily fear of it. Its a game of hide and seek. Veryfew people otherthan saints have nothing to hide, and the problem withpublic life is thata lot of busybodies want to seek." Raymond remainedsilent, his anxietyshowing. "Phone me on my private line immediately thenext letter arrives,"said Pelham, scribbling a number on a piece of paper."Thank you," said Raymond, relieved that his secret wasat least sharedwith someone else. Pelham rose from behind his desk andaccompanied Raymond
  • 88. to the door.Raymond left the lawyers office feeling better, but hefound it hard toconcentrate on his work the rest of that day and sleptonly in fits andstarts during the night. When he read the morningpapers, he was horrifiedto see how much space was being given to CharlesHamptons peccadillo. Whata field day they would be able to have with him. Whenthe mail came, hesearched anxiously for the scrawled handwriting. It washidden under anAmerican Express circular. He tore it open. The samehand was this timedemanding that the five hundred pounds should bedeposited at a post officein Pimlico. Sir Roger Pelham saw the Minister one hourlater.Despite the renewed demand, the solicitors adviceremained the same."Think about it, Simon," said Ronnie as they reached theboardroom door."Two thousand pounds a year may be helpful, but if youtake shares in myreal estate company it would give you a chance to makesome capital.""What did you have in mind?" asked Simon, buttoning uphis stylish blazer,trying not to sound too excited."Well, youve proved damned useful to me. Some of thosepeople you bring tolunch wouldnt have allowed84FIRST AMONG EQUALSme past their front doors. Id let you buy in cheap ...you could buyfifty thousand shares at one pound. When we go public ina couple ofyears time youd make a killing.""Raising fifty thousand pounds wont be easy, Ronnie."
  • 89. "When your bank manager has checked over my books hellbe only too happyto lend you the money."After the Midland Bank had studied the authorizedaccounts of Nethercoteand Company and the manager had interviewed Simon, theyagreed to hisrequest, on the condition that Simon deposited theshares with the bank.How wrong Elizabeth was proving to be, Simon thought;and when Nethercoteand Company performed record profits for the quarter hebrought home acopy of the annual report for his wife to study."Looks good," she had to admit. "But I still dont haveto trust RonnieNethercote."When the annual meeting of the Sussex Downs ConservativeAssociation camearound in October Charles was pleased to learn that Mrs.Blenkinsops "noconfidence" motion had been withdrawn. The local presstried to build upthe story, but the nationals were full of the Abervancoal mine disaster,in which one hundred and sixteen schoolchildren had losttheir lives. Noeditor could find space for Sussex Downs.Charles delivered a thoughtful speech to hisassociation, which was wellreceived. During Question Time, he was relieved to findno embarrassingquestions directed at him.When the Hamptons finally said goodnight, Charles tookthe chairman asideand inquired, "How did you manage it?""I explained to Mrs. Blenkinsop," replied the chairman,"that if hermotion of no confidence was discussed 85FIRST AMONG EQUALSat the annual meeting, it would be awflully hard for themember to back my
  • 90. recommendation that she should receive an Order of theBritish Empire in theNew Years Honors for service to the party. Thatshouldnt be too hard foryou to pull off, should it, Charles?"Every time the phone rang, Raymond assumed it would bethe press asking himif he knew someone called Mandy. Often it was ajournalist, but all thatwas needed was a quotable remark on the latestunemployment figures, or astatement of where the Minister stood on devaluation ofthe pound.It was Mike Molloy, a reporter from the Daily Mirror,who was the first toask Raymond what he had to say about a statement phonedin to his office bya girl called Mandy Page."I have nothing to say on the subject. Please speak toSir Roger Pelham, mysolicitor," was the Under Secretarys succinct reply.The moment he put thephone down he felt queasy.A few minutes later the phone rang again. Raymond stillhadnt moved. Hepicked up the receiver, his hand still shaking. Pelhamconfirmed thatMolloy had been in touch with him."I presume you made no comment," said Raymond."On the contrary," replied Pelham. "I told him thetruth.""What?" exploded Raymond."Be thankful she picked a fair journalist, because Iexpect hell let thisone go. Fleet Street is not quite the bunch of shitseveryone imagines themto be," Pelham said uncharacteristically, and added,"They also detest twothings--crooked policemen and blackmailers. I dontthink youll seeanything in the press tomorrow."Sir,,Roger was wrong-Raymond was standing outside his local newsstand the
  • 91. next morning when itopened at five-thirty, and he 86FIRST AMONG EQUALSsurprised the proprietor by asking for a copy of theDaily Mirror. RaymondGould was plastered all over page five saying,"Devaluation is not acourse I can support while the unemployment figureremains so high." Thephotograph by the side of the article was unusuallyflattering.Simon Kerslake read a more detailed account of what theMinister had saidon devaluation in the London Times and admired RaymondGoulds firm standagainst what was beginning to look like inevitableGovernment policy.Simon glanced up from his paper and started to considera ploy that mighttrap Gould. If he could make the Minister commit himselfagain and againon devaluation in front of the whole House, he knew thatwhen theinevitable happened, Gould would be left with no choicebut to resign.Simon began to pencil a question on the top of his paperbefore continu-ing to read the front page, but he couldnt concentrate,as his mind keptreturning to the news Elizabeth had given him before shewent to work.Once. again he looked up from the article, and this timea wide grinspread across his face. It was not the thought ofembarrassing RaymondGould that caused him to smile. A male chauvinistthought had crossed hisnormally liberal mind. "I hope its a boy," he said outloud.Charles Hampton was glad to be behind the wheel again,and he had the
  • 92. grace to smile when Fiona showed him the photograph ofthe happy Mrs.Blenkinsop displaying her OBE outside Buckingham Palaceto a reporterfrom the East Sussex News.It was six months to the day of his first meeting withSir Roger Pelhamthat Raymond Gould received an account from thesolicitor for servicesrendered-five hundred pounds.878SIM014 LFFT THE HOUSE and drove himself to WhitechapelRoad to attend aboard meeting of Nethercote and Company. He arrived a fewminutes after thefour oclock meeting had begun, quietly took his seat andlistened to RonnieNethercote describing another coup.Ronnie had signed a contract that morning to take overfour major cityblocks at a cost of 26 million pounds with a guaranteedrental income of3.2 million per annum for the first seven years of atwenty-one-year lease.Simon formally congratulated him and asked if this madeany difference inthe companys timing for going public. He had advisedRonnie not to allowhis company shares to be traded on the Stock Exchangeuntil the Toriesreturned to power. "It may mean waiting a couple ofyears," he had toldRonnie, "but few people now doubt that the Tories willwin the nextelection. Just look at the polls.""Were still planning to wait," Ronnie now assured him."Although theinjection of cash that the shares would bring in wouldbe useful. But myinstinct is to
  • 93. 88FIRST AMONG EQUALSfollow your advice and wait to see if the Conservativeswin the nextelection.""I am sure thats sound," said Simon, looking around atthe other boardmembers."if they dont win, I cant wait that much longer.""I wouldnt disagree with that decision either, Mr.Chairman," saidSimon.When the meeting was over he joined Nethercote in hisoffice for a drink."I want to thank you," Ronnie said, "for thatintroduction to HaroldSamuel and Hugh Ainesworth. It made the deal go throughmuch moresmoothly.""Does that mean youll allow me to purchase some moreshares?"Ronnie hesitated. "Why not? Youve earned them. But onlyanother tenthousand. Dont get ahead of yourself, Simon, or theother directors maybecome jealous."In the car on the way to pick up Elizabeth, Simondecided to take asecond mortgage out on the house in Beaufort Street toraise the extracash needed for the new shares. Elizabeth still madelittle secret of herfeelings about Ronnie, and now that she was pregnant,Simon decided notto worry her with the details."If the Government did a turnabout and devalued thepound, would theUnder Secretary find it possible to remain in office?"Raymond Gould, the Under Secretary for Employment,stiffened when heheard Simon Kerslakes question.
  • 94. Raymonds grasp of the law and his background knowledgeof the subjectmade all except the extremely articulate or highlyexperienced wary oftaking him on. Nevertheless, he had one Achilles heelarising from hisfirmly stated views in Full Employment at Any Cost?. any89FIRST AMONG EQUALSsuggestion that the Government would devalue the pound.Time and again eagerbackbenchers would seek to tackle him on the subject. But once more it wasSimon Kerslake who embarrassed his opponent.As always, Raymond gave the standard reply: "The policyof Her MajestysGovernment is one hundred percent against devaluation,and therefore thequestion does not arise.""Wait and see," shouted Kerslake."Order," said the Speaker, rising from his seat andturning toward Simon asRaymond sat down. "The Honorable Member knows all toowell he must not ad-dress the House from a sedentary position. The UnderSecretary of State."Raymond rose again. "This Government believes in astrong pound, whichstill remains our best hope for keeping unemploymentfigures down.""But what would you do if Cabinet does go ahead anddevalue?" Joyce askedhim when she read her husbands reply to Kerslakesquestion reported inthe London Times the next morning.Raymond was already facing the fact that devaluationlooked. more likelyevery day. A strong dollar, causing imports to be at arecord level,coupled with a run of strikes during the summer of 67,was causing foreignbankers to ask "When," not "If."
  • 95. "Id have to resign," he said in reply to Joycesquestion."Why? No other Minister will.""Im afraid Kerslake is right. Im on the record andhes made sureeverybody knows it. Dont worry, Harold will neverdevalue. Hes assured meof that many times.""He only has to change his mind once."The great orator lain Macleod once remarked that it wasthe first twominutes of a speech that decided ones fate. One eithergrasps the Houseand commands it, or 90FIRST AMONG EQUALSdithers and loses it, and once the House is lost it canrarely be broughtto heel.When Charles Hampton was invited to present thewinding-up speech for theOpposition during the debate on the Environment, he felthe had preparedhimself well. Although he knew he could not expect toconvert Governmentbackbenchers to his cause, he hoped the press wouldacknowledge that hehad won the argument and embarrassed the Government. TheAdministrationwas already rocking over daily rumors of devaluation andeconomictrouble, and Charles was confident that this was achance to make hisname.When full debates take place on the floor of the House,the Oppositionspokesman is called upon to make his final comments atnine oclock fromthe dispatch box--an oblong wooden box edged inbrassresting on the tablein between the two front benches. At nine-thirty aGovernment Ministerwinds up.
  • 96. When Charles rose and put his notes on the dispatch boxhe intended topress home the Tory Party case on the Govenimentseconomic record, thefatal consequences of devaluation, the record inflation,coupled withrecord borrowing and a lack of confidence in Britainunknown in anymembers lifetime.He stood his full height and stared down belligerentlyat the Governmentbenches."Mr. Speaker," he began, "I cant think. ."Then dont bother to speak," someone shouted from theLabour benches.Laughter broke out as Charles tried to compose himself,cursing hisinitial overconfidence. He began again."I cant imagine...""No imagination either," came another voice. "TypicalTory."". . . why this subject was ever put before the House.""Certainty not for you to give us a lesson in publicspeaking."91FIRs,r AMONG EQUALS"Order," growled the Speaker, but it was too late.The: House was lost, and Charles stumbled through thirtyminutes ofembarrassment until no one but the Speaker was listeningto a word hesaid. Several frontbench Ministers had their feet up onthe table andtheir eyes closed. Backbenchers sat chattering amongthemselves waitingfor the ten oclock vote: the ultimate humiliation theHouse affords toits worst debaters. The Speaker had to call for orderseveral timesduring Charless speech, once rising to rebuke noisymembers, "The Housedoes its reputation no service by behaving in this way."
  • 97. But his pleafell on deaf ears as the conversations continued. Atnine-thirty Charlessat down in a cold sweat. A few of his own backbenchersmanaged to raisean unconvincing, "Hear, hear."When a Govemment spokesman opened his speech bydescribing Charlessoffering as among the most pathetic he had heard in along politicalcareer, he may well have been exaggerating, but from theexpressions onthe Tory front benches not many Opposition members weregoing to disagreewith him.Elizabeth looked up and smiled as her husband came intothe room. "Ivedelivered over a thousand children in the past fiveyears, but none havegiven me the thrill this one did. I thought youd liketo know mother andchild are doing well."Simon took Elizabeth in his arms. "How long do I have towait to learnthe truth?""Its a boy," she said."Congratulations, darling," said Simon. "Im so proud ofyou." He pushedher hair back tenderly. "So its to be Peter, not Lucy.""Certainly hope so, that is if you dont want the poorlittle blighterteased all his life."A mirse joined them holding a small child almost92FIRST AMONG EQUALSswamped in a little sheet and blanket. Simon took his sonin his arms andstared into the large blue eyes."He looks like a future Prime Minister to me."Gocd heavens, no," said Elizabeth. "He looks far toointelligent to
  • 98. consider anything as silly as that." She put her armsout at full stretchand Simon reluctantly released his son into the care ofhis mother.Simon sat on the end of the bed admiring his wife andfirstbom, asElizabeth prepared to feed him."Perhaps it will be possible for you to take a break fora while., Youdeserve a holiday.""Not a chance," said Elizabeth, as she watched her sonclose his eyes."Im back on duty roster next week. Dont forget westill need my incomewhile they pay members of Parliament such a pittance."Simon didnt reply. He realized that if he was evergoing to convince hiswife to slow down, he would have to take a more gentleapproach."Peter and I think youre wonderful," said Simon.Elizabeth looked down at her child. "I dont thinkPeters sure yet, butat least hes sleeping on it."The decision was finally made by the inner Cabinet oftwelve on Thursday,November 16, 1967. By Friday every bank clerk in Tokyowas privy to theinner Cabinets closest secret, and by the time thePrime Minister madetile announcement official on Saturday afternoon, theBank of England hadlost 600 million dollars of reserves on theforeign-exchange market.At the time of the Prime Ministers statement, Raymondwas in Leedsconducting his twice-monthly constituency office hours.He was in theprocess of explaining the new housing bill to a youngmarried couple whenFred Padgett, his campaign manager, burst into the room."Raymond, sorry to interrupt you, but I thought93
  • 99. FIRST AMONG EQUALSyoud want to know immediately. Number Ten has justannounced that the poundhas been devalued from $2.80 to $2.40." The sittingmember was momentarilystunned, the local housing problem driven from his mind.He stared blanklyacross the table at the two constituents who had come toseek his advice."Will you please excuse me for a moment, Mr.Higginbottom?" Raymond askedcourteously. "I must make a phone call." The momentturned out to befifteen minutes, in which time Raymond had made contactwith a senior civilservant from the Treasury and had all the detailsconfirmed. He calledJoyce and told her not to answer the phone until hearrived back home. Itwas several minutes until he was composed enough to openhis office door."How many people are still waiting to see me, Fred?" heasked."After the Higginbottoms theres only the mad major,still convinced thatMartians are about to land on the roof of Leeds TownHall.""Why would they want to come to Leeds first?" askedRaymond, trying to hidehis growing anxiety with false humor."Once theyve captured Yorkshire, the rest would beeasy.""Hard to find fault with that argument. Nevertheless,tell the major Imdeeply concerned but I need to study his claim in moredetail and to seekfurther advice from the Ministry of Defense. Make anappointment for him tosee me during my next office hours, and by then I shouldhave a strategicplan ready."Fred Padgett grinned. "That will give him something totellhis friends
  • 100. about for at least two weeks."Raymond returned to Mr. and Mrs. Higginbottom andassured them he wouldhave their housing problem sorted out within a few days.He made a note onhis file to ring the Leeds borough housing officer.94FIRST AMONG EQUALS"What an afternoon," exclaimed Raymond after the doorhad closed behindthem. "One wife-beating, one electricity turned off bythe ElectricityBoard with four children under ten in the house, onepollution of theAire River, one appalling housing problem, neverforgetting the mad majorand his imminent Martians. And now the devaluationnews.""How can you remain so calm under the circumstances?"Fred Padgett asked."Because I cant afford to let anyone know how I reallyfeel."After his office hours Raymond would normally have gonearound to thelocal pub for a pint and an obligatory chat with thelocals, which wouldgive him a chance to catch up on what had been happeningin Leeds duringthe past few weeks. But on this occasion he bypassed thepub and returnedquickly to his parents home.Joyce told him the phone had rung so often that she hadfinally taken itoff the hook without letting his mother know the realreason."Very sensible," said Raymond."What are you going to do?" she asked."I shall resign, of course.""Whi do that, Raymond? It will only harm your Y career.""You may turn out to be right, but that wont stop me."But youre only just beginning to get on top of yourwork."
  • 101. "Joyce, without trying to sound pompous, I know I havemany failings, butIm not a coward, and Im certainly not so self-seekingas totally todesert any principles I might have.""You know, youjust sounded Re a man who believes hesdestined to becomePrime Minister.""A moment ago you said it would harm my chances. Make upyour mind."95FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I have," she said.Raymond smiled wanly before retreating to his study tocompose a shorthandwritten letter,Saturday, November 18, 1967Dear Prime Minister,Afteryour announcement this afternoon on devalu-ation and the stand I have continually taken on the issueI am left withno choice but to resign my position as Under Secretary ofState forEmployment. I would like to thank you for having givenme theopportunity to serve in your administration. Be assuredthat I shallcontinue to support the Government on all otherissuesfrom thebackbenches.Yours,RA YMOND GOULDWhen the red box arrived at the house that Saturdaynight, Raymondinstructed the messenger to deliver the letter to Number10 immediately.As he opened the box for the last time he reflected thathis department
  • 102. was answering questions on employment in the House thatMonday. Hewondered who would be chosen to take his place.Because of the red tape surrounding devaluation, thePrime Minister didnot get around to reading Raymond"s letter until lateSunday morning. TheGoulds phone was still off the hook when an anxiousFred Padgett washeard knocking on the front door later that day."Dont answer it," said Raymond. "Its bound to beanother journalist.""No, its not, its only Fred," said Joyce, peepingthrough an openingin the curtain.She opened the door. "Where the hells Raymond?" wereFreds first words.96FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Right here," said Raymond, appearing from the kitchenholding the Sundaynewspapers."The Prime Minister has been trying to contact you allmorning."Raymond turned around and replaced the phone on thehook, picked it up afew seconds later and checked the tone before dialingLondon WHI 4433. ThePrime Minister was on the line in moments. He soundedcalm enough, thoughtRaymond."Have you issued any statement to the press, Raymond?""No, I wanted to be sure you had received my letterfirst.""Good. Please dont mention your resignation to anyoneuntil weve met.Could you be at Downing Street by eight oclock?""Yes, Prime Minister.""Remember, not a word to the press."Raymond heard the phone click.Within the hour he was on his way to London, and hearrived at his house in
  • 103. Lansdowne Road a little after seven. The phone wasringing again. He wantedto ignore the insistent burr-burr but thought it mightbe Downing Street.He picked the phone up. "Hello.""Is that Raymond Gould?" said a voice."Whos speaking?" asked Raymond."Walter Terry, Daily Mail. ""I am not going to say anything," said Raymond."Do you feel the Prime Minister was right to devalue?""I said nothing, Walter.""Does that mean you are going to resign?""Walter, nothing.""Is it true you have already handed in yourresignation?"97FIRST AMONG EQUALSRa: mond hesitated.Y"I I , hought so," said Terry."I said nothing," spluttered Raymond and slammed downthe phone-beforelifting it back off the hook.He quickly washed and changed his shirt before leavingthe house. He nearlymissed the note that was lying on the doormat, and hewouldnt have stoppedto open it had the envelope not been embossed with largeblack lettersacross the left hand comer-"Prime Minister." Raymondripped it open. Thehandwritten note from a secretary asked him on hisarrival to enter by therear entrance of Downing Street, not by the front door.A small map wasenclosed. Raymond was becoming weary of the wholeexercise.Two more journalists were waiting by the gate. Theyfollowed him to hiscar."Have you resigned, Minister?" asked the first."No comment."
  • 104. "Are you on your way to see the Prime Minister?"Raymond did not reply and leaped into his car. He droveoff so quickly thatthe pursuing journalists were left with no chance ofcatching him.Twelve minutes later, at five to eight, he was seated inthe anteroom ofNumber 10 Downing Street. As eight struck he was takenthrough to HaroldWilsons study. He was surprised to find the seniorminister in his ownDepartment, the Secretary of State for Employment,seated in a comer of theroom."Ray," said the Prime Minister. "How are you?""Im well, thank you, Prime Minister.""I was sorry to receive your letter and thoroughlyunderstand the positionyou are in, but I hope perhaps we can work somethingout.""Work something out?" Raymond repeated, puzzled."Well, we all realize devaluation is a problem for youafter 1,V1Fmployment at A n.Y Cost? but I felt perhaps a move tothe Foreign Officeas Minister of State might be98FIRST AMONG EQUALSa palatable way out of the dilemma. Its a promotionyouve well earned."Raymond hesitated. The Prime Minister continued, "It mayinterest you toknow that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has alsoresigned, but will bemoving to the Home Office.""I am surprised," said Raymond. "But in my case, I donot consider itwould be the honorable thing to--~The Prime Minister waved his hand. "What with theproblems we are aboutto tackle in Rhodesia and Europe, your legal skillswould come in very
  • 105. useful."For the first time in his life Raymond detestedpolitics.Mondays usually get off to a quiet start in the Commons.The Whips neverplan for any contentious business to be debated,remembering that membersare still arriving back from their constituencies allover the country.The House is seldom full before the early evening. Butthe knowledge thatthe Chancellor of the Exchequer would be making astatement ondevaluation at three-thirty insured that the Commonswould be packed longbefore that hour.The Commons filled up quickly, and by two forty-fivethere was not a seatto be found. The green benches accommodatingjust fourhundred andtwenty-seven members had deliberately been restored asthey were beforethe Germans had bombed the Palace of Westminster on May10, 194 1. Theintimate theatrical atmosphere of the House had remainedintact. SirGiles Gilbert Scott could not resist highlighting someof the Gothicdecor of Barry, but he concurred with Churchills viewthat to enlarge thechamber would only destroy the packed atmosphere ofgreat occasions.Some members huddled were even up on the steps by theSpeakers canopiedchair and around the legs of the chairs of the clerks atthe table. Oneor two perched like 99FIRST AMONG EQUALSunfed sparrows on the empty petition bay behind theSpeakers chair.Raymond Gould rose to answer Question Number 7 on theagenda, an innocent
  • 106. enough inquiry concerning unemployment benefits forwomen. As soon as hereached the dispatch box, the first cries of "Resign"came from the Torybenches. Raymond couldnt hide his embarrassment. Eventhose on the backbenches could see hed gone scarlet. It didnt help thathe hadnt sleptthe previous night following the agreement he had cometo with the PrimeMinister. He answered the question, but the calls forhis resignation didnot subside. The Opposition fell silent as he sat down,only waiting forhim to rise for a further question. The next question onthe agenda forRaymond to answer was from Simon Kerslake; it came a fewminutes afterthree. "What analysis has been made by your departmentof the specialfactors contributing to increasing unemployment in theMidlands?"Raymond checked his brief before replying. "The closureof two largefactories in the area, one in the Honorable Membersconstituency, hasexacerbated local unemployment. Both of these factoriesspecialized incar components, which have suffered from the Leylandstrike."Simon Kerslake rose slowly from his place to ask hissupplementaryquestion. The Opposition benches waited in eageranticipation. "Butsurely the Minister remembers informing the House, inreply to myadjournment debate last April, that devaluation woulddrasticallyincrease unemployment in the Midlands, indeed in thewhole country. Ifthe honorable gentlemans words are to carry anyconviction, why hasnthe resigned?" Simon sat down as the Tory benchesdemanded, "Why, why,
  • 107. why?""My speech to the House on that occasion is being100FIRST AMONG EQUALSquoted out of context, and the circumstances have sincechanged.""They certainly have," shouted a number ofConservatives, and the benchesopposite Raymond exploded with demands that he give uphis office."Order, order," shouted the Speaker into the tide ofnoise.Simon rose again, while everyone on the Conservativebenches remainedseated to insure that no one else was called. They werenow hunting as apack.Everyones eyes switched back and forth between the twomen, watching thedark, assured figure of Kerslake once again jabbing hisforefinger at thebowed head of Raymond Gould, who was now only prayingfor the clock toreach 3:30."Mr. Speaker, during that debate, which he now seemshappy to orphan, theHonorable Gentleman was only echoing the views he solucidly expressed inhis book Fi4ll Employment at Any Cost? Can those viewshave altered soradically in three years, or is his desire to remain inoffice so greatthat he now realizes his employment can be achieved atany cost?"The Opposition benches chanted, "Resign, resign.""This question has nothing to do with what I said to theHouse on thatoccasion," retorted Raymond angrily.Simon was up in a flash and the Speaker called him for athird time."Is the Honorable Gentleman telling the House that hehas one set of moral
  • 108. standards when he speaks, and yet another when hewrites?"The House was now in total uproar and few members heardRaymond say, "No,sir, I try to be consistent."The Speaker rose and the noise subsided slightly. Helooked about him withan aggrieved frown. "I realize the House feels stronglyon these matters,but I must ask the Honorable Member for Coventry Centralto withdraw101FIRST AMONG EQUALShis remark suggesting that the Minister has behaveddishonorably."Simon rose and retracted his statement at once, but thedamage had beendone. Nor did it stop members from calling "Resign"until Raymond left thechamber a few minutes later.Simon sat back smugly as Gould left the chamber.Conservative membersturned to nod their acknowledgment of his completeannihilation of theGovernments Under Secretary of State. The Chancellor ofthe Exchequer roseto deliver his prepared statement on devaluation. Simonlistened withhorror to the Chancellors opening words:"The Honorable Member for Leeds North handed in hisresignation to thePrime Minister on Saturday evening but graciously agreednot to make thispublic until I had had an opportunity to address theHouse."The Chancellor went on to praise Raymond for his work inthe Department ofEmployment and to wish him well on the back benches.Jamie Sinclair visited Raymond in his room immediatelyafter the Chancellor
  • 109. had finished answering questions. He found him slumpedat his desk, avacant look on his face. Sinclair had come to expresshis admiration forthe way Raymond had conducted himself."Its kind of you," said Raymond, who was still shakingfrom theexperience."I wouldnt like to be in Kerslakes shoes at thismoment," said Jamie."Simon must feel the biggest shit in town.""Theres no way he could have known," said Raymond."Hed certainly donehis homework and the questions were right on target. Isuspect we wouldhave approached the situation in the same way given thecircumstances."102FIRST AMONG EQUALSSeveral other members dropped in to commiserate withRaymond, after whichhe stopped by his old department to say farewell to histeam before hewent home to spend a quiet evening with Joyce.There was a long silence before the Permanent Secretaryventured anopinion: "I hope, sir, it will not be long before youreturn toGovernment. You have certainly made our lives hard, butfor those youultimately serve you have undoubtedly made life easier."The sincerityof the statement touched Raymond, especially as thecivil servant wasalready serving a new master.As the days passed, it felt strange to be able to sitdown and watchtelevision, read a book, even go for a walk and not beperpetuallysurrounded by red boxes and ringing phones.He was to receive over a hundred letters fromcolleagues, in the House
  • 110. but he kept only one:Vt1v2rrrm$Effih8"T"WMonday, November 20,1967Dear Gould,I owe you a profound apology. Weallinourpoliti-cal 1!ft make monumental mistakes about people and Icertainly made onetoday.I believe that most members of the House have agenuine desire to serve the country, and there can be nomore honorableway ofproving it than by resigning when one feels onesparty has takena wrong course.I envy the respect in which the whole House nowholds you.Yours sincerely,SIMON KERSLAKE103FIRST AMONG EQUALSWhen Raymond returned to the Commons that afternoon, hewas cheered by themembers of both sides from the moment he entered thechamber. The ministerwho had been addressing the House at the time had nochoice but to waituntil Raymond had taken a seat on the back benches.1049SIMON HAD ALREADY LEFT when Edward Heath called his home.It was anotherhour before Elizabeth was able to pass on tile messagethat the PartyLeader wanted to see him at two-thirty.
  • 111. Charles was at the bank when the Chief Whip called,asking if they couldmeet at two-thirty that afternoon before Commonsbusiness began.Charles felt like a schoolboy who had been told theheadmaster expectedhim to be in his study after lunch. The last time theChief Whip hadphoned was to ask him to make his unfortunate winding-upspeech, and theyhad hardly spoken since. Charles was apprehensive; healways preferredto be told what a problem was immediately. He decided toleave the bankearly and catch lunch at the House to be sure he was notlate for hisafternoon appointment.Charles joined some of his colleagues at the large tablein the centerof the members dining room and took the only seatavailable, next toSimon Kerslake. The two men had not really been on goodterms since theHeath-Maudling Leadership contest.105FIRST AMONG EQUALSCharles did not care much for Kerslake. He had once toldFiona that he wasone of the new breed of Tories who tried a little toohard, and he had notbeen displeased to see him embarrassed over the Gouldresignation. Not thathe expressed his true feelings to anyone other thanFiona.Simon watched Charles sit down and wondered how muchlonger the Party couldgo on electing Etonian guardsmen who spent more timemaking money in thecity and then spending it at Ascot than they did workingin the House-notthat it was an opinion he would have voiced to anyonebut his closest
  • 112. confidants.The discussion over the lunch table centered on theremarkable run ofby-election results the Tories had had with three keymarginal seats. Itwas obvious that most of those around the table wereeager for a GeneralElection, although the Prime Minister did not have tocall one for at leastanother three years.Neither Charles nor Simon ordered coffee.At two twenty-five Charles watched the Chief Whip leavehis private tablein the comer of the room and turn to walk toward hisoffice. Charleschecked his watch and waited a moment before leaving ashis colleaguesbegan a heated discussion about entry into the CommonMarket.He strolled past the smoking room before turning left atthe entrance tothe library. Then he continued down the old Ways andMeans corridor untilhe passed the Opposition Whips office on his left. Oncethrough theswinging doors he entered the members lobby, which hecrossed to reach theGovernment Whips office. He strode into the secretarysdoor. Miss Norse,the Chiefs invaluable secretary, stopped typing."I have an appointment with the Chief Whip," saidCharles.106FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Yes, Mr. Hampton, he is expecting you. Please gothrough." The typingrecommenced immediately.Charles walked on down the corridor and found the ChiefWhip blocking hisown doorway."Come on in, Charles. Can I offer you a drink?"
  • 113. "No, thank you," replied Charles, not wanting to delaythe news anylonger.The Chief Whip poured himself a gin and tonic beforesitting down."I hope what Im about to tell you will be looked uponas good news." TheChief Whip paused and took a gulp of his drink. "TheLeader thinks youmight benefit from a spell in the Whips office, and Imust say I wouldbe delighted if you felt able tojoin us...."Charles wanted to protest but checked himself. "And giveup myEnvironment post?""Oh, yes, and more, of course, because Mr. Heath expectsall whips toforgo any outside employment as well. Working in thisoffice is not apart-time occupation."Charles needed a moment to compose his thoughts. "And ifI turn it down,will I retain my post at Environment?""Thats not for me to decide," said the Chief Whip. "Butit is no secretthat Ted Heath is planning several changes in the periodbefore the nextelection.""How long do I have to consider the offer?""Perhaps you could let me know your decision by QuestionTime tomorrow.""Yes, of course. Thank you," said Charles. He left theChief Whipsoffice and drove to Eaton Square.Simon also arrived at two twenty-five, five minutesbefore his meetingwith the Party Leader. He had tried not to speculate asto why Heathwanted to see him, in case the meeting only resulted indisappointment.107FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 114. Douglas Hurd, the head of the private office, ushered himstraight throughto the Conservative Leader."Simon, how would you like to join the Environmentteam?" It was typicalof Heath not to waste any time on small talk, and thesuddenness of theoffer took Simon by surprise. He recovered quickly."Thank you very much," he said. "I mean, er ... yes ...thank you.""Good, lets see you put your back into it, and be surethe results atthe dispatch box are as effective as they have been fromthe backbenches."The door was opened once again by the private secretary;the interviewwas clearly over. Simon found himself back in thecorridor at twothirty-three. It was several moments before the offersank in. Then,elated, he made a dash for the nearest phone. He dialedthe St. Marysswitchboard and asked if he could be put through toDoctor Kerslake. Ashe spoke, his voice was almost drowned by the sound ofthe divisionbells, signaling the start of the days business at twothirty-five,following prayers. A womans voice came on the line."Is that you, darling?" asked Simon above the din."No, sir. Its the switchboard operator. DoctorKerslakes in theoperating room.""Is there any hope of getting her out?""Not unless youre in labor, sir.""What brings you home so early?" asked Fiona as Charlescame chargingthrough the front door."I need to talk to someone." Fiona could never be sureif she ought tobe flattered, but she didnt express any opinion. It was
  • 115. all too rarethese days to have his company, and she was delighted.Charles repeated to his wife as nearly verbatim aspossible hisconversation with the Chief Whip. Fiona remained silentwhen Charles hadcome to the end of his108FIRST AMONG EQUALSmonologue. "Well, whats your opinion?" he askedanxiously."All because of one bad speech from the dispatch box,"Fiona commentedwryly."I agree," said Charles, "but nothing can be gained bytramping over thatground again. And if I turn it down, and wewin the nextelection ... T"Youll be left out in the cold.""More to the point, stranded on the back benches.""Charles, politics has always been your first love,"said Fiona, touchinghim gently on the cheek. "So I dont see that you have achoice, and ifthat means some sacrifices, youll never hear mecomplain."Charles rose from his chair saying, "Thank you, my dear.Id better goand see Derek Spencer immediately."As Charles turned to leave, Fiona added, "And dontforget, Fed Heathbecame Leader of the party via the Whips office."Charles smiled for the first time that day."A quiet dinner at home tonight?" suggested Fiona."Cant tonight," said Charles. "Ive got a late vote."Fiona sat alone wondering if she would spend the rest ofher life waitingup for a man who didnt appear to need her affection.At last they put him through."Lets have a celebration dinner tonight.""Why-," asked Elizabeth.
  • 116. "Because Ive been invited to join the front-bench teamto cover theEnvironment.""Congratulations, darling, but what does Environmentconsist of?""Housing, urban land, transport, devolution, water,historic buildings,Stansted or Maplin airport, the Channel tunnel, royalparks . . .""Have they left anything for anyone else to do?"109FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Thats only half of it-if its out-of-doors, its mine.Ill tell youthe rest over dinner.""Oh, bell, I dont think I can get away until eighttonightand wed haveto get a baby-sitter. Does that come under Environment,Simon?""Sure does," he said, laughing. "Ill fix it and book atable at theGrange for eight-thirty.""Have you got a ten oclock vote?""Aftaid so.""I see, coffee with the baby-sitter again," she said.She paused."Simon.""Yes, darling.""Im very proud of you."Derek Spencer sat behind his massive partners desk inThreadneedleStreet and listened intently to what Charles had to say."You will be a great loss to the bank," were thechairmans first words."But no one here would want to hold up your politicalcareer, least ofall me."Charles noticed that Spencer could not look him in theeye as he spoke."Can I assume that I would be invited back on the boardif for any reason
  • 117. my situation changed at the Commons?""Of course," said Spencer. "There was no need for you toask such aquestion.""Thats kind of you," said Charles, genuinely relieved.He stood up,leaned forward and shook hands rather stiffly."Good luck, Charles," were Spencers parting words."Does that mean you can no longer stay on the board?"asked RonnieNethercote when he heard Simons news."No, not while Im in Opposition and only a Shadowspokesman. But if wewin the next election and Im of-110FIRST AMONG EQUALSfered a job in Government, I would have to resignimmediately.""So Ive got your services for another three years?""Unless the Prime Minister picks an earlier date to run,or we lose thenext election.""No fear of the latter," said Ronnie, "I knew Id pickeda winner the dayI met you, and I dont think youll ever regret joiningmy board."Over the months that followed, Charles was surprised tofind how much heenjoyed working in the Whips office, although he hadbeen unable to hidefrom Fiona his anger when he discovered it was Kerslakewho had capturedhis old job at Environment. The order, discipline andcamaraderie of thejob brought back memories of his military days in theGrenadier Guards.Charless duties were manifold, ranging from checkingthat members wereall present in their committees to sitting on the front
  • 118. bench in theCommons and picking out the salient points members madein their speechesto the House. He also had to keep an eye out for anysigns of dissensionor rebellion on his own benches while remaining abreastof what washappening on the other side of the House. In addition hehad fifty of hisown members from the Midlands area to shepherd, and hadto be certainthat they never missed a vote. Each Thursday he passedout a sheet ofpaper showing what votes would be coming up thefollowing week. The maindebates were underlined with three lines. Less importantdebates, thosewith two lines under them, made it possible for a membernot to bepresent for a vote if paired with a member from theopposite party, aslong as the Whips office had been informed. The fewthat had only oneline underneath were not mandatory.Charles already knew that there were no circumstancesunder which amember was allowed to miss a "three-line whip," unlesshe had died andeven then, theFIRST AMONG EQUALSChief Whip told him, the Whips office required a deathcertificate."See that none of your members ever misses one," theChief Whip warnedhim, "or theyll wish they did have a deathcertificate."As whips are never called on to make speeches in theHouse at any time,Charles seemed to have discovered the role for which hewas best cut out.Fiona reminded him once again that Ted Heath had jumpedfrom the Whipsoffice to Shadow Chancellor. She was delighted to see
  • 119. how involved herhusband had become with Commons life, but she hatedgoing to bed eachnight and regularly falling asleep before he arrivedhome.Simon also enjoyed his new appointment from the firstmoment. As thejunior member of the Environment team he was giventransport as hisspecial subject. During the first year he read books,studied pamphlets,held meetings with national transport chairmen from air,sea and rail,and worked long into the night trying to master his newbrief. Simon wasone of those rare members who, after only a few weeks,looked as if hehad always been on the front bench.Peter was one of those noisy babies who after only a fewweeks soundedas if he was already on the front bench."Perhaps hes going to be a politician after all,"concluded Elizabeth,staring down at her son."What has changed your mind?" asked Simon."He never stops shouting at everyone, hes totallypreoccupied withhimself, and he falls asleep as soon as anyone elseoffers an opinion.""Theyre being rude about my firstborn," said Simon,picking up his sonand immediately regretting the move as soon as he feltPeters bottom.Elizabeth had been surprised to find how much time112FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon had put aside for his son, and she even admitted,when interviewedby the Littlehampton News, that the member could change adiaper as deftlyas any midwife.
  • 120. By the time Peter could crawl he was into everything,including Simonsprivate briefcase, where he deposited sticky chocolates,rubber bands,string and even his favorite toy.Simon once opened the briefcase in full view of ameeting of the ShadowEnvironment team to discover Teddy Heath, Peters muchbattered bear,lying on the top of his papers. He removed the stuffedanimal to revealhis "plans for a future Tory government.""A security risk?" suggested the Opposition Leader witha grin."My son, or the bear?" inquired Simon.By their second years, as Peter was feeling confidentenough to walk,Simon was beginning to have his own views on the issuesfacing the Party.As each month passed, they both grew in confidence, andall Simon nowwanted was for Harold Wilson to call a General Election.All Peter wanted was a soccer ball.Talk of a General Election was suddenly in the air. Justas it looked asthough the Conservatives were gaining in the opinionpolls, the LabourParty had a string of by-election victories in early1970.When Mays opinion polls confirmed the trend to Labour,Harold Wilsonvisited the Queen at Buckingham Palace and asked her todissolveParliament. The date of the General Election was set forJune 18, 1970.The press was convinced that Wilson had got it rightagain, and wouldlead his party to victory for the third time in a row, afeat no man inpolitical history had managed. Every Conservative knewthat would spellthe end of Edward Heaths leadership of his party.
  • 121. 113FIRST AMONG EQUALSThree weeks later political history was not made, forthe Conservativescaptured Parliament with an overall majority of thirtyseats. Her Majestythe Queen invited Edward Heath to attend her at thePalace and asked him toform a government. He kissed the hands of his sovereignand accepted hercommission.Simon Kerslake managed a four-figure majority for thefirst time when hewon Coventry Central by 2,118.When Fiona was asked by the old earl how many votesCharles had won by onthis occasion, she said she couldnt be certain, but shedid recallCharless telling a journalist it was more than theother candidates puttogether.Raymond Gould suffered an adverse swing of only 2percent and was returnedwith a 10,416 majority. The people of Leeds admireindependence in amember, especially when it comes to a matter ofprinciple.11410WHEN SIMON AWOKE on the Friday morning after the electionhe felt bothexhausted and exhilarated. He lay in bed trying toimagine how thoseLabour Ministers, who only the previous day had assumedthey would bereturning to their departments, must be feeling now.Elizabeth stiffed, let out a small sleep-filled sigh andturned over.Simon stared down at his wife. In the four years oftheir marriage shehad lost none of her attraction for him, and he still
  • 122. took pleasure injust looking at her sleeping form. Her long fair hairrested on hershoulders and her slim, firm figure curved gentlybeneath the silknightgown. He started stroking her back and watched herslowly come outof sleep. When she finally awoke she turned over and hetook her in hisarms."I admire your energy," she said. "If youre still fitafter three weekson the trail I can hardly claim to have a headache."He kissed her gently, delighted to catch a moment ofprivacy between thelunacy of election and the anticipation of office. Novoter was going tointerrupt this rare moment of pleasure."Daddy," said a voice, and Simon quickly turned over tosee Peterstanding at the door."Im hungry."115FIRST AMONG EQUALSOn the way back to London in the car Elizabeth asked,"What do you thinkhell offer you?""Darent anticipate anything," said Simon. "But I wouldhope-UnderSecretary of State for the Environment.""But youre still not certain to be offered a post?""Not at all. One can never know what permutations andpressures a new PrimeMinister has to consider.""Like what?" asked Elizabeth."Left and fight wings of the Party, north and south ofthecountry--countless debts to be cleared with those peoplewho can claim theyplayed a role in getting him into Number Ten.""Are you saying he could leave you out?""Oh, yes. But Ill be damn livid if he does."
  • 123. "And what could you do about it?""Nothing. There is absolutely nothing one can do, andevery backbencherknows it. The Prime Ministers power of patronage isabsolute.""It wont matter that much, darling, if you continuedriving in the wronglane."Raymond was astonished. He couldnt believe that theopinion polls had beenso wrong. He didnt confide in Joyce that he had hoped aLabour victorywould bring him back onto the front bench, havinglanguished on the backbenches for what seemed an interminable time."Theres nothing to it," he told her, "but to rebuild acareer at the bar.We may be out of office for a very long time.""But surely that wont be enough to keep you fullyoccupied?""I have to be realistic about the future," he saidslowly."Perhaps they will ask you to shadow someone?"116FIRST AMONG EQUALS"No, there are always far fewerjobs available inOpposition, and in anycase they always give the orators like Jamie Sinclairthe lead. All I cando is sit and wait for another election."Raymond wondered how he would broach what was really onhis mind andtried to sound casual when he said, "Perhaps its timewe consideredhaving our own home in the constituency.""Why?" said Joyce, surprised. "That seems an unnecessaryexpense, andtheres nothing wrong with your parents house. And, inany case,wouldnt they be offended?""The first interest should be to my constituents and
  • 124. this would be achance to prove a long-term commitment. Naturally, myparents wouldunderstand.""But the cost of two houses!""It will be a lot easier to contemplate than when I wasin Government,and its you who have always wanted to live in Leeds.This will give youthe chance to stop commuting from London every week.After Ive done therounds why dont you stay in Leeds, contact a few localreal estateagents and see whats on the market?""All right, if thats what you really want," said Joyce."Ill start nextweek." Raymond was pleased to see Joyce was beginning towarm to theidea.Charles and Fiona spent a quiet weekend at their cottagein Sussex.Charles tried to do some gardening while he kept one earopen for thetelephone. Fiona began to realize how anxious he waswhen she lookedthrough the French window and saw her finest delphiniumbeing taken fora weed.Charles finally gave the weeds a reprieve and came inand turned on thetelevision to catch Maudling, Macleod, Thatcher andCarrington enteringNumber 10 Downing Street, all looking pensive, only toleave all smiles.The senior appointments had been made. The117FIRST AMONG EQUALSCabinet was taking shape. The new Conservative PrimeMinister came out andwaved to the crowds before being whisked away in hisofficial car.
  • 125. Would Heath remember who had organized the young votefor him before hewas even the Party Leader?"When do you want to go back to Eaton Square?" Fionainquired from thekitchen."Depends," said Charles."On what?""On whether the phone rings."Simon replaced the phone and sat staring at thetelevision. All thosehours of work on Environment, and the PM had offered theportfolio tosomeone else. He had left the television set on all daybut didnt learnwho it was, only that the rest of the Environment teamhad remainedintact."Why do I bother?" he said out loud. "The whole thingsa farce.""What were you saying, darling?" asked Elizabeth as shecame into theroom.The phone rang again. It was the newly appointed HomeSecretary, ReginaldMaudling."Simon?""Reggie, many congratulations on your appointment-notthat it came as agreat surprise.""Thats what Im calling about, Simon. Would you liketojoin me at theHome Office as Under Secretary?""Like to---I would be delighted to join you at the HomeOffice.""Thank heavens for that," said Maudling. "It took me adickens of a timeto convince Ted Heath that you should be released fromthe Environmentteam."Simon turned to his wife to let her know his news. "Idont think thereis anything that could have pleased me more."
  • 126. 118FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Want to bet?"Simon looked toward Elizabeth, his face showing completepuzzlement."Oh, poor thing, youre so slow," Elizabeth said. Shepatted her stomach."Were going to have a second child."When Raymond arrived back at his London law chambers, helet his clerk knowthat he wanted to be flooded with work. Over lunch withthe head of thepartnership, Sir Nigel Hartwell, he explained that hethought it unlikelythat the Labour Party would be in government again forsome considerabletime."Youve only had five years in the House, Raymond, andat thirty-six, youmust stop looking upon yourself as a veteran.""I wonder," said Raymond, sounding uncharacteristicallypessimistic."Well, you neednt worry about briefs. Law firms havebeen callingconstantly since it was known you were back on a morepermanent basis."Raymond began to relax.Joyce phoned him after lunch with the news that shehadnt yet foundanything suitable, but the real estate agent had assuredher that thingswould open up in the fall."Well, keep looking," said Raymond."Dont worry, I will," said Joyce, sounding as if shewere enjoying thewhole exercise."If we find something, perhaps we can think of startinga family," sheadded tentatively."Perhaps," said Raymond brusquely-Charles eventually received a call on Monday night, not
  • 127. from Number 10Downing Street but from Number 12, the office of theChief Whip.The Chief Whip was calling to say that he hoped that119FIRST AMONG EQUALSCharles would he willing to soldier on as a junior whip.When he heard thedisappointment in Charless voice he added, "For the timebeing.""For the time being," repeated Charles and put the phonedown."At least youre a member of the Government. You haventbeen left out inthe cold. People will come and go during the next fiveyears, and youcertainly have time on your side," said Fiona gamely.Charles had to agreewith his wife, but it didnt lessen his disappointment.However, returning to the Commons as a member of theGovernment turned outto be far more rewarding than he expected. 1his timehis party was makingthe decisions, and the priorities were laid out when theQueen deliveredher speech from the throne in the House of Lords at theopening of the newParhament.Queen Elizabeth traveled early that November morning tothe House of Lordsin the Irish state coach. An escort of the householdcavalry accompaniedher, preceded by a procession of lesser state carriagesin which the KingEdward crown and other royal trappings were transported.Charles couldremember watching the ceremony from the streets when hewas a boy. Now hewas taking part in it. When she arrived at the House ofLords she wasaccompanied by the Lord Chancellor through the
  • 128. sovereigns entrance to therobing room, where her ladies-in-waiting began toprepare her for theceremony.At the appointed hour, Mr. Speaker, in his full courtdress, agold-embroidered gown of black satin damask, steppeddown from his chair.He led the traditional procession out of the Commons andinto the House ofLords. Followed by the Clerk of the House and thesergeant-at-arms bearingthe ceremonial mace, then the Prime Minister,accompanied by the Leader ofthe Op-120FIRST AMONG EQUALSposition, next, both front benches with their oppositenumbers, andfinally, as many backbenchers as could squeeze into therear of the LordsChamber.The Lords themselves waited in the Upper House, dressedin red capes withermine collars, looking somewhat like benevolentDraculas, accompaniedby peeresses glittering in diamond tiaras and wearinglong formaldresses. The Queen was seated on the throne, in her fullimperial robes,the King Edward III crown now on her head. She waiteduntil theprocession had filled the chamber and all was still.The Lord Chancellor shuffled for-ward and, bending downon one knee,presented to the Queen a printed document. It was thespeech written bythe Government of the day, and although Her Majesty hadread over thescript the previous evening, she had made no personalcontribution to itscontents, as her role was only ceremonial on this
  • 129. occasion. She lookedup at her subjects and began to read.Charles Hampton stood at the back of the crampedgathering, but with hisheight he had no trouble in following the entireproceedings.He could spot his elderly father, the Earl ofBridgewater, noddingoflduring the Queens speech, which offered no more orless than hadbeen promised by the Tories during the electioncampaign. Charles, alongwith everyone else from the Commons, was counting thelikely number ofbills that would be presented during the coming monthsand soon workedout that the Whips office was going to be in for a busysession.As the Queen finished her speech, Charles took one moretook at hisfather, now sound asleep. How Charles dreaded the momentwhen he wouldbe standing there watching his brother Rupert in ermine.The only com-pensation would be if he could produce a son who wouldone day inheritthe title, as it was now obvious 121FIRST AMONG EQUALSRupert would never marry. It was not as if he and Fionahad not tried. Hewas beginning to wonder if the time had come to suggestthat she visit aspecialist. He dreaded finding out that she was unable tobear a child.Even producing an heir would not be enough if all he hadachieved was tobe a junior whip. It made him more determined than everto prove he wasworthy of promotion.The speech delivered, the sovereign left the Upper Housefollowed byPrince Philip, Prince Charles and a fanfare of trumpets.
  • 130. From the first day of his appointment in June, Simonenjoyed every aspectof his work at the Home Office. By the time the Queensspeech had beendelivered in November, he was ready to represent hisdepartment in theCommons, although Jamie Sinclairs appointment to shadowhim would insurethat he could never relax completely.As the new Tory administration took shape, the twoquickly locked hornsover several issues and were soon known as "the mongooseand therattlesnake." However, in informal conference behind theSpeakers chair,Simon and Jamie Sinclair would good-humoredly discussthe issues on whichthey were crossing swords. The opportunity to be out ofsight of thepress gallery above them was often taken by the opposingmembers, butonce they had both returned to the dispatch box theywould tear into eachother, each looking for any weakness in the othersargument. When eitherof the names Kerslake or Sinclair was cranked up on theold-fashionedwall machines indicating that one of them had risen tostart a speech,members came flooding back into the chamber.On one subject they found themselves in total accord.Ever since August1969, when troops had first been sent into NorthernIreland, Parliamenthad been having an-122FIRST AMONG EQUALSother of its periodic bouts of trouble with the Irishquestion. InFebruary of 71 the House devoted a full days businessto listen to
  • 131. members opinions in the neverending effort to find asolution to thegrowing clash between Protestant extremists and the IRA.The motion beforethe House was to allow emergency powers to be renewed inthe province.Simon rose from his seat on the front bench to deliverthe opening speechfor the Government, and having completed hiscontribution, surprisedmembers by leaving the chamber.It is considered tactful for front-bench spokesmen onboth sides of theHouse to remain in their places when backbenchers maketheir contributionto a debate. Several members began to comment when Simonhadnt returnedan hour later. When he eventually came back, he onlyremained in hisplace for twenty minutes before slipping out again. Heeven failed to bepresent for the beginning of Jamie Sinclairs windupspeech, to which bewas expected to make a rebuttal.When Simon eventually returned to the chamber and tookhis place on thefront bench, an elderly Labourite rose from his seat."On a point of order, Mr. Speaker."Jamie sat down immediately and turned his head to listento the point hiscolleague wanted to make."Is it not a tradition of this house, sir," began theelder statesmanrather ponderously, "for a Minister of the Crown to havethe courtesy toremain in his seat during the debate in order that hemay ascertain viewsother than his own?""That is not strictly a point of order," replied theSpeaker above thecries of "Hear, hear" from the Labour benches. Simonscribbled a quicknote and hurriedly passed it over the opposite bench toJamie. On it was
  • 132. written a single sentence."I accept the point my Right Honorable friend 123FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSmakes," Sinclair began, "and would have complained myselfhad I not knownthat the Honorable Gentleman, the member for CoventryCentral, has spentmost of the afternoon in the hospital"-Sinclair paused tolet the effectset in-"where his wife was in labor. I am rarelyoverwhelmed by theargument of someone who hasnt even heard my speech. Buttoday may be theonly time this child is in labor"-the House began tolaugh-"as I suspectthe Honorable Gentleman spent most of his afternoonconverting hisinnocent infant to the Conservative cause." Sinclairwaited for thelaughter to subside. "For those members of the House whothrive on statis-tics and data, its a girl, and she weighs seven poundsthree ounces."Simon returned to press his nose against the glass andto stare at hisdaughter once again.He waved at her but she took no notice. On each side ofher crib werehowling boys. Simon smiled at the effect young Lucy wasalready havingon the opposite sex.12411THE CHIEF WHIP LOOKED AROUND at his colleagues, wonderingwhich of themwould volunteer for such a thankless task,A hand went up, and he was pleasantly surprised."Thank you, Charles."Charles had already warned Fiona that he was going tovolunteer to be the
  • 133. whip responsible for the issue that had most dominatedthe lastelection-Britains entry into the Common Market.Everyone in the ChiefWhips office real i7ed that it would be the mostdemanding marathon ofthe entire Parliament, and there was an audible sigh ofrelief whenCharles volunteered."Not a job for anyone with a rocky marriage," he heardone whip whisper.At least thats something I dont have to worry about,thought Charles,but he made a note to take home some flowers that night."Why is it the bill everyone wanted to avoid?" askedFiona as.ihearranged the daffodils."Because many of our side dont necessarily back EdwardHeath in hislifelong ambition to take Britain into the CommonMarket," said Charles,accepting a large brandy.125FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Added to that we have the problem of presenting a billto curb the tradeunions at the same time, which may well prevent those inthe Labour Partywho support us from voting with us on Europe. Because ofthis, the PrimeMinister requires a regular state of play assessmenton Europe eventhough legislation may not be presented on the floor ofthe Commons forat least another year. Hell want to know periodicallyhow many of ourside are still against entry, and how many from theOpposition we canrely on to break ranks when the crucial vote is taken.""Perhaps I should become a member of Parliament, andthen at least Icould spent a little more time with YOU."
  • 134. "Especially if on the Common Market issue you were adont know."Although the "Great Debate" was discussed by the mediato the point ofboredom, members were nevertheless conscious that theywere playing apart in history. And, because of the unusual spectacleof the Whips notbeing in absolute control of the voting procedure, theCommons sprang tolife, an excitement building up over the weeks andmonths of debate.Charles retained his usual task of watching over fiftymembers on allnormal Government bills, but because of the prioritygiven to the issueof entry into Europe he had been released from all otherduties. He knewthat this was his chance to atone for his disastrouswindingup speech onthe economy, which he sensed his colleagues had stillnot completelyforgotten.Not that it was without risk. "Im gambling everythingon this one," hetold Fiona. "If we lose the final vote I will besentenced to the backbenches for life.""And if we win?""It will be impossible to keep me off the front bench,"replied Charles.126FIRST AMONG EQUALS"At last-I think Ive found it."After Raymond heard the news, he took the train up toLeeds the followingFriday. Joyce had selected four houses for him toconsider, but he had toagree with her that the one in the Chapel Allerton areawas exactly whatthey were looking for. It was also by far the mostexpensive.
  • 135. "Can we afford it?" asked Joyce anxiously."Probably not.""I could go on looking.""No, youve found the fight house; now Ill have to workout how we can payfor it, and I think I may have come up with an idea."Joyce said nothing, waiting for him to continue."We could sell our place in Lansdowne Road.""But where would we live when youre in London?""I could rent a small flat somewhere between the lawcourts and the Commonswhile you set up our real home in Leeds.""But wont you get lonely?""Of course I will," said Raymond, trying to soundconvincing. "But almostevery member north of Birmingham is parted from his wifeduring the week.In any case, youve always wanted to settle inYorkshire, and this might beour best chance. If my practice continues to grow, wecan buy a secondhouse in London at a later date."Joyce looked apprehensive."One added bonus," said Raymond. "Your being here inLeeds will insure thatI never lose the seat."Joyce smiled. She always felt reassured whenever Raymondshowed theslightest need of her.On Monday morning Raymond put in a bid for the house inChapel Aflertonbefore returning to London. After a little bargainingover the phone duringthe week, he and the owner settled on a price. ByThursday Raymond had puthis Lansdowne Road house on the mar-127FIRST AMONG EQUALSket and was surprised by the amount the real estate agentthought it wouldfetch.All Raymond had to do now was find himself a flat.
  • 136. Simon sent a note to Ronnie expressing his thanks forkeeping him so wellinformed about what was happening at Nethercote andCompany. It had beeneight months since he had resigned from the boardbecause of hisappointment as a Minister, but Ronnie still saw that theminutes of eachmeeting were mailed to him to study in his free time."Free time." Simonhad to laugh at the thought.His overdraft at the bank now stood at a little overseventy-two thousandpounds, but as Ronnie intended the shares should beoffered at five poundseach when they went public, Simon felt there was still afair leeway, ashis personal holding should realize some three hundredthousand pounds.Elizabeth warned him not to spend a penny of the profitsuntil the moneywas safely in the bank. He was thankful that she didntknow the fullextent of his borrowing.Over one of their occasional lunches at the Ritz, Ronniespelled out toSimon his plans for the future of the company."Even though the Tories are in, I think Ill postponegoing public for atleast eighteen months. This years profits are up againand next yearslook even more promising. Nineteen seventy-three looksperfect."Simon looked apprehensive and Ronnie responded quickly."If you have any problems, Simon, Ill be happy to takethe shares off yourhands at market value. At least that way you would showa small profit.""No, no," said Simon. "Ill hang in there now that Ivewaited this long.""Suit yourself," said Ronnie. "Now, tell me, how are youenjoying the HomeOffice?"
  • 137. 128FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon put down his knife and fork. "Its the ministrymost involved withpeople, so theres a new challenge at a personal levelevery day, althoughit can be depressing too. Locking people up in prisons,banning immigrantsand deporting harmless aliens isnt my idea of fun.Still, it is aprivilege to work in one of the three great offices ofstate.""I bet you do Foreign Affairs and Exchequer beforeyoure through," saidRonnie. "And what about Ireland?""What about Ireland?" said Simon, shrugging hisshoulders."I would give the North back to Eire," said Ronnie, "orlet them goindependent and give them a large cash incentive to doso. At the momentthe whole exercise is money down the drain.""Were discussing people," said Simon, "not money."Ninety percent of the voters would back me," saidRonnie, lighting acigar."Everyone imagines ninety percent of the people supporttheir views, untilthey stand for election. The issue of Ireland is far tooimportant to beglib about," said Simon. "As I said, were discussingpeople, eight millionpeople, all of whom have the same right to justice asyou and 1. And aslong as I work in the Home Office, I intend to see thatthey get it."Ronnie remained silent."Im sorry, Ronnie," continued Simon. "Too many peoplehave an easysolution to Ireland. If there was an easy solution, theproblem wouldnthave lasted two hundred years."
  • 138. "Dont be sorry," said Ronnie. "Im so stupid, Ive onlyjust realized forthe first time why youre in public office.""Youre a typical self-made fascist," said Simon,teasing his companiononce again."Well, one things for sure. You wont change my129FIRST AMONG EQUALSviews on hanging. Your lot should bring back the rope;the streets arentsafe any longer.""For property developers like you, hoping for a quickkilling?""How do you feel about rape?" asked Raymond."I cant see that its relevant," Stephanie Arnoldreplied."I think theyll go for me on it," said Raymond."But why9""Theyll be able to pin me in a corner, damage mycharacter.""But where does it get them? They cant prove lack ofconsent.""Maybe, but theyll use it as background to prove therest of the case.""Because a person raped someone doesnt prove hemurdered her."Raymond and Stephanie Arnold, who was new to chambers,continued discussingtheir first case together on the way to the Old Bailey,and she leftRaymond in no doubt that she was delighted to be led byhim. They were toappear together to defend a laborer accused of the rapeand murder of hisstepdaughter."Open-and-shut case, unfortunately," said Raymond, "butwere going to makethe Crown prove their argument beyond anyones doubt."When the case stretched into a second week Raymond beganto believe that
  • 139. thejury was so gullible that he and Stephanie might evenget their clientoff. Stephanie was sure they would.The day before the judges instructions to the jury,Raymond invitedStephanie to dinner at the House of Commons. That willmake them turn theirheads, he thought to himself. They wont have seenanything in a whiteshirt and black stockings that looks like Stephanie forsome time.130FIRST AMONG EQUALSStephanie seemed flattered by the invitation, andRaymond noted that shewas obviously impressed when throughout the stodgy mealserved in thestrangers dining room, former Cabinet Ministers came byto acknowledgehim."Hows the new flat?" she asked."Worked out well," replied Raymond. "I find the Barbicanis convenientboth for Parliament and the law courts.""Does your wife like it?" she asked, lighting acigarette but not lookingat him directly."Shes not in town that much nowadays. She spends mostof her time inLeed"oesnt care much for London."The awkward pause that followed was interrupted by thesudden loudclanging of bells."Are we on fire?" said Stephanie, quickly stubbing outher cigarette."No," said Raymond laughing, "just the ten oclockdivision. I have toleave you and vote. Ill be back in about fifteenminutes.""Shall I order coffee?""No, dont bother," said Raymond. "Perhaps ... perhapsyoud like to come
  • 140. back to the Barbican? Then you can give me a verdict onmy flat.""Maybe its an open-and-shut case," she smiled.Raymond returned the smile before joining his colleaguesas they floodedout of the dining room down the corridor toward theCommons chamber. Hedidnt have time to explain to Stephanie that he onlyhad six minutes toget himself into either the "Ayes" or "Nos" divisionlobby.When he returned to the strangers dining room after thevote he foundStephanie checking her face in a compact mirror-a smallround face withgreen eyes, framed by dark hair. She was replacing thetrace of lipstick.He suddenly felt conscious of being a little overweightfor aFIRST AMONG EQUALSman not yet forty. He was totally oblivious to the factthat women werebeginning to find him attractive. A little extra weightand a few gray hairshad given him an air of authority.Once they had reached the flat, Raymond put on an EllaFitzgerald recordand retired to the small kitchen to prepare coffee."Well, it sure looks like a bachelor flat," Stephanieremarked as she tookin the one comfortable leather chair, the pipe stand andthe politicalcartoons that lined the dark walls."I suppose thats because thats what it is," he mused,setting down a trayladen with a coffee urn, coffee cups and two brandyballoons generouslyfilled with cognac."Dont you get lonely9" she said."From time to time," he said as he poured the coffee."And between times?""Black?" he asked, not looking at her."Black," she said.
  • 141. "Sugar?""For a man who has served as a Minister of the Crown andwho, its rumored,is about to become the youngest Queens Counsel in thecountry, yourestill very unsure of yourself with women."Raymond blushed, but raised his eyes and stared directlyinto hers.In the silence he caught the words "Your fabulous face.. , . ""Would my Honorable friend care for a dance?" she saidquietly.Raymond could still remember the last time he haddanced. This time he wasdetermined it would be different. He held Stephanie sothat their bodiestouched, and they swayed rather than danced to the musicof Cole Porter.She didnt notice Raymond taking off his glasses andslipping them into hisjacket pocket. When he bent over and kissed her neck,she gave a long sigh.132FIRST AMONG EQUALSLucy sat on the floor and started to cry. She satbecause she couldntyet walk. Once again Peter dragged her to her feet andcommanded her towalk, sounding convinced that his words alone would beenough to elicita response. Once again Lucy collapsed in a heap. Simonput down his knifeand fork as he realized the time had come to rescue hisnine-month-olddaughter."Daddy, leave her alone," demanded Peter."Why," asked Simon, "are you so keen that she shouldwalk?""Because I need someone to play football with whenyoure away at work.""What about Mum?""Shes feeble, she cant even tackle," said Peter.
  • 142. This time Simon did laugh as he picked Lucy up and puther in the highchair ready for breakfast. Elizabeth came into the roomwith a bowl ofporridge just in time to see Peter burst into tears."Whats the problem?" she asked, staring at herdistraught son."Daddy wont let me teach Lucy how to walk," said Peter,as he ran outofthe room."He means kill Lucy," said Simon. "I think he has plansto use her as asoccer ball."Charles studied his chart of 330 Conservatives. He feltconfident of 217,not sure about 54 and had almost given up on 59. On theLabour side, thebest information he could glean was that 50 members wereexpected to defythe Whip and join the Governments ranks when the greatvote took place."The main fly in the ointment," Charles reported to theChief Whip, "isstill the bill curbing the power of trade unions. Theleft is trying toconvince those Labourites who still support the CommonMarket that thereis no cause so important that they should enter the133FIRST AMONG EQUALSsame lobby as those Tory trade-union bashers." He wenton to explain hisfear that unless the Government was willing to modify theTrade Union Bill,they might lose Eu rope on the back of it. "And AlecPimkin doesnt helpmatters by trying to gather the waverers in our partyaround him.""Theres no chance of the Prime Minister modifying onesentence of theTrade Union Bill," said the Chief Whip, draining his gin
  • 143. and tonic. "Hepromised it in his campaign speech, and he intends todeliver by the timehe goes to Blackpool at the end of this year. I can alsotell you he isntgoing to like your conclusions on Pimkin, Charles."Charles was about toprotest. "Im not complaining, youve done damn well sofar. Just keepworking on the undecided fifty. Try anything-threaten,cajole, bully,bribe-but get them in the right lobby. Pimkin included.""How about sex?" asked Charles."Youve been seeing too many American films," said theChief Whip,laughing. "In any case I dont think weve got anyoneother than Miss Norseto offer them."Charles returned to his office and went over the listonce again. Hisforefinger stopped at the letter P. Charles strolled outinto the corridor,and looked around; his quarry wasnt there. He checkedthe chamber-no signof him. He passed the library. "No need to look inthere," he thought, andmoved on to the smoking room where he found his man,about to order anothergin."Alec," said Charles expansively.The rotund figure of Pimkin turned around.May as well try bribery first, thought Charles. "Let meget you a drink.""Thats good of you, old fellow," said Pimkin, nervouslyfingering his bowtie."Now, Alec, whats this about your voting against theEuropean bill?"134FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon was horrified when he read the initial document.Its implications
  • 144. were all too evident.The report of the new Boundary Commission had been leftin the red boxfor him to study over the weekend. He had agreed at ameeting of HomeOffice officials that he would steer it through theHouse expeditiouslyso that it would make the basis for the seats to becontested at the nextelection. As the Secretary of State reminded him, theremust he noholdups.Simon had read the document twice. In essence thechanges made sense,and, because of the movement of families from urban torural areas, itwould undoubtedly create more winnable seats for theConservatives over-all. No wonder the Party wanted no holdups. But whatcould he do aboutthe decision the commission had come to on his ownconstituency, CoventryCentral? His hands were tied. If he suggested any changefrom theBoundary Commissions recommendations, he would rightlybe accused ofrigging matters in his own favor.Because of the citys dwindling population, theCommission hadrecommended that the four constituencies of Coventrybecome three.Coventry Central was to be the one to disappear, itsvoters distributedamong Coventry West, Coventry East and Coventry North.Simon realizedthis would leave one safe seat for his sitting colleagueand two safeLabour seats. It had never been far from his mind howmarginal a seat heheld. Now he was on the verge of being without one atall. He would haveto traipse around the country all over again looking fora new seat tofight for at the next election, while at the same time
  • 145. taking care of hisconstituency in the moribund one; and at the stroke of apen-his pen-theywould pass on their loyalties to someone else. If onlyhe had remainedin Environment he could have put up a case for keepingall four seats.Elizabeth was sympathetic when he explained the135FIRST AMONG EQUALSproblem but told him not to concern himself too muchuntil hed spoken tothe vice-chairman of the Party."It may even work out to your advantage," she comforted."You might findsomething even better.""What do you mean?" said Simon."You may end up with a safer seat nearer London.""I dont mind where I go as long as I dont have tospend the rest of mylife tossing coins."Elizabeth prepared his favorite meal and spent theevening trying to keepup his spirits. After three portions of shepherds pie,Simon fell asleepalmost as soon as he put his head on the pillow. But shestayed awake longinto the night.The casual conversation with the head of gynecology atSt. Marys keptrunning through her mind. Although she hadnt confidedin Simon, she couldrecall the doctors every word.I notice from the roster that youve had far more daysoff than you areentitled to, Dr. Kerslake. You must make up your mind ifyou want to be adoctor or the wife of an MP.Elizabeth stirred restlessly as she considered theproblem, but came to noconclusion except not to bother Simon while he had somuch on his mind.
  • 146. At exactly the time Raymond was ready to stop the affairStephanie beganleaving a set of court clothes in the flat.Although the two of them had gone their separate ways atthe conclusion ofthe case, they continued to see one another a couple ofevenings a week.Raymond had had a spare key made so that Stephaniedidnt have to spend herlife checking when he had a three-line whip.At first he began simply to avoid her, but she wouldthen seek him out.When he did manage to give her the slip he would oftenfind her back in hisflat when he returned from the Commons. When fiesuggested they 136FIRST AMONG EQUALSshould be a little more discreet, she began to makethreats, subtle tobegin with, but after a time more direct.During the period of his affair with Stephanie, Raymondconducted threemajor cases for the Crown, all of which had successfulconclusions andwhich added to his reputation. On each occasion hisclerk made certainStephanie Arnold was not assigned to be with him. Nowthat his residenceproblem was solved, Raymonds only won-y was how to endthe affair.He was discovering that getting rid of her would provemore difficultthan picking her up had been.Simon was on time for his appointment at Central Office.He explained hisdilemma in detail to Sir Edward Mounijoy, vice-chairmanof the Party, whowas responsible for candidates."What bloody bad luck," said Sir Edward. "But perhaps Imay be able tohelp," he added, opening the green folder on the desk in
  • 147. front of him.Simon could see that he was studying a list of names. Itmade him feelonce again like the ambitious Oxford applicant whoneeded someone to die."There seem to be about a dozen safe seats that willfall vacant at thenext election, caused either by retirement orredistribution.""Anywhere in particular you could recommend?""I fancy Littlehampton.""Wheres that?" said Simon."It will be a new seat, safe as houses. Its inHampshire on the bordersof Sussex." He studied an attached map. "Runs proud toCharles Hamptonsconstituency, which remains unchanged. Cant think youwould have manyrivals there," said Sir Edward. "But why dont you havea word withCharles? Hes bound to know everyone involved in makingthe decision.""Anything else that looks promising9" asked Simon, 137FIRST AMONG EQUALSonly too aware that Hampton might not be so willing tohelp his cause."Let me see. Cant afford to put all your eggs in onebasket, can we? Ali,yes--Redcom, in Northumberland." Again the vice-chairmanstudied the map."Three hundred and twenty miles from London and noairport within eightymiles, and their nearest main line station is fortymiles. I think thatones worth trying for only if you get desperate. Myadvice would still beto speak to Charles Hampton about Littlehampton. Healways puts the Partyahead of personal feelings when it comes to thesematters.""Im sure youre right, Sir Edward," he said."Selection committees are being formed already, saidSir Edward, "so you
  • 148. shouldnt have long to wait."I appreciate your help," said Simon. "Perhaps you couldlet me know ifanything else comes up in the meantime.""Of course, delighted. The problem is that if one of ourside were to dieduring the session, you couldnt desert your presentseat because thatwould cause two byelections. We dont want a by-electionin Coventry Cen-tral with you being accused of being a carpetbaggersomewhere else.""Dont remind me," said Simon."I still think your best bet is to have a word withCharles Hampton. Hemust know the lay of the land in that neck of thewoods."Two clich6s in one sentence, thought Simon. Thankheavens Mounfloy wouldnever have to make a speech from the dispatch box. Hethanked Sir Edwardagain and left Conservative Party headquarters.Charles had whittled down the fifty-nine anti-CommonMarket members tofifty-one, but he was now dealing with the hard kernelwho seemed quiteimmune to cajolery or bullying. When he made his nextreport to 138FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe Chief Whip, Charles assured him that the number ofConservatives whowould vote against entry into Europe was outnumbered bythe Labourites whohad declared they would support the Government. The Chiefseemed pleased,but asked if Charles had made any progress with Pimkinsdisciples."Those twelve mad right-wingers," said Charles sharply."They seeni tobe willing to follow Pimkin even into the valley ofdeath. Ive triedeverything, but theyre still determined to vote against
  • 149. Europe whateverthe cost.""The maddening thing is that that bloody nuisance Pimkinhas nothing tolose," said the Chief Whip. "His seat disappears at theend of thisParliament in the redistribution. I cant imagine anyonewith his extremeviews would find a constituency to select him, but bythen hell havedone the damage." The Chief Whip .paused. "If his twelvewould evenabstain, I would feel confident of advising the PM ofvictory.""The problem is to find a way of turning Pimkin intoJudas and then urgehim to lead the chosen twelve into our camp," saidCharles."You achieve that, Charles, and wed certainly win."Charles returned to the Whips office to find SimonKerslake waiting byhis desk."I dropped by on the off chance, hoping you might beable to spare me afew moments," said Simon."Of course," said Charles, trying to sound welcoming."Take a seat."Simon sat down opposite him. "You may have heard that Ilose myconstituency as a result of the Boundary Commissionreport, and EdwardMountjoy suggested I have a word with you aboutLittlehampton, the newseat that borders your constituency.""It does indeed," said Charles masking his surprise. fiehad notconsidered the problem, as his own constituency was notaffected by theBoundary Commissions 139FIRST AMONG EQUALSreport. He recovered quickly. "Ill do everything I canto help. And howwise of Edward to send you to me."
  • 150. "Littlehampton would be ideal," said Simon. "Especiallywhile my wife isstill working here in London."Charles raised his eyebrows."I dont think youve met Elizabeth. Shes a doctor atSt. Marys," Simonexplained."Yes, I see your problem. Why dont I start by having aword with AlexanderDalglish, the constituency chairman, and see what I cancome up with?""That would be extremely helpful.""Not at all. Ill call him at home this evening and findout what stagetheyve reached over selection, and then Ill put you inthe picture.""Id appreciate that.""While Ive got you, let me give you The Whip for nextweek," saidCharles, passing over a sheet of paper, Simon folded itup and put it inhis pocket. "Ill call you the moment I have some news."Simon left feeling happier and a little guilty about hispast prejudiceconcerning Charles, whom he watched disappear into thechamber to carry outhis bench duty.In the chamber, the European issue had been given sixdays for debate bybackbenchers, the longest period of time allocated toone motion in livingmemory.Charles strolled down the aisle leading to the frontbench and took a seaton the end to check on another set of speeches. TomCarson, the Labourmember from Liverpool Dockside, was launching into atirade of abuseagainst the Government. Charles rarely listened toCarsons left-wingrantings--and the under-the-breath remarks and coughingthat continuedduring his speech proved Charles was not alone in hisopinion. By the time
  • 151. Carson concluded, Charles had worked out a plan.He left the chamber, but instead of returning to theWhips office, whichafforded no privacy, he disappeared into one of thetelephone booths nearthe clois140FIRST AMONG EQUALSters above the members cloakroom. He checked the numberin his book anddialed."Alexander, its Charles. Charles Hampton.""Good to hear from you, Charles, its been a long time.How are you?""Well. And you?""Cant complain. What can I do for a busy man like you?""Wanted to chew over the new Sussex constituency withyoti--Littlehampton.Hows your selection of a candidate going?""Theyve left me to draw up a short list of six forfinal selection by thefull committee in about ten days time.""Have you thought of running yourself, Alexander?""Manv times," was the reply that came back. "But themissus ~ouldnt allowit; neither would the bank balance. Do you have anyidcas?""Might be able to help. Why dont you come and have aquiet dinner at myplace early next week?""Thats kind of you, Charles.""Not at all, it will be good to see you again. Its beenfar too long. NextMonday suit you?""Absolutely.""Good, lets say eight oclock, Twenty-seven EatonSquare."Charles put the phone down and returned to the Whipsoffice to make a notein his diary.Raymond hadjust finished making his contribution to theEuropean debatewhen Charles returned to the House. Raymond had made a
  • 152. coherent economiccase for remaining free of the other six Europeancountries and forbuilding stronger links with the Commonwealth andAmerica. He had doubtedthat Britain could take the financial burden of enteringa club that hadbeen in existence for so long. If the country had joinedat its inception,it might have been different, he argued, but he141FIRST AMONG EQUALSwould have to vote against this risky unproven venturethat he suspectedcould only lead to higher unemployment. Before hefinished his speech,Charles put a cross by the name Gould.A note was being passed along the row to Raymond fromone of the Housemessengers dressed in white tie and black tails. It read"Please ring SirNigel Hartwell as soon as convenient."Raymond left the floor of the House and went to thenearest telephone inthe corner of the members lobby. He called his lawoffices and wasimmediately put through to Sir Nigel."You wanted me to phone?""Yes," said Sir Nigel. "Are you free at the moment?""I am," said Raymond. "Why? Is it anything urgent?""Id rather not talk about it over the phone," said SirNigel ominously.Raymond took a subway from Westminster to Temple and wasin the lawchambers fifteen minutes later. He went straight to SirNigels office, satdown in a comfortable chair in the spacious clublikeroom, crossed his legsand watched Sir Nigel pace about in front of him. He wasclearly determinedto get something off his chest."Raymond, I have been asked by those in authority about
  • 153. you becoming aQueens Counsel. Ive said I think youd make a damngood QC." A smile cameover Raymonds face, but it was soon wiped off. "But ifyoure going totake silk I need an undertaking from you.""An undertaking?""Yes," said Sir Nigel. "You must stop having this damnsilly, er ...relationship with another member of our chambers." Herounded on Raymondand faced him.Raymond turned scarlet, but before he could speak, thehead of chamberscontinued."Now I want your word on it," said Sir Nigel, "that itwill end, and endimniediately."142FIRST AMONG EQUALS"You have my word," said Raymond quietly."Im not a prig," said Sir Nigel, pulling down on hiswaistcoat, "but ifyou are going to have an affair, for Gods sake make itas far away fromthe office as possible, and, if I may advise you, thatshould include theHouse of Commons and Leeds. Theres still a lot of theworld left over,and its full of women."Raymond nodded his agreement; he could not fault thehead of chambersslogic.Sir Nigel continued, obviously embarrassed. "Theres anasty fraud casestarting in Manchester next Monday. Our client has beenaccused ofsetting up a senes of companies that specialize in lifeinsurance butavoid paying out on the claims. I expect you rememberall the publicity.Miss Arnold has been put on the case as a reserve
  • 154. junior. They tell meit could last several weeks.""Shell try and get out of it," said Raymond glumly."She has already, but I made it quite clear that if shefelt unable totake the case on, she would have to find otherchambers."Raymond breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you," he said."Sorry about this. I know youve earned your silk, oldboy, but I canthave members of our chambers going around with egg ontheir faces. Thankyou for your cooperation. I cant pretend I enjoyedthat.""Got time for a quiet word?" asked Charles."Youre wasting your time, dear thing, if you imaginethe disciples willchange their minds at this late stage," said AlecPimkin. "AA twelve ofthem will vote against the Government on Europe. Thatsfinal.""I dont want to discuss Europe this time, Alec; itsfar more serious,and on a personal level. Lets go and have a drink onthe terrace."Charles ordered the drinks, and the two men strolled143FIRST AMONG EQUALSout onto the quiet end of the terrace toward theSpeakers house. Charlesstopped when he was certain there was no longer anyonewithin earshot."If its not Europe, what is it?" said Pinikin, staringout at the Thamesas he nervously fingered the rose in his lapel."Whats this I hear about you losing your seat?"Pimkin turned pale and touched his spotted bow tienervously. "Its thisbloody boundary business. My constituency is swallowedup, and no one seemswilling to interview me for a new one."
  • 155. "Whats it worth itl secure you a safe seat for therest of your life?"Pimkin looked suspiciously up at Charles. "Anything upto a pound of flesh,dear boy." He added a false laugh."No, I wont need to cut that deep."The color returned to Pimkins fleshy cheeks. "Whateverit is, you can relyon me, old fellow.""Can you deliver the disciples?" said Charles.Pimkin turned pale again."Not on the small votes in committee," said Charles,before Pimkin couldreply. "Not on the clauses evenjust on the secondreading, the principleitself. Standing by the Party in their hour of need, nodesire to cause anunnecessary general election, all that stuff-you fill inthe details forthe disciples. I know you can convince them, Alec."Pimkin still didnt speak."I delivei a copper-bottomed seat, you deliver twelvevotes. I think we cancall that a fair exchange.""What if I get them to abstain?" said Pimkin.Charles waited, as if giving the idea considerablethought. "Its a deal,"he said, never having hoped for anything more.144FIRST AMONG EQUALSAlexander Dalglisb arrived at Eaton Square a littleafter eight. Fionamet the tall, elegant man at the door and explained thatCharles had notyet returned from the Commons."But I expect him any moment," she added. "May I offeryou a sherry?" sheasked. Another thirty minutes had passed before Charleshurried in."Sorry Im late, Alexander," he said, shaking hands withhis guest."Hoped I might make it just before you." He kissed his
  • 156. wife on theforehead."Not at all, dear boy," said Alexander, raising hissherry. "I couldnthave asked for more pleasant company."What will you have, darling?" asked Fiona."A strong whiskey, please. Now, lets go straight intodinner. Ive gotto be back at the talkshop by ten."Charles guided his guest toward the dining room andseated him at the endof the table before taking his place below the Holbeinportrait of thefirst Earl of Bridgewater, an heirloom his grandfatherhad left him.Fiona took a seat opposite her husband. During the mealof beefWellington, Charles spent a great deal of time catchingup on whatAlexander had been doing since they had last met. Hemade no mention ofthe real purpose behind the meeting until Fiona providedthe opportunitywhen she served coffee."I know you two have a lot to talk about, so Ill leaveyou to get onwith it.""Thank you," said Alexander. He looked up at Fiona andsmiled "For alovely dinner."She returned his smile and left them alone."Now, Charles," said Alexander, picking up the file hehad left on thefloor by his side, "I need to pick your brains.""Go ahead, old fellow," said Charles. "Only toodelighted to be ofassistance."145FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Sir Edward MountJoy has sent me a pretty long list forus to consider,among them a Home Office Minister and one or two other
  • 157. members ofParliament wholl be losing their present seats. What doyou think of ...TDalglish opened the file in front of him as Charlespoured him a generousglass of port and offered him a cigar from a gold casethat he picked upfrom the sideboard."What a magnificent object," said Alexander, staring inawe at the crestedbox and the engraved C.G.H. along its top."A family heirloom," said Charles. "Should have beenleft to my brotherRupert, but I was lucky enough to have the same initialsas mygrandfather."Alexander handed it back to his host before returning tohis notes."Heres the man who impresses me," he said at last."Kerslake, SimonKerslake."Charles remained silent."You dont have an opinion, Charles?""Yes."So what do you think of Kerslake?""Strictly off the record?"Dalglish nodded but said nothing.Charles sipped his port. "Very good," he said."Kerslake?""No, the port. Taylors Thirty-five. Im afraid Kerslakeis not the samevintage. Need I say more?""No. What a pity. He looks good on paper.""On paper is one thing," said Charles, "but having himas your member fortwenty years is quite another. And his wife ... Neverseen in theconstituency, you know." He frowned. "Im afraid Ivegone too far.""No, no," said Alexander. "Ive got the picture. Nextone is NormanLamont.""First-class, but hes already been selected for
  • 158. Kingston, Im afraid,"said Charles.146FIRST AMONG EQUALSDalglish looked down at his file once again. "Well, whatabout Pimkin?""We were at Eton together. His looks are against him, asmy grandmotherused to say, but hes a sound man, and very good in theconstituency, sothey tell me.,,"You would recommend him then?""I should snap him up before one of the other safe seatsgets him.""That popular, is he?" said Alexander. "Thanks for thetip. Pity aboutKerslake.""That was strictly off the record," said Charles."Of course. Not a word. You can rely on me.""Port to your liking?. ""Excellent," said Alexander. "But your judgment hasalways been so good.You only have to look at Fiona to realize that."Charles smiled.Most of the other names Dalglish produced were eitherunknown, unsuitableor easy to dismiss. As Alexander left shortly beforeten, Fiona asked himif the chat had been worthwhile."Yes, I think weve found the right man."Raymond had the locks on his flat changed thatafternoon. It tumed out tobe more expensive than he had bargained for, and thelocksmith had insistedon cash in advance.The locksmith grinned as he pocketed the money. "I makea fortune doingthisjob, guvnor, I can tell you. At least one gentlemana day, alwayscash, no receipt. Means the wife and I can spend a monthin Ibiza every
  • 159. year, tax free."Raymond smiled at the thought. He checked his watch, hecould just catchthe Thursday 7:10 from Kings Cross and be in Leeds byten oclock for along weekend.147FIRST AMONG EQUALSAlexander Dalglish phoned Charles a week later to tellhim Pimkin had madethe first cut, and that they hadnt considered Kerslake."Pimkin didnt go over very well with the committee atthe firstinterview.""No, he wouldnt," said Charles. "I warned you his lookswere against himand he may come across a bit too right wing at times,but hes as sound asa bell and will never let you down, take my word.""Ill have to, Charles. Because by getting rid ofKerslake, weve removedPimkins only real challenger."Charles put the phone down and dialed the Home Office."Simon Kerslake,please.""Whos calling?""Hampton, Whips office." He was put straight through."Simon, its Charles. I thought I ought to give you anupdate onLittlehampton.""Thats thoughtful of you," said Simon."Not good news, Im afraid. It turns out the chairmanwants the seat forhimself. Hes making sure the committee only interviewsidiots.""How can you be so certain?""Ive seen the short list and Pimkins the only sittingmember theyreconsidering.""I cant believe it.""No, I was pretty shocked myself. I pressed the case foryou, but it fell
  • 160. on deaf ears. Didnt care for your views on hanging orsome such words.Still, I cant believe youll find it hard to pick up aseat.""I hope youre right, Charles, but in any case thanksfor trying.""Any time. Let me know of any other seats you put yourname in for. I havea lot of friends up and down the country."148FIRST AMONG EQUALSTwo days later, Alec Pimkin was invited by theLittlehamptonConservatives to attend a short-list interview for theselection of aTory candidate for the new constituency."How do I begin to thank you?" he asked Charles whenthey met up in thebar."Keep your word-and I want it in writing," repliedCharles."What do you mean?""A letter to the Chief Whip saying youve changed yourmind on the mainEuropean vote, and you and the disciples wifl beabstaining on Thursday."Pimkin looked cocky. "And if I dont play balL dearthing9""You havent got the seat yet, Alec, and I might find itnecessary tophone Alexander Dalglish and tell him about that awfullynice little boyyou made such a fool of yourself over when you were upat Oxford."When the Chief Whip received the letter from Pimkinthree days later, heimmediately summoned Charles."Well done, Charles. How did you manage to succeed whereweve allfailed-and the disciples as well?""Matter ofloyalty," said Charles. "Pimkin saw that inthe end."
  • 161. On the final day of the Great Debate on "the principleof entry" intoEurope, Prime Minister Heath delivered the winding-upspeech. He rose atnine-thirty to cheers from both sides. At ten oclockthe House dividedand voted in favor of "the principle" by a majority ofone hundred andtwelve, far more than Charles could have ever hoped for.Sixty-nineLabour MPs had helped to swell the Governmentsmajority.Raymond Gould voted against the motion in accordancewith his long-heldbeliefs. Simon Kerslake and Charles Hampton stood in the"Ayes" lobby.Alec Pimkin and the twelve disciples remained in theirplaces on theCommons benches while the vote took place.149FIRST AMONG EQUALSWhen Charles heard the Speaker read out the finalresult, he felt a momentof triumph. Although he realized that he still had thecommittee stage togo through -hundreds of clauses, any of which could gowrong---nevertheless, the first round belonged to him.Ten days later, Alec Pimkin defeated a keen youngConservative just downfrom Cambridge and a local woman councillor to beselected as prospectivecandidate for Littlehampton.15012RAYMOND STUDIED THE CASE once again and decided to makehis own inquiries.Too many constituents had in the past demonstrated thatthey were willing to
  • 162. lie to him in office hours as happily as they would inthe witness box to any judge.He dialed the public prosecutors office. Here was oneman who could cuthis work in half with a sentence."Good morning, Mr. Gould. What can I do for you?"Raymond had to smile. Angus Fraser was a contemporary ofhis since Raymondhad come to the bar, but once he was in his office hetreated everyone asa stranger, making no discrimination."He even calls his wife Mrs. Fraser when she rings theoffice," Sir Nigelhad once told him. Raymond was willing to join in thegame."Good morning, Mr. Fraser. I need your advice in yourofficial capacity.""I am always happy to be of service, sir."This was carrying formality too far."I want to talk to you off the record about the PaddyOHalloran case. Doyou remember it?"FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Of course, everyone in this office remembers thatcase.""Good," said Raymond. "Then youll know what a help youcan be to me incutting through the thicket. A group of my constituents,whom I wouldnttrust further than I could throw a boulder, claimOHalloran was framed forthe Princes Street bank robbery last year. They dontdeny he has criminaltendencies--" Raymond would have chuckled if he hadntbeen speaking toAngus Fraser-- "but they say he never left a pub calledthe Sir WalterScott the entire time the robbery was taking place. Allyou have to tellme, Mr. Fraser, is that you are sure OHalloran isguilty, and Ill drop myinquiries. If you say nothing, I shall dig deeper."
  • 163. Rayriond waited, but he received no reply."Thank you, Mr. Fraser. Ill see you at the soccer matchon Saturday." Thesilence continued."Goodbye, Mr. Fraser.""Good day, Mr. Gould."Raymond settled back. It was going to be a lengthyexercise, but at leastthis was an opportunity to use his legal skills onbehalf of a constituent,and perhaps it would even add to his reputation in theHouse. He started bychecking with all the people who had confirmedOHallorans alibi thatnight, but after interviewing the first eight he came tothe reluctantconclusion that none of them could be trusted as awitness. Whenever hecame across another of OHallorans friends, theexpression "Do anythingfor a pint" kept crossing his mind. The time had come totalk with theproprietor."I couldnt be sure, Mr. Gould, but I think he was herethat evening.Trouble is, OHalloran came almost every night. Itshard to recall.""Do you know anyone who might remember? Someone youcould trust with yourcash register?""Thatd be pushing your luck in this pub, Mr. Gould."The proprietorthought for a moment. "How-152FIRST AMONG EQUALSever, theres old Mrs. Bloxham," he said, slapping thedish towel over hisshoulder. "She sits in that corner every night." Hepointed to a smallround table that would have been crowded had it seatedmore than twopeople. "Ifshe says he was here, he was."
  • 164. Raymond asked the proprietor where Mrs. Bloxharn livedand then walkedaround the corner to 43 Mafeking Road in the hope offinding her in. Hemade his way through a group of young children playingfootball in themiddle of the road."Is it another General Election already, Mr. Gould?"asked a disbelievingold lady as she peered through the letter slot."No, its nothing to do with politics, Mrs. Bloxham,"said Raymond,bending down. "I came around to seek your advice on apersonal matter.""Come on in out of the cold then," she said, opening thedoor to him."Theres a terrible draft rushes through this corridor."Raymond followed the old lady as she shuffled down thedingy corridor inher carpet slippers to a room that he would have saidwas colder than ithad been outside on the street. There were no ornamentsin the room savea crucifix that stood on a narrow mantelpiece below apastel print oftheVirgin Mary. Mrs. Bloxham beckoned Raymond to a woodenseat by a tableyet untaid. She eased her plump frame into a stuffedhorsehair chair. Itgroaned under her weight and a strand of horsehair fellto the floor.Raymond averted his glance from the old woman once hehad taken in theblack shawl and the dress she inust have worn a thousandtimes.Once settled in her chair, she kicked off her slippers."Feet stillgiving me trouble," she explained.Raymond tried not to show his distaste."Doctor doesnt seem to be able to explain theswellings," she continued,without bitterness.Raymond leaned on the table and noticed what a fine 153FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 165. piece of furniture it was and how incongruous it lookedin thosesurroundings. He was struck by the craftsmanship of thecarved Georgianlegs. She noticed he was admiring it. "Mygreat-grandfather gave that tomy great-grandmother the day they got married, Mr.Gould.""Its magnificent," said Raymond.But she didnt seem to hear, because all she said was,"What can I do foryou, sir?"Raymond went over the OHalloran story again. Mrs.Bloxham listenedintently, leaning forward slightly and cupping heir handaround her earto be sure she could hear every word."That OHallorans an evil one," she said. "Not to betrusted. OurBlessed Lady will have to be very forgiving to allow thelikes of him toenter the kingdom of Heaven." Raymond had to smile. "Notthat Im expect-ing to meet all that many politicians when I get thereeither," sheadded, giving Raymond a toothless grin."Could OHalloran possibly have been there that Fridaynight as all hisfriends claim?" Raymond asked."He was there all right," said Mrs. Bloxham. "No doubtabout that--sawhim with my own eyes.""How can you be so sure?""Spilled his beer over my best dress, and I knewsomething would happenon the thirteenth, especially with it being a Friday. Iwont forgive himfor that. I still havent been able to get the stain outdespite whatthose washing-powder ads tell you on the telly.""Why didnt you tell the police immediately?""Didnt ask," she said simply. "Theyve been after himfor a long time
  • 166. for a lot of things they couldnt pin on him, but foronce he was in theclear."Raymond finished writing his notes and then rose toleave. Mrs. Bloxhamheaved herself out of the chair, dispensing yet morehorsehair onto thefloor. They walked to the door together. "Im sorry Icouldnt offer 154FIRST AMONG EQUALSyou a cup of tea but Im right out at the moment," shesaid. "If you hadcome tomorrow it would have been all right.Raymond paused on the doorstep."I get the pension tomorrow, you see," she replied tohis unaskedquestion.Elizabeth took a day off to travel to Redcorn with Simonfor theinterview. Once again the children had to be left withthe baby-sitter.The local and national press had made him the hotfavorite for the newseat. Elizabeth put on what she called her bestConservative outfit, apale-blue suit with a dark-blue collar that hideverything, Simon noted,and reached well below her knees."Well, I wouldnt have recognized you, Doctor," saidSimon grinning."Understandably," she replied. "Ive disguised myself asa politicianswife."The journey from Kings Cross to Newcastle took threehours and twentyminutes, on what was described in the timetable as "theexpress." Atleast Simon was able to catch up with a great deal ofthe paperwork thathad been stuffed into his red box. He reflected that thecivil servantswho worked full-time in the bureaucracy rarely allowed
  • 167. politicians timeto involve themselves in politics. They wouldnt havebeen pleased tolearn that he had spent an hour of thejourney readingthe last fourweekly copies of the Redcorn News.At Newcastle they were met by the wife of theAssociation treasurer, whohad volunteered to escort the Minister and his wife tothe constituencyto be sure they were in time for the interview. "Thatsvery thoughtfulof you," said Elizabeth, as she stared at the mode oftransport that hadbeen chosen to take them the next forty miles.The ancient Austin Mini took a further hour and a halfthrough thewinding roads before they reached their 155FIRST AMONG EQUALSdestination, and the treasurers wife never drew breathonce throughoutthe entire journey. When Simon and Elizabeth piled out ofthe car at themarket town of Redcorn, they were physically and mentallyexhausted.The treasurers wife took them through to theconstituency headquartersand introduced them both to the campaign manager."Good of you to come," he said. "Hell of a journey,isnt it?"Elizabeth felt unable to disagree with his judgment. Buton this occasionshe made no comment, because if this was to be Simonsbest chance ofreturning to Parliament, she had already decided to givehim every sup-port possible. Nevertheless, she dreaded the thought ofher husbandsmaking the journey to Redcorn twice a month, as shefeared they would seeeven less of each other than they did at present, letalone the children."Now the form is," began the campaign manager, "that we
  • 168. are interviewingsix potential candidates, and theyll be seeing youlast." The campaignmanager winked knowingly.Simon and Elizabeth smiled uncertainly."Im afraid they wont be ready for you for at leastanother hour, so youhave time for a stroll around the town."Simon was glad ofthe chance to stretch his long legs andtake a closerlook at Redcorn. He and Elizabeth walked slowly aroundthe pretty markettown, admiring the Elizabethan architecture that hadsomehow survivedirresponsible or greedy town planners. They even climbedthe hill to takea look inside the magnificent perpendicular church thatdominated thesurrounding area.As he walked back past the shops in the High Street,Simon nodded tothose locals who appeared to recognize him.156FIRST AMONG EQUALS"A lot of people seem to know who you are," saidElizabeth, and then theysaw the display outside the local newsstand. They sat onthe bench in themarket square and read the lead story under a largepicture of Simon."Redcorns Next MPT ran the headline.The story volunteered the fact that although SimonKerslake had to beconsidered the favorite, Bill Travers, a local farmerwho had beenchairman of the county council the previous year, wasstill thought tohave an outside chance.Simon began to feel a little sick in the stomach. Itreminded him of theday he had been interviewed at Coventry Central nearlyeight years
  • 169. before. Now that he was a Minister of the Crown, hewasnt any lessnervous.When he and Elizabeth returned to constituencyheadquarters they wereinformed that only two more candidates had been seen andthe third wasstill being interviewed. They walked around the townonce again, evenmore slowly this time, watching shopkeepers put up theircolored shuttersand turn "Open" signs to "Closed.""What a pleasant market town," said Simon."And the people seem so polite after London," she said.He smiled as they headed back to party headquarters. Ontheir way, theypassed townspeople who bid them "Good evening,"courteous people whomSimon felt he would have been proud to represent.Although they walkedslowly, Elizabeth and he could not make their journeylast more thanthirty minutes.When they returned a third time to constituencyheadquarters, the fourthcandidate was leaving the interview room. She lookedvery despondent. "Itshouldnt be long now," said the campaign manager, butit was anotherforty minutes before they heard a ripple of ap-157FIRST AMONG EQUALSplause, and a man in a Harr-is tweed jacket and browntrousers left theroom. He didnt seem happy either.Simon and Elizabeth were ushered through, and as theyentered everyonein the room stood. Ministers of the Crown did not visitRedcorn often.Simon waited for Elizabeth to be seated before he tookthe chair in thecenter of the room facing the committee. He estimated
  • 170. that there wereabout fifty people present, and they were all staring athim, showing noaggression, merely curiosity. He looked at theweatherbeaten faces. Mostof the people, male and female, were dressed in tweeds.In b is darkstriped London suit Simon felt out of place."And now," said the chairman, "we welcome the RightHonorable SimonKerslake, MP."Simon had to smile at the mistake so many people made inthinking thatMinisters were automatically members of the PrivyCouncil and thereforeentitled to the prefix "Right Honorable," instead of theplain"Honorable" accorded all MPs."Mr. Kerslake will address us for twenty minutes, and hehas kindlyagreed to answer questions after that," added thechairman.Simon felt sure he spoke well, but even his fewcarefully chosen quipsreceived no more than a smile, and his more importantcomments elicitedlittle response. This was not a group of people given toshowing theiremotions. When he had finished, he sat down torespectful clapping andmurmurs."Now the Minister will answer questions," said thechairman."Where do you stand on hanging?" said a scowlingmiddle-aged woman in agray tweed suit seated in the front row.Simon explained his reasons for being a convincedabolitionist. The scowldid not move from the questioners face and Simonthought to himself howmuch158FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 171. happier she would have been with Ronnie Nethercote as hermember.A man in a brogue suit asked him how he felt about thisyears farmsubsidy."Good on eggs, tough on beef, and disastrous for pigfarmers. Or at leastthats what I read on the front page of Farmers Weeklyyesterday." Someof them laughed for the first time. "It hasnt provednecessary for meto have a great knowledge of farming in CoventryCentral, but if I amlucky enough to be selected for Redcorn I shall try tolearn quickly, andwith your help I shall hope to master the farmersproblems." Severalheads nodded their approval."May I be permitted to ask Mrs. Kerslake a question?"said a tall, thinspinsterish woman who had stood up to catch thechairmans eye. "MissTweedsmuir, chairman of the Ladies Advisory," sheannounced in a shrillvoice. "If your husband were offered this seat, wouldyou be willing tocome and live in Northumberland?"Elizabeth had dreaded the question because she knew thatif Simon wereoffered the constituency she would be expected to giveup herjob at thehospital. Simon turned and looked toward his wife."No," she replied directly. "I am a doctor at St. MarysHospital, whereI practice obstetrics and gynecology. I support myhusband in his career,but, like Margaret Thatcher, I believe a woman has theright to a goodeducation and then the chance to use her qualificationsto the bestadvantage."A ripple of applause went around the room and Simonsmiled at his wife.
  • 172. The next question was on the Common Market, and Simongave an unequivocalstatement as to his reasons for backing the PrimeMinister in his desireto see Britain as part of the European community.Simon continued to answer questions on subjects 159FIRST AMONG EQUALSranging from trade-union reform to violence on televisionbefore thechairman asked, "Are there any more questions?"There was a long silence and just as he was about tothank Simon, thescowling lady in the front row, without being recognizedby the chair,asked what Mr. Kerslakes views were on abortion."Morally, Im against it," said Simon. "At the time ofthe Abortion Actmany of us believed it would stem the tide of divorce.We have beenproved wrong. The rate of divorce has quadrupled.Nevertheless, in thecases of rape or fear of physical or mental injuryarising from birth,I would have to support the medical advice given at thetime. Elizabethand I have two children and my wifes job is to see thatbabies aresafely delivered," he added.The lips moved from a scowl to a straight line."Thank you," said the chairman. "it was good of you togive us so muchof your time. Perhaps you and Mrs. Kerslake would bekind enough to waitoutside."Simon and Elizabeth joined the other hopeful candidates,their wives andthe campaign manager in a small dingy room at the backof the building.When they saw the half-empty trestle table in front ofthem they bothremembered they hadnt had any lunch, and they devouredwhat was left ofthe curling cucumber sandwiches and the cold sausage
  • 173. rolls."What happens next?" Simon asked the campaign managerbetween mouthfuls."Nothing out of the ordinary. Theyll have a discussion,allowingeveryone to express their views, and then theyll vote.It should be allover in twenty minutes."Elizabeth checked her watch: it was seven oclock andthe last train wasat nine-fifteen.An hour later, when no one had emerged from the room,the campaignmanager suggested to all the candi-160FIRST AMONG EQUALSdates who had a long journey ahead of them that theymight like to checkinto the Bell Inn just over the road.When Simon looked around the room it was clear thateveryone else had doneso in advance."You had better stay put in case youre called again,"Elizabeth said."Ill go off and book a room and at the same time calland see how thechildren are getting on. Probably eaten the poorbaby-sitter by now."Simon opened his red box and tried to do some work whileElizabethdisappeared in the direction of the Bell Inn.The man who looked like a farmer came over andintroduced himself."Im Bill Travers, the chairman of the newconstituency," he began. "I onlywanted to say that youll have my full support aschairman if the committeeselectsYOU.""Thank you," said Simon."I had hoped to represent this area, as my grandfatherdid. But I shall
  • 174. understand if Redcorn prefers to choose a man destinedfor the Cabinetrather than someone who would be happy to spend his lifeon the backbenches."Simon was impressed with the directness and dignity ofhis opponentsstatement and would have liked to respond in kind, butTravers quicklyadded, "Forgive me, Ill not waste any more of yourtime. I can see---2 helooked down at the red box-"that you have a lot of workto catch up on."Simon felt guilty as he watched the man walk away. A fewminutes laterElizabeth returned and tried to smile. "The only roomleft is smaller thanPeters and it faces the main road, so its just aboutas noisy."61 At least no children to say Im hungry," he said,touching her hand.It was a little after nine when a weary chairman came161FIRST AMONG EQUALSout and asked all the candidates if he could have theirattention. Husbandsand wives all faced him. "My committee wants to thank youfor going throughthis grim procedure. It has been hard for us to decidesomething that wehope not to have to discuss again for twenty years." Hepaused. "Thecommittee is going to invite Mr. Bill Travers to fightthe Redcorn seat atthe next election."In a sentence it was all over. Simons throat went dry.He and Elizabeth didnt get much sleep in their tinyroom at the Bell Inn,and it hadnt helped that the agent told them the finalvote had been25-23."I dont think Miss Tweedsmuir liked me," said
  • 175. Elizabeth, feeling guilty."If I had told her that I would have been willing tolive in theconstituency I think youd have been offered the seat.""I doubt it," said Simon. "In any case its no useagreeing to their termsat the interview and then imposing your own when youhave been offered theconstituency. My guess is youll find Redcorn has chosenthe right man."Elizabeth smiled at her husband, grateful for hissupport."There will be other seats," said Simon, only too awarethat time was nowrunning out. "Youll see."Elizabeth prayed that he would prove fight, and thatnext time the choiceof constituency would not make her have to face thedilemma she had so farmanaged to avoid.Joyce made one of her periodic trips to London whenRaymond took silk andbecame a Queens Counsel. The occasion, she decided,warranted anothervisit to Marks and Spencer. She recalled her first tripto the store somany years before when she had accompanied her husbandto meet the PrimeMinister. Raymond had come so far since then, althoughtheir relationshipseemed to 162FIRST AMONG EQUALShave progressed so little. She couldnt help thinking howmuchbetter-looking Raymond had become in middle age, andfeared the same couldnot be said of her.She enjoyed watching the legal ceremony as her husbandwas presented incourt before the judges, Latin words spoken but notunderstood. Suddenlyher husband was Raymond Gould, QC, MP.
  • 176. She and Raymond arrived late in chambers for thecelebration party.Everyone seemed to have turned out in her husbandshonor. Raymond feltfull of bonhomie when Sir Nigel handed him a glass ofchampagne. Then hesaw a familiar figure by the mantelpiece and rememberedthat the trial inManchester was over. He managed to circle the room,speaking to everyonebut Stephanie Arnold. To his horror, he turned to seeher introducingherself to his wife. Every time he glanced toward them,they seemed deeperin conversation."Ladies and gentlemen," said Sir Nigel, banging a table.He waited forsilence. "We are always proud in chambers when one ofour members takessilk. It is a comment not only on the man, but also onhis chambers. Andwhen it is the youngest silk--still under forty-it addsto that pride. Allof you of course know that Raymond also serves inanother place in which weexpect him to rise to even greater glory. May I add,finally, how pleasantit is to have his wife, Joyce, among us tonight. Ladiesand gentlemen," hecontinued. "The toast is: Raymond Gould, QC."The applause was sustained and genuine. As colleaguescame up tocongratulate him, he couldnt help noticing thatStephanie and Joyce hadresupied their conversation.Raymond was handed another glass of champagne just as anearnest youngpupil named Patrick Montague, who had recently joinedthem from chambers inBristol, engaged him in conversation. Although Montaguehad been with themfor some weeks, Raymond had never 163FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 177. spoken to him at length before. He seemed to have veryclear views oncriminal law and the changes that were necessary. For thefirst time inhis life Raymond felt he was no longer a young man.Suddenly both women were at his side."Hello, Raymond.""Hello, Stephanie," he said awkwardly. He lookedanxiously toward hiswife. "Do you know Patrick Montague?" he askedabsentmindedly.The three of them burst out laughing,"Whats so funny?" asked Raymond."You do embarrass me sometimes, Raymond," said Joyce."Surely you realizeStephanie and Patrick are engaged?"16413"CAN YOU EXPLAIN why Simon Kerslake missed the voteyesterday?"Charles looked across the table at the Chief Whip. :No,I cant," he said."Ive been distributing the weekly Whip to him the sameas every member ofmy group.""Whats the meaning of it then?""I think the poor man has been spending a lot of histime traipsing aroundthe country looking for a seat to fight at the nextelection.""Thats no excuse," said the Chief Whip. "Duties in theHouse must comefirst, every member knows that. The vote missed was on avital clause, andeveryone else in your group has proved reliable. PerhapsI should have aword with him?""No, no, Id rather you didnt," said Charles, fearinghe sounded a littletoo insistent. "I consider it my responsibility. Illspeak to him and seethat it doesnt happen again."
  • 178. "All right, Charles, if thats the way you want to playit. Thank God itcant last much longer and the damn thing will soon belaw, but we mustremain vigilant over165FIRST AMONG EQUALSevery clause. The Labour Party knows only too well thatif they defeat us oncertain key clauses they can still sink the whole bill,and if I lost one ofthose by a single vote I would cut Kerslakes throat. Oranyone else who wasresponsible.""Ill make sure he gets the message," said Charles."Hows Fiona reacting to all these late nights?" theChief Whip asked,finally relaxing."Very well, considering. In fact, now that you mentionit, I have neverseen her looking better.""Cant say my wife is enjoying the prep school antics,as she describesour continual late-night sessions. Ive had to promiseto take her to theWest Indies this winter to make up for it. Well, Illleave you to dealwith Kerslake. Be firm, Charles.""Norman Edwards?" repeated Raymond in disbelief "Thegeneral secretary ofthe Lorry Union?""Yes," said Fred Padgett, getting up from behind hisdesk."But he burned Full Employment at Any Cost? on a publicbonfire with everyjournalist he could lay his hands on to witness theconflagration.""I know," said Fred, returning a letter to the filingcabinet. "Im onlyyour campaign manager. Im not here to explain themysteries of the
  • 179. universe.""When does he want to see me?" asked Raymond."As soon as possible.""Better ask him if he can come for a drink at the houseat six oclock-"Raymond had had heavy Saturday morning office hours andhad only found timeto grab a sandwich at the pub before going off to watchLeeds playLiverpool. Although he had never cared for soccer, nowhe regularly sat inthe directors box every other week in full view of hisconstituents whilehe supported his local soccer team, killing thirtythousand birds with onestone. He 166FIRST AMONG EQUALSwas careful to adopt his old Yorkshire accent whentalking to the lads inthe dressing room after the match, not the one he used toaddress a highcourt judge during the week.Leeds won 3-2, and after the match Raymond joined thedirectors for a drinkin the boardroom and nearly forgot about his meetingwith Norman Edwards.Joyce was in the garden showing the union leader herearly snowdrops whenRaymond returned."Sorry Im late," he shouted, as he hung up hisyetlow-and-black scarf."Ive been to the local match.""Who won?" asked Edwards."Leeds, of course, three to two. Come on in and have abeer," said Raymond."Id prefer a vodka."The two men went into the house while Joyce continuedwith her gardening."Well," said Raymond, pouring his guest a Smirnoff."What brings you allthe way from Liver-pool if it wasnt to watch soccer?Perhaps you want asigned copy of my book for your next union bonfire?"
  • 180. "Dont give me any trouble, Ray. I came all this waybecause I need yourhelp, simple as that.""Im all ears," said Raymond, not commenting on theshortening of his name."We had a full meeting of the General Purposes Committeeyesterday, and oneof the brothers had spotted a clause in the CommonMarket Bill that couldput us all out of work. The clause concerning shipmentto the Channelcoast."Norman passed a copy of the bill to Raymond with therelevant clause markedin red. "If that gets through the House my boys are indeep trouble.""Yes," said Raymond. "I can see that. Actually, Imsurprised its beenallowed to get this far."Raymond studied the wording in detail while Edwardspoured himself anothervodka.167FIRST AMONG EQUALS"And how much do you think this will add to the costs?"asked Raymond."Ill tell you, enough to make us uncompetitive, thatshow much,"replied the union leader."Point taken," said Raymond. "So whats wrong withenlisting your ownmember? Why come to me?""I dont trust him. Hes pro-European at any cost.""Then what about your sponsored trade-unionrepresentative in the House?""Tom Carson? You must be joking. Hes so far to the leftthat even hisown side is suspicious when he supports a cause."Raymond laughed.Edwards continued, "Now, what my committee wants to knowis whether youwould be willing to fight this clause in the House for
  • 181. us? Especially aswe have little to offer you in return.""Im sure you will be able to repay me in kind sometimein the future,"said Raymond.,,Got the picture," said Edwards, touching the side ofhis nose with aforefinger. "What do I do next?""You go back to 1,iverpool and hope that Im as good asyou think I am."Norman Edwards put on an old raincoat and started tobutton it up. Hesmiled at Raymond- "I may have been appalled by yourbook, Ray. But itdoesnt mean I didnt admire it.""The damn man missed another three-line whip, Charles.It must be thelast time you protect him.""It wont happen again," promised Charles convincingly."I would like togive him one more chance. Allow him that.""Youre very loyal to him," said the Chief Whip. "Butnext time Im goingto see Kerslake myself and get to the bottom of it.""It wont happen again," repeated Charles."Hmm," said the Chief Whip. "Next problem is, are168FIRST AMONG EQUALSthere any clauses on the Common Market Bill that weshould be worried aboutnext week?""Yes," replied Charles. "This lorry clause that RaymondGould is fighting.He made a brilliant case on the floor of the House, andgot all his ownside and half of ours backing him.""Hes not the sponsored MP for the Lorry Union," saidthe Chief Whip,surprised."No, the unions obviously felt Tom Carson wouldnt helpthe cause, and hes
  • 182. hopping mad at the slight.""Clever of them to pick Gould. Improves as a speakerevery time I hear him.And no one can fault him on points of law.""So we had better face the fact that we are going tolose the clause?" saidCharles despondently."Never. Well redraft the damn thing so that itsacceptable and seen to becompassionate. Its not a bad time to be the defender ofthe unioninterests. That way well keep Gould from getting allthe credit. Illspeak to the PM tonight-and dont forget what I saidabout Kerslake."Charles returned to his office reflecting that in thefuture he would haveto be more careful to tell Simon Kerslake when clauseson the Common MarketBill would be voted upon. He suspected he had carriedthis ploy as far ashe could for the time being."With or without civil servants?" asked Simon as Raymondentered hisoffice."Without, please.""Fine," said Simon and pressed a switch on the intercomby his desk, "Idont want to be disturbed while Im with Mr. Gould," hesaid and thenushered his colleague toward a comfortable seat. Eversince Gould had re-quested a meeting, Simon had been more than curious todiscover what hewanted. In the years since they had169FIRST AMONG EQUALSlocked homs over devaluation, they had had little directcontact."My wife was asking this morning how your search for aseat is going," said
  • 183. Raymond."Your wife is better informed than most of mycolleagues. But Im afraidthe truth is, not too well. The last threeconstituencies to come uphavent even asked to see me. I cant put a finger onwhy, except that theyall seem to have selected local men.""Its still a long time to the next election," saidRaymond. "Youre sureto find a seat before then.""It might not be so long if the Prime Minister decidesto call a GeneralElection and test his strength against the unions.""That would be foolish. He might defeat us but he wontdefeat the unions,"said Raymond, as a young secretary came into the officewith two cups ofcoffee and put them on the low table.Only when she had left the office did Raymond reveal hispurpose. "Have youhad time to look at the file?" he asked, sounding ratherformal."Yes, I went over it last night between checking over mysons homework andhelping my daughter to build a model boat.""And how do you feel?" Raymond asked."Not very good. I cant get to grips with this new maththeyre nowteaching, and my mast was the only one that fell offwhen Lucy launched theboat in the bath."Raymond laughed."I think youve got a case," said Simon, soundingserious again. "Now whatare you hoping to get out of me?""Justice," said Raymond. "Thats the reason I wanted tosee you privately.I feel there are no party political points to be madeout of this case foreither of us. I have no plans to try to embarrass theHome Office, and Icon-170
  • 184. FIRST AMONG EQUALSsider it in the best interest of my constituent tocooperate as closely asI can with you.""Thank you," said Simon. "So where do you want to gofrom here?""Id like to table a planted question for yourdepartment in the hope thatyou would consider opening an inquiry. If the inquirycomes to the sameconclusion as I have, I would expect you to order aretrial."Simon hesitated. "And if the inquiry goes against youwould you agree to noreprisals for the Home Office?""You have my word.""And ifthere is one thing I have learned, to my cost,about you," saidSimon, "its that you never break your word."Raymond smiled. "I consider that long forgotten."The following Tuesday, the Speaker looked up toward theLabour back benchesand called on "Mr. Raymond Gould.""Number Seventeen, sir," said Raymond. The Speakerlooked down to checkover the question, which asked the Home Office toconsider an inquiry intothe case of Mr. OHalloran.Simon rose to the dispatch box, opened his file andsaid, "Yes, sir.""Mr. Raymond Gould," called the Speaker again.Raymond rose from his place on the Opposition backbenches to ask hissupplementary question."May I thank the Minister for agreeing to an inquiry soquickly, and askhim, if he discovers an injustice has been done to myconstituent Mr. PaddyOHalloran, that the Home Secretary order a retrialimmediately?"Simon rose again."Yes, sir,"
  • 185. "I am grateful to the Honorable Gentleman," saidRaymond, half-rising.All over in less than a minute-but older members171FIRST AMONG EQUALSwho listened to the brief exchange between Gould andKerslake understoodthat considerable preparation had gone into that minutefrom both sides.Simon had read his departments final report on theOHalloran case whileElizabeth was trying to get to sleep. He had to go overthe details onlyonce to realize that he would have to order a retrialand institute a fullinvestigation into the past record of the policeofficers who had beeninvolved in the case.The trial was in its third day when Mr. Justice Comyns,after listening toMrs. Bloxhams evidence, stopped proceedings andinstructed the jury toreturn a verdict of not guilty.Raymond received praise from all quarters of the House,but he was quick toacknowledge the support given him by Simon Kerslake andthe Home Office.The London Times even wrote an editorial the next day onthe proper use ofinfluence by a constituency MP.The only drawback to Raymonds success was that everyconvicts mother waslined up to see him at his twice-monthly office hours.But during the yearhe took only one case seriously and once again began tocheck into thedetails.This time, when Raymond rang Angus Fraser at theprosecutors office, hefound nothing was known of Ricky Hodge beyond the fact
  • 186. that Fraser was ableto confirm that he had no known criminal record. Raymondfelt he hadstumbled on a case with international implications.As Ricky Hodge was in a Turkish jail, any inquiries hadto be made throughthe Foreign Office. Raymond did not have the samerelationship with theForeign Secretary as he did with Simon Kerslake, so hefelt the directapproach would be best, and submitted a question to beanswered in theHouse. He worded it carefully.172FIRST AMONG EQUALS"What action does the Foreign Secretary intend to takeover theconfiscation of a British passport from a constituent ofthe HonorableMember for Leeds North, details of which have beensupplied to him?"When the question was asked in front of the House on thefollowingWednesday the Foreign Secretary rose to answer thequestion himself. Hestood at the dispatch box and peered over his half-moonspectacles andsaid:"Her Majestys Government is pursuing this matterthrough the usualdiplomatic channels."Raymond was quickly on his feet. "Does the RightHonorable Gentlemanrealize that my constituent has been in a Turkish prisonfor six monthsand has still not been charged?""Yes, sir," replied the Foreign Secretary. "I have askedthe TurkishEmbassy to supply the Foreign Office with x.ort detailsof the case."Raymond leaped up again. "How long will my constituenthave to be
  • 187. forgotten in Ankara before the Foreign Secretary doesmore than ask forthe details of his case?"The Foreign Secretary rose again showing no sign ofannoyance. "I willreport those findings to the Honorable Member as quicklyas possible.""When? Tomorrow, next week, next year?" Raymond shoutedangrily."When?" joined in a chorus of Labour backbenchers, butthe Speaker calledfor the next question above the uproar.Within the hour Raymond received a handwritten note fromthe ForeignOffice. "If Mr. Gould would be kind enough to telephone,the ForeignSecretary would be delighted to make an appointment tosee him."Raymond phoned from the Commons and was invited tojointhe ForeignSecretary in Whitehall immediately.The Foreign Office, known as "the Palazzo" by its in-173FIRST AMONG EQUALSmates, has an atmosphere of its own. Although Raymond hadworked in aGovernment department as a Minister, he was still struckby its grandeur. Hewas met at the courtyard entrance and guided along yardsof marble corridorsbefore climbing a fine double staircase at the top ofwhich he was greetedby the Foreign Secretarys principal private secretary."Sir Alec Home will see you immediately, Mr. Gould," hesaid, and ledRaymond past the magnificent pictures and tapestriesthat lined the way. Hewas taken into a beautifully proportioned room. TheForeign Secretary stoodin front of an Adam fireplace over which hung a portraitof LordPalmerston."Gould, how kind of you to come at such short notice. I
  • 188. do hope it has notcaused you any inconvenience." Platitudes, thoughtRaymond."I know you are a busy man. Can we get down to the pointat issue, ForeignSecretary?" Raymond demanded."Of course," Sir Alec said drily. "Forgive me for takingso much of yourtime." Without a further word, he handed Raymond a filemarked "Richard M.HodgeConfidential." "Although members of Parliament arenot subject to theOfficial Secrets Act, I know you will respect the factthat this file isclassified."Another bluff, thought Raymond. He flicked back thecover. It was true,exactly as he had suspected: In the six months since hehad been jailed,Ricky Hodge had never been formally charged.He turned the page. "Rome, child prostitution;Marseilles, narcotics;Paris, black mail"-page after page, ending in Turkey,where Hodge had beenfound in possession of four pounds of heroin, which hehad been selling insmall packets on the black market. It was true that hehad no criminalrecord in England, but at only twenty-nine, Ricky Hodgehad spent eleven ofthe last fourteen years in foreign jails. 174FIRST AMONG EQUALSRaymond closed the file and could feel the sweat on hisforehead. It wassome moments before he spoke. "I apologize, ForeignSecretary," he said. "Ihave made a fool of myself.""When I was a young man," said Sir Alec, "I made asimilar mistake onbehalf of a constituent. Ernie Bevin was ForeignSecretary at the time. Hecould have crucified me in the House with the knowledgehe had. Instead he
  • 189. revealed everything over a drink in this room. Isometimes wish the publiccould see members in their quiet moments as well as intheir rowdy ones."Raymond thanked Sir Alec and walked thoughtfully back tothe House.When Raymond conducted his next office hours in LeedsNorth two weeks laterhe was surprised to see that Mrs. Bloxharn had made anappointment.When he greeted her at the door he was even moresurprised, for in place ofher shabby clothes and carpet slippers, she was wearinga new polishedcotton dress and a shiny pair of squeaky brown leathershoes. She looked asif "Our Blessed Lady" might have to wait a few moreyears to receive herafter all. Raymond motioned her to a seat."I came to thank your wife, Mr. Gould," she said, onceshe was settled."What for?" asked Raymond puzzled."For sending that nice young man around from Chris-tees.They auctionedGreat-Grandmas table for me. I couldnt believe myluck--it fetchedfourteen hundred pounds." Raymond was speechless. "So itdont matter aboutthe stain on the dress any more. It even made up forhaving to eat off thefloor for three months."During the long hot summer of 1972, clause after clauseof the CommonMarket Bill was voted on, often175FIRST AMONG EQUALSthrough the night. On some occasions, the Governmentmanaged majorities ofonly five or six, but somehow the bill remained intact.Charles would often arrive home at Eaton Square at three
  • 190. in the morning tofind Fiona asleep, only to leave again before she hadwoken. Veterans ofthe House confirmed they had never experienced any issueso demanding sincethe Second World War.Then, suddenly, the last vote was taken and the marathonwas over. TheCommon Market Bill was passed through the Commons and onits way to theHouse of Lords to receive their Lordships approval.Charles wondered whathe would do with all the hours that were suddenly lefthim in the day.When the bill finally received the "Royal Assent" inOctober, the ChiefWhip held a celebration lunch at the Carlton Club in St.Jamess to thankall of his team. "And in particular, Charles Hampton,"he said, raising hisglass during an impromptu speech. When the lunch brokeup, the Chief Whipoffered Charles a tift back to the Commons in hisofficial car. Theytraveled along Piccadilly, down Haymarket, throughTrafalgar Square andinto Whitehall. Just as the Commons came into sight, theblack Rover turnedinto Downing Street, as Charles assumed, to drop theChief Whip at Number12. But as the car stopped, the Chief Whip said, "ThePrime Minister isexpecting you in five minutes.""What? Why?" said Charles.it rather well, didnt V" said the -Chief Whip-andheaded off towardNumber 12.Charles stood alone in front of Number 10 DowningStreet. The door wasopened by a man in a long black coat. "Good afternoon,Mr. Hampton." ThePrime Minister saw Charles in his study and, as ever,wasted no time onsmall talk.
  • 191. "Thank you for all the hard work you have put in on theCommon MarketBill."176FIRST AMONG EQUALS"It was a tremendous challenge," said Charles, searchingfor words.As will be your next job," said Mr. Heath. "Its timefor you to test yourskills in another department. I want you to take over asone of theMinisters of State at the Department of Trade andIndustry."Charles was speechless."With all the problems we are going to encounter withthe trade unionsduring the next few months, that should keep you fullyoccupied.""It certainly will," said Charles.He still hadnt been asked to sit down, but as the PrimeMinister was nowrising from behind his desk, it was clear that themeeting was over."You and Fiona must come and have dinner at Number Tenas soon as youvesettled into your new department," said the PrimeMinister as they walkedtoward the door."Thank you," Charles said before leaving.As he stepped back onto Downing Street a driver openedthe back door of ashiny Austin Westminster. It took Charles a moment torealize the car anddriver were now his."The Commons, sir."No, Id like to return to Eaton Square for a fewminutes," said Charles,sitting back and enjoying the thought of his new job.The car drove past the Commons, up Victoria Street andon to Eaton Square.He couldnt wait to tell Fiona that all the hard workhad been rewarded. He
  • 192. felt guilty about how little he had seen of her lately,although he couldnot believe it would be much better now that he was tobe involved intrade-union legislation. How much he still hoped for ason-perhaps eventhat would be possible now. The car came to a haltoutside the Georgianhouse. Charles ran up the steps and into the hall. Hecould hear his wifesvoice coming from upstairs. He177FIRST AMONG EQUALStook the wide staircase in bounds of two and three at atime, and threwopen the bedroom door."Im the new Minister of State at the Department ofTrade and Industry,"he announced to Fiona, who was lying in bed.Alexander Dalglish looked up. He showed no sign ofinterest in Charlesspromotion.178PART THREEMinistersof Statekll~Im1973-1197714.SIMON STEERED the new Boundary Commission recommendationsunspectacularlythrough the House as an order in Council, and suddenly hehad lost his ownconstituency. His colleagues in Coventry wereunderstanding, and nursedthose wards that would become theirs at the next election
  • 193. in order that hemight spend more time searching for a new seat.Seven seats became available during the year but Simonwas only interviewedfor two of them. Both were almost on the Scottishborder, and both put himin second place. He began to appreciate what it mustfeel like for anOlympic favorite to be awarded the silver medal.Ronnie Nethercotes monthly board reports began to paintan increasinglysomber picture, thus reflecting in real life what thepoliticians werelately decreeing in Parliament. Ronnie had once againdecided to postponegoing public until the climate was more advantageous.Simon couldntdisagree with the judgment, but when he checked hisspecial overdraftfacility, the interest on his loans had pushed up thefigures in red toover ninety thousand pounds.FIRST AMONG EQUALSWhen unemployment first passed the million mark and TedHeath ordered a payand price freeze, strikes broke out all over thecountry.The new parliamentary session in the fall of 1973 wasdominated by economicissues as the situation worsened. Charles Hampton onceagain becameoverworked as he negotiated far into the night withtrade-union leaders.While he didnt win every argument, he was now so wellbriefed on hissubject that he proved to be a competent negotiator forthe Government.Raymond Gould rose to the occasion, making passionatespeeches on behalf ofthe unions, but the Conservative majority beat themagain and again.Prime Minister Heath was, however, moving inexorablytoward a head-on clash
  • 194. with the unions and a premature General Election.When all three annual party conferences were over,members returned to theCommons aware that it was likely to bc the last sessionbefore a GeneralElection. It was openly being said in the corridors thatall the PrimeMinister was waiting for was a catalyst. The minersunion provided it. Inthe middle of a bleak winter they called an all-outstrike for more pay indefiance of the Governments new trade-unionlegislation. Suddenly Britainwas on a three-day week.In a television interview, the Prime Minister told thenation that withunemployment now at an unprecedented 1,600,000 and thecountry on athree-day week, he had to call an election to insurethat the rule of lawbe maintained. The inner cabinet advised Heath to run onFebruary 28, 1974."Who runs the country?" became the Tory theme, but thisonly seemed toemphasize class differences, rather than uniting thecountry as the PrimeMinister had hoped.182FIRST AMONG EQUALSRaymond Gould traveled back to Leeds, convinced that thenortheastindustrial area would not tolerate Heathshigh-handedness.Charles felt sure that the people would back any partythat had shown thecourage to stand up to the unions, although the leftwing, led vociferouslyby Tom Carson, insisted that the Government was out tocrush the Labourmovement once and for all. Charles drove down to Sussexto find his
  • 195. supporters glad of the chance to put those "Commie unionbastards" in theirplace.On the night of the election Simon had a quiet supperwith Elizabeth andthe children. He watched in silence as others learnedtheir election fates.Many months had passed before Charles had found itpossible even to sustaina conversation with Fiona for any length of time.Neither wanted a divorce,both citing the ailing Earl of Bridgewater as theirreason, althoughinconvenience and loss of face were nearer the truth. Inpublic it was hardto detect the change in their relationship, since theyhad never been givento overt affection.Charles gradually became aware that it was possible formarriages to havebeen over for years without outsiders knowing it.Certainly the old earlnever found out, because even on his deathbed he toldFiona to hurry up andproduce an heir."Do you think youll ever forgive me?" Fiona once askedCharles."Never," he replied, with a finality that encouraged nofurther discourse.During the three-week election campaign in Sussex theyboth went abouttheir duties with a professionalism that masked theirtrue feelings."How is your husband bearing up?" someone would inquire.183FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Much enjoying the campaign and looking for-ward toreturning toGovernment," said Fionas stock reply."And how is dear Lady Fiona?" Charles was continuously
  • 196. asked."Never better than when shes helping in theconstituency," was his.On Sundays, at one church after another, he read thelesson withconfidence; she sang "Fight the Good Fight" in a clearcontralto.The demands of a rural constituency are considerablydifferent from thoseof a city. Every village, however small, expects themember to visit themand to recall the local chairmens names. But subtlechanges were takingplace; Fiona no longer whispered the names in Charlessear. Charles nolonger turned to her for advice.During the campaign, Charles would ring the photographeron the local paperto discover which events his editor had instructed himto cover that day.With the list of places and times in his hand, Charleswould arrive on eachoccasion a few minutes before the photographer. TheLabour candidatecomplained officially to the local editor that Mr.Hamptons photograph wasnever out of the paper."If you were present at these functions we would be onlytoo happy topublish your photo," said the editor."But they never invite me," cried the Labour candidate.They dont invite Hampton either, the editor wanted tosay, but he somehowmanages to be there. It was never far from the editorsmind that hisproprietor was a Tory peer, so he kept his mouth shut.All the way up to Election Day Charles and Fiona openedbazaars, attendeddinners, drew raffles and only stopped shor-t of kissingbabies.Once, when Fiona asked him, Charles admitted that hehoped to be moved tothe Foreign Office as a Minister of State.
  • 197. 184FIRs-r AMONG EQUALSOn the last day of February they dressed in silence andwent off to theirlocal polls to vote. The photographer was there on thesteps to take theirpicture. They stood closer together than they had forsome weeks, lookinglike a happily married couple, he in a dark suit, she ina dark suit.Charles knew it would be the main photograph on thefront page of theSussex Gazette the following day as surely as he knewthe Labour candidatewould be relegated to a hall-column mention in theback, not far from theobituaries.Charles anticipated that by the time he amiived in theTown Hall theConservative majority in the House would already beassured. But it was notto be, and as Friday morning dawned the result stillhung in the balance.Edward Heath did not concede when the newscasterspredicted he would failto be given the overall majority he needed. Charlesspent the day stridingaround the Town Hall with an anxious look on his face.The little piles ofvotes soon became larger, and it was obvious that hewould hold the seatwith at least his usual 2 1,000--or was it 22,000?-majority. He nevercould remember the exact figure. But as the dayprogressed it became moreand more difficult to assess the national verdict.The last result came in from Northern Ireland a littleafter four oclockthat afternoon and a BBC commentator announced:LA.-BOUR 301CONSURVATI11F 296LIBFRAL 14
  • 198. ULSTER UNIONISTS I ISCOTTISH NATIONALIST 7WL,I.SH NATIONALISTS 2O,rf~ERS 4185FIRST AMONG EQUALSTed Heath invited the Liberal Leader to join him atDowning Street fortalks in the hope that they could form a coalition. TheLiberals demandeda firm commitment to electoral reform to help the smallparties. Heath knewhe could never get his backbenchers to deliver. OnMonday morning he toldthe Queen in her drawing room at Buckingham Palace thathe was unable toform a government. She called for the Labour Leader,Harold Wilson. Heaccepted her commission and drove back to Downing Streetto enter the frontdoor. Heath left by the back.By Tuesday afternoon every member, having watched thedrama unfold, hadreturned to London. Raymond had increased his majorityand now hoped thatthe Prime Minister had long since forgotten hisresignation and would offerhim a job.Charles, still unsure of the exact majority by which hehad won, drove backto London, resigned to returning to Opposition. The onecompensation wasthat he would be reinstated on the board of Hamptons,where the knowledgehe had gained in Parliament as a Minister of Trade andIndustry could onlybe of value.Simon left the Home Office on March 1, 1974. RonnieNethercote immediatelyinvited him to return to the board of Nethercote andCompany at five
  • 199. thousand pounds a year, which even Elizabethacknowledged as a generousgesture.It did little to lift Simons spirits, for an empty redbox was all he hadto show for nearly ten years as a member of Parliament.Simon had gone from office to office saying goodbye,first to the seniorand then to the junior civil servants, until only thecleaner,,, were left.They all seemed certain he would return soon.18615"HIS DIARY LOOKS RATHER FULL at the moment, Mr. Charles.""Well, as soon as its convenient," Charles replied. Heheld the phone ashe heard the pages being turned."March twelfth at ten-thirty, Mr. Charles?""But thats nearly two weeks away," he said, irritated."Mr. Spencer has only just returned from the Statesand-""How about a lunch, then-at my club?" Charlesinterrupted."That couldnt be until after March twelfth-""Very well, then," said Charles. "March twelfth atten-thirty."During the fourteen-day wait Charles had ample time tobecome frustrated byhis seemingly aimless role in Opposition. No car came topick him up andwhisk him away to an office where real work had to bedone. Worse, no onesought his opinion any longer on matters that affectedthe nation. He wasgoing through a sharp bout of what is known as"ex-Ministers blues."He was relieved when the day for the appointment withDerek Spencer at lastcame around. But although187FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 200. he arrived on time he was kept waiting for ten minutesbefore the chairmanssecretary took him in."Good to see you after so long," said Derek Spencer,corning around hisdesk to greet him. "it must be nearly six years sinceyouvc visited thebank.""Yes, I suppose it is," said Charles. "But lookingaround the old place, itfeels like yesterday. Youve been fully occupied, nodoubt?""Like a (4binet Minister, but I hope with betterresults."They both laughed."Of course Ive kept in touch with whats been happeningat the bank.""Have you?" said Spencer."Yes, Ive read all the reports youve sent out over thepast years, not tomention the Financial Timess coverage.""I hope you feel weve progressed in your absence.""Oh. Yes." said Charles, still standing. "Veryimpressive.""Well, now what can I do for you?" asked the chairman,returning to hisseat."Simple enough," said Charles, finally taking anunoffered chair. "I wishto be reinstated on the board."There was a long s1ence."Well, its not quite that easy, Charles. Ive justrecently appointed twonew directors and . . .""Of course its that easy," said Charles, his tonechanging. "You have onlyto propose my name at the next meeting and it will gothrough, especiallyas you havent a member of the family on the board atthe present time.""We have, as a matter of fact. Your brother, the Earl ofBridgewater hasbecome a nonexecutive director."
  • 201. "What?" said Chades. "Rupert never told me. Neither didyou."188FIRST AMONG EQUALS"True, but things have changed since . . .""Nothing has changed except my estimation of the valueof your word," saidCharles, suddenly realizing that Spenci~r had neverintended he shouldreturn to the board. "You gave me your assurance-""I wont be spoken io like this in my own office.""If youre not careful, the next place I shall do itwill be in yourboardroom. Now, will you honor your undertaking or not?""I dont have to li.iten to threats from you, Hampton.Get out of my offictbefore I have you removed. I can assure you that youwill never sit on theboard again as long as Im chairman."Charles turned and marched out, slamming the door as heleft. He wasntsure with whom to discuss the problem, and returnedimmediately to EatonSquare to Consider a plan of campaign.tl"What brings you home in the middle of the afternoon?"asked Fiona.Charles hesitated, considered the question and thenjoined his wife in thekitchen and told her everything that had happened at thebank. Fionacontinued to grate some cheese as she listened to herhusband."Well, one thing is certain," she said, not havingspoken for severalminutes, but delighted that Charles had confided in her."After thatfracas, you cant both be on the board.""So what do you think I ought to do, old girl?"Fiona smiled; it was the first time he had called herthat for nearly twoyears. "Every man has his secrets," she said. "I wonder
  • 202. what Mr. Spencersare?""Hes such a dull rnlidlalle-ciass fellow, I doubt that-""Ive just had a letter frorn Hamptons Bank,"interrupted Fioi)a."What about?""Only a shareholders circular. It seems Margaret189FIRST AMONG EQUALSTrubshaw i~, retiring after twelve years as the boardsecretary. Rumor hasit she wanted to do five more years, but the chairman hassomeone else inmind. I think I might have lunch with her."Charles returned his wifes smile.Ronnie Nethercote had made Simon the personnel directorfor a company thatnow had nearly two hundred employees. Simon enjoyednegotiating with thetrade union,,, at a level he had not experienced before.Ronnie made itclear how he would have dealt with the "Commie bastards"who had caused thefall of the Tory Government given half a chance."You would have lasted about a week in the House ofCommons," Simon toldhim."After a -week with those windbags I would have beenhappy to return to thereal world."Simon smiled. Ronnie, like so many others, imagined allmembers ofParliament were unemployable-except the one he knew.Raymond waited until the last Government appointment wasannounced beforehe finally gave up any hope of a job. Several leadingpolitical journalistspointed out that he had been left on the back bencheswhile lesser men hadbeen given Government posts, but it was scant comfort.
  • 203. Raymond reluctantlyreturned to his legal office to continue his practice atthe bar.The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, starting his thirdadministration, madeit clear that he would govern as long as possible beforecalling anelection. But few members believed that he could holdout for more than amatter of months.Fiona returned home after her lunch with Miss Trubshawwith a largeCheshire cat grin on her face. It re-190FIRST AMONG EQUALSmained firmly in place during the hours she had to waitfor Charles to getback from the Commons after the last division."You look pleased with yourself," said Charles, shakingout his umbrellabefore closing the front door. His wife stood in thehallway, her armscrossed."How has your day been?" she asked."So-so," said Charles, wanting to hear the news. "Butwhat about you?""Oh, pleasant enough. I had coffee with your mother thismornuig. She seemsvery well. A little cold in the head, otherwise--2"To hell with my mother. How did your lunch with MissTrubshaw go?""I wondered how long it would take you to get around tothat."She continued to wait just as long as it took for themto walk into thedrawing room and sit down. "After seventeen years assecretary to yourfather and twelve years as secretary to the board, thereisnt much MissTrubshaw doeint know about Hamptons or its presentchairman," Fiona
  • 204. began."So what did you discover?""Which do you want to hear about first, the name of hismistress or thenumber of his Swiss bank account?"Fiona revealed everything she had learned over hertwo-hour lunch,explaining that Miss Trubshaw usually only drankfortified wine, but onthis occasion she had downed most of a vintage bottle ofPommard. Charlesssmile grew wider and wider as each fact came pouringout. To Fiona, helooked like a boy who has been given a big box ofchocolates and keepsdiscovering another layer underneath the one hesalready eaten."Well done, old girl," he said when she had come to theend of her tale."But how do I get all the proof I need?"191FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Ive made a deal with our Miss Trubshaw.""Youve what?""A deal. With Miss Trubshaw. You get the proof if sheremains assecretary to the board for five more years, with no lossof pensionbenefits.""is that all she wants?" said Charles guardedly."And the promise of another lunch at the Savoy Grillwhen youre invitedback on the board."Unlike many of his Labour colleagues, Raymond enjoyeddressing up inwhite tie and tails and mixing with London society. Aninvitation to thebankers annual banquet at the Guildhall was noexception. The PrimeMinister was the guest of honor, and Raymond wondered ifhe would drop
  • 205. a hint as to how long he expected the parliamentarysession to lastbefore he felt he had to call an election.At the pre-dinner drinks, Raymond had a quick word withthe Lord Mayorof London before becoming involved in a conversationwith a circuit-courtjudge on the problems of the parity of sentencing.When dinner was announced, Raymond found his seat on oneof the longsides stretching away from the main table. He checkedhis place card.Raymond Gould QC, MP. On his right was the chairman ofChloride, MichaelEdwardes, and on his left an American banker who hadjust started workin the City.Raymond found Michael Edwardes views on how the PrimeMinister shouldtackle the nationalized industries fascinating, but hedevoted far moreof his attention to the financial analyst from ChaseManhattan. She musthave been almost thirty, Raymond decided, if onlybecause of her elevatedposition at the bank and her claim to have been anundergraduate atWellesley at the time of Kennedys death. He would haveput Kate Garth-waite at far younger, and was not surprised to learn she192FIRST AMONG EQUALSplayed tennis in the summer and swam every day during thewinter-to keep herweight down, she confided. Kate had a warm, oval face,and her dark hair wascut in what Raymond thought was a Mary Quant style. Hernose turned upslightly at the end and would have cost a lot of moneyfor a plastic surgeonto reproduce. There was no chance of seeing her legs, asthey were covered
  • 206. by a long dress, but what he could see left Raymond morethan interested."I see theres an M P behind your name, Mr. Gould. MayI ask which partyyou represent?" she asked in an accent common only inBoston."Im a Labourite, Mrs. Garthwaite. Where do yoursympathies lie on thisoccasion?""I would have voted Labour at the last election if I hadbeen qualified,"she declared."Should I be surprised?" he teased."You certainly should. My ex-husband is a RepublicanCongressman."He was about to ask his next question when thetoastmaster called forsilence. For the first time Raymond turned his eyes tothe dais and thePrime Minister. Harold Wilsons speech stuck firmly toeconomic problemsand the role of a Labour Government in the City and gaveno clue as to thetiming of the next election. Nevertheless, Raymondconsidered it aworthwhile evening. He had made a useful contact withthe chairman of alarge public company. And he had acquired Katestelephone number.The chairman of Hamptons reluctantly agreed to see hima second time, butit was obvious from the moment Charles walked in, whenno hand wasproffered, that Derek Spencer intended it to be a shortinterview."I thought I ought to see you personally," said Charlesas he settled backin the comfortable leather193FIRST AMONG EQUALSchair and slowly Lit a cigarette, "rather than raise my
  • 207. query at theannual meeting next month."The first sign of apprehension showed on the chairmansface, but he saidnothing.qrn rather keen to discover why the bank should payout a monthly checkfor four hundred pounds to an employee called Miss JanetDarrow, whom Ihave never come across, although it appears she has beenon the payrollfor over five years. The checks, it seems, have beengoing to a branchof Lloyds in Kensington."Derek Spencers face became flushed."What I am at a loss to discover," continued Charlesafter he had inhaleddeeply, "is what services Miss Darrow has been supplyingto the bank.They must be quite impressive to have earned hertwenty-five thousandpounds over the last five years. I appreciate that thisis a small amountwhen you consider the banks turnover of one hundred andtwenty-threemillion last year, but my grandfather instilled in me atan early age thebelief that if one took care of the pennies, the poundswould take careof themselves."Still Derek Spencer said nothing, although beads ofsweat had appearedon his forehead. Suddenly Charless tone changed. "If Ifind I am not amember of the board by the time of the annual generalmeeting, I feel itwill be my duty to point out this slight discrepancy inthe banksaccounts to the other shareholders present.""Youre a bastard, Hampton," the chairman said quietly."Now, that is not accurate. I am the second son of theformer chairmanof this bank and I bear a striking resemblance to myfather, although
  • 208. everyone says I have my mothers eyes.""Whats the deal?""No deal. You will merely keep to your original194FIRST AMONG EQUALSagreement and see that I am reinstated on the boardbefore the annualmeeting. You will also cease any further payments to MissJanet Darrowimmediately.""If I agree, will you swear never to mention this matterto anyone again?""I will. And unlike you, Im in the habit of keeping myword." Charles rosefrom his chair. leaned over the desk and stubbed out hiscigarette in thechairmans ashtray."Theyve done whai?- said Joyce.The campaign manager repeated, "Two Communists have puttheir names forwardfor election to the General Purposes committee.""Over my dead body." Joyces voice was unusually sharp."I thought that would be your attitude," said FredPadgett.Jovee searched for the pencil and paper that werenormally on the table bythe phone."Whens the meeting?" she asked."Next Thijrsday.""Have we got reliable people to run against them?""Of course." said Fred. "Councillor Reg Prescott andJenny Simpkins fromthe League.""Theyre both sensible enough, but between them theycouldnL knock theskin off a rice pudding.""Shall I phone Raymond at the House and get him to comedown for themeeting?""No," said Joyce. "Hes got enough to worry about tryingto reestablish
  • 209. himself, now that were back in Government. Leave it tome."She replaced the receiver and sat down to compose herthoughts. It wasnonic that he was facing a threat from the extreme leftjust at the timewhen the unions were coming to respect his worth. A fewminutes later195FIRST AMONG EQUALSshe went over to her desk and rummaged about for the fulllist of the G.P.committee. She checked the sixteen names carefully,realizing that if twoCommunists were to get themselves elected this time,within five years theycould control the committee-and then even remove Raymond.She knew how thesepeople worked. With any luck, if they got bloody nosesnow, they might slinkoff to another constituency.She checked the sixteen names once more before puttingon a pair ofsensible walking shoes. During the next four days shevisited several homesin the constituency. "I wasiust passing," she explainedto nine of thewives who had husbands on the committee. The four menwho never listened toa word their wives said were visited by Joyce afterwork. The three who hadnever cared for Raymond were left well alone.By Thursday afternooin, thirteen people knew only toowell what wasexpected of them. Joyce sat alone hoping Raymond wouldcall that evening.She cooked herself a Lancashir., hotpot but only pickedat it, and thenlater fell aslec-p in front of the television whilewatching tier favoriteprogram. The phone woke her at five past eleven."Raymond?"
  • 210. "Hope I didnt wake you," said Fred."No, no," said Joyce, now impatient to learn the outcomeof the meeting."What happened?""Reg and Jenny walked away with it. Those two Communistbastards onlymanaged three votes between them.""Well done," said Joyce."I did nothing," ;aid Fred, "except count the votes.Shall I tell Raymondwhats been happening?""No," "id Joyce. "No need to let him think weve had anytrouble."Joyce fell back into the chair by the phone, kicked offher watkin(y shoesaad went back to sleep.196off R27 Eaton SquareLondon S W IApril 23, 1974Dear Derek,Thank youjor your letter (-JApril 18 andyour kindiniltation to rejoin the board of Hamptons. I am delighted to accept and look Jbrward to working withyou again.Yours sincerely,CIJARLES IJAMP TONFiona checked the Wording and nodded. Short and to thepoint. "Shall I postit?""Yes please," said Charles as the phone rang.He picked it up. "91112. Charles Hampton speaking." "Oh,hello. Charles.Its Simon Kerslake.""Hello, Simon," said Charles, trying to sound pleased tohear front hisformer colleague. "Whats it like out there in the realworld?""Not much fun, which is exactly why Im phoning. Ive
  • 211. been short-listed forPucklebridge, Sir Michael Harbour-Bakers seat. Hesnearly seventy and hasdecided not to )-un again in the next election. As hisconstituency touchesthe south border of yours, I thought you might be ableto put in a word forme again.""Delighted." said Charles. "Ill speak to the chairmantonight. You canrely on me, and good luck. It would be nice to have youback in the House."Simon gave him his home number, which Charles repeatedslowly, as if hewere writing it down.197FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Ill be in touch," said Charles."I really appreciate your help."Simon put down the phone.Elizabeth closed her copy of her medical journal.She was lively, fun, intelligent and well informed. Ithad been severaldays before Kate Garthwaite agreed to see Raymond again,and when sheeventually joined him for dinner at the House she wasnot overwhelmed orflattered, and she certainly didnt hang on his everyword.They began to see each other regularly. As the monthspassed, Raymond foundhimself missing her on weekcn&, whenever he was in Leedswith Joyce. Kateseemed to enjoy her independence and made none of thedemands on him thatStephanie had, never once suggesting that he spend moretime with her orthat she might leave clothes behind in the flat.Raymond sipped his coffee. "That was a memorable meal,"he said, fallingback onto the sofa.
  • 212. "Only by the standards of the House of Commons," repliedKate.Raymond put an arm around her shoulder before kissingher on the lips."What? Rampant sex as well as cheap Beaujolais?" sheexclaimed, stretchingover and pouring herself some more coffee."I wish you wouldnt always make a joke of ourrelationship," said Raymond,stroking the back of her shiny hair."I have to," said Kate quietly."Why?" Raymond turned to face her."Because Im frightened of what might happen if I tookit seriously."Charles sat through the annual meeting in silence. Thechairman made hisreport for the fiscal year ending198FIRST AMONG EQUALSMarch 1974 before welcoming two new directors to theboard and the returnof Charles Hampton.There were several questions from the floor, which DerekSpencer had notrouble in handling. As Charles had promised, there wasnot even a hintof Miss Janet Darrow. Miss Trubshaw had let Fiona knowthat the paymentshad been stopped, and also mentioned that she was stillworried that hercontract was coming to an end on July 1.When the chairman brought the annual meeting to a closeCharles askedcourteously if he could spare him a moment."Of course," said Spencer, looking relieved that themeeting had gonethrough without a hitch. "What can I do for you?""I think it might be wiser to talk in the privacy ofyour office."The chairman glanced at him sharply but led him back tohis office.
  • 213. Charles settled himself comfbrtably in the leather chaironce more andremoved some papers from his inside pocket. Peering downat them heasked, "What does BX41207122, Bank Rombert, Zurich, meanto you?""You said you would never mention--""Miss Darrow," said Charles. "And I shall keep my word.But now, as adirector of the bank, I am trying to find out whatBX41207122 means toyou?""You know damn well what it means," said the chairman,banging hisclenched fist on the desk."I know its your private-" Charles emphasized theword-"account inZurich.""You can never prove anything," said Derek Spencerdefiantly."I agree with you, but what I am able to prove," saidCharles, shufflingthrough the papers that now rested on his lap, "is thatyou have beenusing Hamptons money199FIRST AMONG EQUALSto do private deals, leaving the profits in your Zurichaccount withoutinforming the board.""Ive done nothing that would harm the bank and you knowit.""I know the money has been returned with interest, and Icould never provethe bank had suffered any loss. Nevertheless, the boardmight take a dimview of your activities, remembering that they pay youforty thousandpounds a year to make profits for the bank, not foryourself.""When they saw all the figures, they would at worst rapme over the
  • 214. knuckles.""I doubt if the director of public securities would takethe same lenientattitude if he saw these documents," said Charles,holding up the papersthat had been resting on his lap."Youd ruin the banks name.""And you would probably spend the next ten years injail. If, however, youdid get away with it, you would be finished in London,and by the time yourlegal fees had been paid there wouldnt be much left ofthat nest egg inZurich.""So what do you want this time?" demanded Spencer,sounding exasperated."Your j ob, " s aid Charles"My job?" asked Spencer in disbelief. "Do you imaginebecause youve beena junior Minister youre capable of running a successfulmerchant bank?" headded scornfully,"I didnt say I would run it. I can buy a competentchief executive to dothat.""Then what will you be doing?""I shall be the chairman of Hamptons, which willconvince Cityinstitutions that we wish to continue in the traditionsof generations ofmy family.""Youre bluffing," stammered Spencer."If you are still in this building in twenty-four hours2WFIRST AMONG EQUALStime," said Charles, "I shall send these to the directorof publicsecurities."There was a long silence."if agreed," said Spencer at last, "I would expect twoyears salary ascompensation.""One year," said Charles. Spencer hesitated, then nodded
  • 215. slowly. Charlesrose to his feet and put the papers resting on his lapback into his insidepocket.They consisted of nothing more than the morning mailfrom his Sussexconstituents.Simon felt the interview had gone well, but Elizabethwas not so sure. Theysat huddled in a room with five other candidates andtheir wives, patientlywaiting.He thought back to his answers, and to the eight men andfour women on thecommittee."You must admit its the most ideal seat Ive beenconsidered for," saidSimon."Yes, but the chairman kept eying you suspiciously.""But Millburn mentioned that he had been at Eton withCharles Hampton.""Thats what worries me," whispered Elizabeth."A fifteen thousand majority at the last election, andonly forty minutesfrom London. We could even buy a little cottage.""if they invite you to represent them.""At least this time you were able to tell them you wouldbe willing to livein the constituency.""So would anyone in their right mind," said Elizabeth.The chairman came out and asked if Mr. and Mrs. Kerslakewould be kindenough to return once more to see the committee.Oh, God, thought Simon, what else can they want to know?"Its too near London to be my fault this time,"chuckled Elizabeth.201FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe Committee sat and stared at them with long faces."Ladies and gentlemen," said the chairman. "After ourlengthy
  • 216. deliberations, I formally propose that Mr. SimonKerslake be invited tocontest Pucklebridge at the next election. Those infavor ...All twelve hands went up."Those against .. .""Carried unanimously," said the chairman. He then turnedto Simon. "Do youwish to address your committee?"The prospective Conservative Member of Parliament forPucklebridge rose.They all waited expectantly."I dont know what to say, except that Im very happyand honored and Icant wait for a General Election."r Fhey all laughed and came forward and surrounded them.Elizabeth driedher eyes before anyone reached her.About an hour later the chairman accompanied Simon andElizabeth back totheir car and bade them goodnight. Simon wound down hiswindow."I knew you were the right man," Millburn said, "as soonas CKarles Hamptonphoned-" Simon smiled"and warned me to avoid you likethe plague.""Could you tell Miss Trubshaw to come in?" Charles askedhis secretary.Margaret Trubshaw arrived a few moments later andremained standing infront of his desk. She couldnt help but notice thechange of furniture inthe room. The modern Conran suite had been replaced by aleather clublikesota and chairs. Only the picture of the eleventh Earlof Bridgewaterremained in place."Miss Trubshaw," began Charles, "since Mr. Spencer hasfelt it rjecessaryto resign so suddenly, I think it important for the bankto keep somecontinuity now that Im taking over as chairman."
  • 217. 202FIRST AMONG EQUALSMiss Trubshaw stood like a Greek statue, her handshidden in thesleeves of her dress."With that in mind, the board has decided to extend yourcontract withthe bank for a further five years. Naturally, there willbe no loss inyour pension rights.""Thank you, Mr. Charles.""Thank you, Miss Trubshaw."Miss Trubshaw almost bowed as she left the room."And, Miss Trubshaw---2"Yes, Mr. Charles," she said, holding onto the doorknob."--I believe my wife is expecting a call from you.Something aboutinviting you to lunch at the Savoy Grill."20316"A BLUE SHIRT," said Raymond, looking at the Turnbull andAsser label withsuspicion. "A blue shirt," he repeated."A fortieth birthday present," shouted Kate from thekitchen.I shall never wear it, he thought, and smiled to himself*.And whats more, youll wear it," she said, her Bostonaccent carrying aslight edge."You even know what Im thinking," he complained as shecame in from thekitchen. He always thought she looked so elegant in hertailored officeclothes."Its because youre so predictable, Red.""Anywa.y, how did you know it was my birthday?""A massive piece of detective work," said Kate, "withthe help ofan outsideagent and a small payment.""An oubide agent. Who?"
  • 218. "The local newspaper store, my darling. In the SundayTimes they tell youthe name of every distinguished person celebrating abirthday in thefollowing seven days. In a week during which only themediocre were born,you were featured."204FIRST AMONG EQUALSRaymond had to laugh."Now listen, Red."He pretended to hate his new nickname. "Do you have tocall me by thatrevolting name?""Oh, stop making such a fuss, Red, and try on yourshirt.""Now?"14NOW."He took off his black coat and waistcoat, removed hiswhite shirt andeased the stud on his stiff collar, leaving a smallcircle above hisAdams apple. Curly red hairs sprang up all over hischest. He quicklyput on the new shirt. The iabric had a pleasant softfeel about it. Hestarted to do up the buttons, but Kate walked over andundid the top two."You know what, Youve brought a whole new meaning tothe worduptight. But in the right clothes, you could even passas good-looking.Raymond scowled."Now whcre shall we go to celebrate your birthday?""The House of Commons?" suggested Raymond."Good God," said Kate. "I said celebrate, not hold awake. What aboutAnnabels?""I cant afrord to be seen in Annabels.""With me, you mean?"
  • 219. "No, no, you silly woman, because Im a Labourite.""If mernhers of the Labour Party are not allowed toindulge in a goodmeal, then perhaps its time for you to change parties.In my country oneonly sees the Democrats in the -),-st restaurants.""Oh, do be serious, Kate.""I intend to be. Now what have you been up to in theHouse late]y?""Not a lot," said Raymond sheepishly. "Ive been snowedunder in courtand . . .""Precisely. Its time you did something positive beforeyour colleaguesin Parliament forget you exist."rD205FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Have you anything particular in mind?" asked Rayrriond,folding his armsacross his chest."As a matter of fact, I have," said Kate. "I read in thesame Sunday papejas the one in which I discovered your best-kept secretthat it is provingdifficult for the Labour Party to repeal the Toriestrade-union legisla-tion. It appears there are long-term legal implicationswhich the frontbench is still trying to find a way around. Why dontyou set thatso-called first-class mind of yours on working out thelegal niceties?""Not such a stupid idea." Raymond had become used toKates politicalsense. When hed remarked on it shed only said, "Justanother bad habit Ipicked up from my ex-husband. Now where do wecelebrate?" she asked."Compromise," said Raymond."Im all cars.""The Dorchester.`
  • 220. "If you insist," said Kate, not soundingoverenthusiastic.Raymond started to change his shirt."No, no, no, Red, people have been known to wear blueshirts at theDorchester.""But I havent got a tie to match," said Raymondtriumphantly.Kate thriist her hand into the Turnbull and Asser bagand drew out adark-blue silk tie."But itsgot a pattern on it," said Raymond in disgust."What will youexpect next?""Contact lenses," said Kate.Raymond stared at her and blinked.On the way out the door, Raymonds gaze fell on thebrightly wrappedpackage that Joyce had mailed from Leeds earlier in theweek. Hedcompletely forgotten to open it.206FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Damn," said Charles, putting down the Times anddraining his coffee."Whats the problem?" asked Fiona as she poured outanother cup."Kerslakes been selected for Pucklebridge, which meanshes back in theHouse for life. Obviously my chat with Archie Millburnhad no effect.""Why have you got it in for Kerslake?" asked Fiona.Charles folded the paper and considered the question."Its quite simplereally, old girl. I think hes the only one of mycontemporaries whocould stop me from leading the Tory Party.""Why him in particular?""I first came across him when he was President of theOxford Union. Hewas damn good then, and now hes better. He had rivalsbut he brushed
  • 221. them aside like flies. No, despite his background,Kerslakes the one manleft who frightens me.""Its a long race yet, my darling, and he could stillstumble.""So could 1, but Ill simply have to put more hurdlesout for him. Damn,"said Charles again, looking at his watch, "Im late."He picked up his Times, kissed his wife on the foreheadand rushed outto the waiting car.The door closed as the phone rang. Fiona answered it."Fiona Hamptonspeaking.""Its Simon Kerslake. I wondered if Charles was there?""No, Im afraid youve just missed him. May I take amessage?""Yes. I wanted to let him know that Id been selectedfor Pucklebridge,and Archie Millburn left me in no doubt how much Charlesdid to insurethat I was offered the seat. And by the same token, dothank him fordelivering my whips to me so assiduously. I understand Iwas207FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe only member to receive such personal attention. Beassured if ever I canreturn the favors I shall not hesitate to do so."The phone went dead.Simon listened intently to Ronnies report at themonthly board meeting.Two tenants had not paid their quarterly rent, andanother quarter deadlinewas fast approaching. Ronnies solicitors had sent firmreminders, followeda month later by legal letters, but this action had alsofailed to elicitany money."It only proves what I feared most," said Ronnie.
  • 222. "Whats that?" asked Simon."They j ust havent got the cash.""So we will have to replace them with new tenants.""Simon, when you next travel from Beaufort Street toWhitechapel, startcounting the For Rent signs on office blocks along theway. When youvepassed a hundred youll find you still havent reachedthe outskirts of thecity ofLondon.-"So what do you think we ought to do next?""Try and sell one of our larger properties in order tosecure cash flow. Wecan at least be thankful that our capital assets arestill considerablymore valuable than our borrowings. Its the companieswhich have it theother way around that have started calling in thereceiver."Simon thought about his overdraft now approaching onehundred thousandpounds and was beginning to wish he had taken tipRonnies generous offerto buy back his shares. He knew that chance had nowpassed.When the board meeting was over, Simon drove to St.Marys to pick upElizabeth. It was to be one of their three-times-a-weekjourneys toPucklebridge as Simon tried to get around to all thevillages before Wilsoncalled an election.Archie Millburn, whohad accompanied them on 208FIRST AMONG EQUALSnearly every trip, was turning out to be a conscientiouschairman."Hes been very kind to us," said Elizabeth, on theirway down to Sussex."He certainly has," said Simon. "Remembering he also hasto run MillburnElectronics. But, as he reminds us so often, once hesintroduced us toevery village chairman well be on our own."
  • 223. "Have you ever discovered why he ignored CharlesHamptons advice?""No, he hasnt mentioned his name since that night. AllI know forcertain is that they were at school together.""So what do you intend to do about Hampton?""Ive already dealt with that little matter."Raymond was the most talked-about backbencher in theHouse.He made such a penetrating speech during the secondreading of the newTrade Union Bill that the Whips put him on the standingcommittee-theperfect medium for him to display his skills as thecommittee debatedeach clause, point by point. He was able to show hiscolleagues where thelegal pitfalls were and how to find a way round them,and it was not longbefore trade-union leaders were calling him at theCommons, and even athis flat, to learn his views on how their members shouldreact to a hostof different legal problems. Raymond showed patiencewith each of themand, more important, gave them excellent professionaladvice for theprice of a phone call. He found it ironic how quicklythey chose it)forget that he had written Full Employment at Any Cost?Snippets began to appear in the national press, rangingfrom laudatorycomments from those involved with the bill to a pointedsuggestion in theGuardian that, whatever had happened in the past, itwould be insup209FIRST AMONG EQUALSportable ifRaymond Gould were not made a member of theGovernment in thenear future."If they were to offer you a job, would it make anydifference to our
  • 224. relationship?" Kate asked."Certainly," said Raymond. "I shall have found theperfect excuse not towear your blue shirts."Harold Wilson held the crumbling edifice together for afurther six monthsbefore finally having to call a General Election. Hechose October 10,1974.Raymond immediately returned to his constituency tofight his fifthcampaign. When he met Joyce at Leeds City station hecouldnt helpremembering that his dumpy wife was only four yearsolder than Kate. Hekissed her on the cheek as one might a distant relative;then she drove himback to their Chapel Allerton home.Joyce chatted away on the journey home, and it becameclear that theconstituency was under control and that this time FredPadgett was wellprepared for a General Election. "He hasnt reallystopped since the lastone," she said. Undoubtedly, Joyce was even betterorganized than thecampaign manager and the secretary joined together. Whatwas more, Raymondthought, she enjoyed it.Unlike his colleagues in rural seats, Raymond did nothave to make speechafter speech in little village halls. His votes were tobe found in theHigh Street, where he addressed the midday shoppersthrough a megaphone andwalked around supermarkets, pubs, clubs, shaking hands,and then repeatedthe whole process.Joyce set her husband a schedule that allowed few peoplein the Leedscommunity to escape him. Some saw him a dozen timesduring the three-weekcampaign.
  • 225. Once the game was over, Raymond was back trooping aroundthe workingmensclubs, drinking pint after pint210FIRST AMONG EQUALSof bitters. He accepted it as inevitable that he wouldput on five or tenpounds (luring any election campaign. He dreaded whatKates comment wouldbe when she saw him.Somehow he always found a few minutes in each day tosteal away and phoneher. She seemed so busy and full of news it only madeRaymond feeldowncast; she couldnt possibly be missing him.The local trade unionists backed Raymond to the hilt.They may have foundhim stuck-up and distant in the past, but "he knowswhere his heart is."they confided to anyone who would listen. They banged ondoors, deliveredleaflets. drove cars to the polls. They rose before hedid in the morningand could still be found preaching to the converted whenthe pubs threwthem out at night,Raymond and Joyce cast their votes in the localsecondary school on theThursday of Election Day, looking forward to a largeLabour victory.The Labour Party gained a working majority in the Houseof forty-threeover the Conservatives, but only three over all theparties combined.Nevertheless Harold Wilson look~d set foranother fiveyears when theQueen invited him to form his fourth administration.The count in Leeds that night gave Raymond his biggestmajority ever:14,207 votes. He spent the whole of Friday and Saturdaythanking his
  • 226. constituents, then prepared to travel back to London onSunday evening."He must invite you to join the Government this time."said Joyce."I wonder," said Raymond as he kissed his wife on thecheek. Jie wavedat her as the train pulled out of Leeds City station.She waved backenthusiastically."I do like your new blue shirt, it really suits you,"were the last wordshe heard her say.211FIRST AMONG EQUALSDuring the election campaign, Charles had had to spend alot of time at thebank because of a run on the pound. Fiona seemed to beeverywhere in theconstituency at once, assuring voters that her husbandwasjust a few yardsbehind.After the little slips were counted, the swing againstCharles to theLabour candidate didnt amount to more than I percent inhis 22,000majority. When he heard the national result, he returnedto London resignedto a long spell in Opposition. As he began to catch upwith his Torycolleagues in the House, he found many of them alreadysaying openly thatHeath had to go after two election defeats in a row.Charles knew then that he would have to make up his mindonce again onwhere he stood over the election of a new Party Leader,aadlihat once againhe must pick the right man.Simon had a glorious campaign. He and Elizabeth hadstarted moving intotheir new cottage the day the election was announced,thankful that her
  • 227. salary at the hospital made it possible for them toemploy a nanny forPeter and Lucy now that she had to commute. A double bedand a couple ofchairs sufficed as Elizabeth cooked on an old wood stovefrom food stillpacked in tea chests. They seemed to use the same forksfor everything.During the campaign Simon covered thetwohundred-square-mile constituencyfor a second time and assured his wife that she needonly take the finalweek off from her duties at St. Marys.The voters of Pucklebridge sent Simon Kerslake back toParliament with amajority of 18,419, the largest in the constituencyhistory. The localpeople had quickly come to the conclusion that they nowhad a member whowas destined to have a Cabinet career.212FIRST AMONG EQUALSKate kept her remarks very gentle as it became obviousby Monday nightthat the Prime Minister was not going to offer Raymondajob in the newadministration. She cooked his favorite rneal of roastbeef---overdoneandYorkshire pudding in the flat that night, but he didntcommcnt on it;he hardly spoke at all.21317AFTER SIMON HAD BEEN BACK at the Commons for a week, hefelt a sense ofdjjd vu. The sense was heightened by finding everythingunchanged, eventhe policeman who greeted him at the members entrance.When Edward Heathannounced his Shadow team, Simon was not surprised that
  • 228. he wasntincluded, as he never had been known as a supporter ofthe Tory Leader.He was, however, mystified but not displeased to discoverthat CharlesHampton was not among the names to be found in the ShadowCabinet."Do you regret turning him down now the full team hasbeen published?"asked Fiona, looking up from her copy of the Daily Mail."It wasnt an easy decision, but I think itll proveright in the longrun," replied Charles, buttering another piece of toast."What did he offer in the end?""Shadow Minister of Industry.""That sounds rather interesting," said Fiona."Everything about it was interesting except the salary,214FIRST AMONG EQUALSwhich would have been nothing. Dont forget, the bankstill pays me fortythousand a year while Im chairman."Fiona folded her paper. "Charles, whats the realreason?"Charles accepted that he could rarely fool Fiona. "Thetruth is that ImJar from certain Ted will be leading the Party at thenext election.""Then who will if he doesnt?" asked Fiona."Whoevers got the guts to oppose him.""Im not sure I understand," said Fiona beginning toclear away the plates."Everyone accepts that he has to run again forreelection now that heslost twice in a row.""Thats fair enough," agreed Fiona."But as he has appointed all possible contenders to theCabinet or ShadowCabinet over the last ten years, someone he has selectedin the past willhave to oppose him. No one of lesser stature would stand
  • 229. a chance.""is there a member of the Shadow Cabinet willing torun?" asked FioDareturning to her seat at the end of the table."One or two are considering it, but the problem is thatif they lose itcould easily end their political career," said Charjes."But if one of them wins?""He will undoubtedly be the next Prime Minister.""Interesting, dilemma. And what are you going to doabout it?""Im Dot supporting anyone for the moment, but Ive gotmy eyes wide open,"said Charles, folding his napkin and rising from thetable."Is there a front-run tier?" asked Fiona, looking up ather husband."No, not really, although Kerslake is trying to rallysupport for MargaretThatcher. But that idea is doomed from the start."215FIRST AMONG EQUALS"A woman leading the Tory Party? Your lot havent gotthe imagination torisk it," said Elizabeth, tasting the sauce. "The daythat happens Ill eatmy one and only Tory hat in full view of all thedelegates at the partyconference.""Dont be so cynical, Elizabeth. Shes the best betweve got at themoment.""But what are the chances of Ted Heath stepping aside? Ialways thought theLeader of the party stays on until he is hit by themythical bus. I dontknow Heath very well, but I cant ever imagine himresigning.""I agree," said Simon. "So the 1922 Committee made up ofall thebackbenchers will have to change the rules.""You mean the backbenchers will pressure him to resign?"
  • 230. "No, but a lot of the Committee in their present moodwould be willing tovolunteer as driver for that mythical bus.""If thats true, lie must realize that his chances ofholding on are slim.""I wonder if any Leader ever knows that," said Simon."You ought to be in Blackpool next week," said Kate,resting her elbow onthe pillow."Why Blackpool?" asked Raymond, staring up at theceiling."Because, Red, thats where they are holding this yearsLabour Partvconference.""What do you imagine I could hope to accomplish there?""Youd be seen to be alive. At present youre just arumor in trade-unioncircles.""Thats not fair," Raymond said indignantly. "I givethem mort. advice thanI give my clients."216FIRST AMONG EQUALS"All the inore reason to go and spend a few days withthem.""But if youre not a Minister or a trade-union leader,all you do at aparty conference is spend four days eating foul food,sleeping in seedyguest houses, and applauding for other peoples secondrate speeches.""Ive no interest in where you put your weary head atnight, but I do wantyou to revive your contacts with the unions during theday.""Why9" said Raymond. "That lot cant influence mycareer.""Not at the moment," said Kate. "But I predict that,like my fellowAmericans at their conventions, the Labour Party willone day select its
  • 231. Leader at the Party conference.""Never," said Raymond. "That is and will always remainthe prerogative ofelected members of the House of Commons.""Thats the sort of crass, shortsighted, pompousstatement I would expecta Republican to make," said Kate as she covered his headwith a pillow. Shelifted up a comer and whispered in his ear, "And haveyou read any of theresolutions to be debated at this years Labourconference?""A few," came back Raymonds muffled reply."Then it might serve you well to note Mr. AnthonyWedgwood Bennscontribution," she said removing the pillow."Whats that crazy left-winger enlightening us on thistime?""Hes calling on conference, as he insists ondescribing your gatheringof the brothers, to demand that the next Leader bechosen by a full vote ofthe delegates, making up an electoral college from allthe constituencies,the trade-union movement and Parliament-I suspect inthat order."217FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Madness.""Todays extremist is tomorrows moderate," said Kateblithely."A typical American generalization.""Benjamin Disraeli, actually."Raymond put the pillow back over his head.As soon as Raymond stepped off the train at BlackpoolStation, he knew Katehad been right to insist he attend the conference. Heshared a taxi to hishotel with two trade-union leaders who treated him as ifhe were the localLord Mayor.
  • 232. When he checked into the hotel, he was pleasantlysurprised that JamieSinclair, who was now a Home Office Minister, had beenbooked into the nextroom. Thev agreed to have lunch together the followingday. Sinclairsuggested an excellent restaurant just outside ofBlackpool, and it soonbecame clear that he regularly attended the conference.Although they had both been in the House for ten years,it was the firsttime they discovered how much they had in common."You inust have been disappointed when the PM didnt askyou to rejoin theGovernment," began Sinclair.Raymond paused, staring at the menu. "Very," he finallyadmitted."Nevertheless, you were wise to come to Blackpool,because this is whereyour strength lies,""You think so?""Come on. Evervbody knows youre the trade unionspin-up boy, and tfieystill have a lot of influence as to who sits in theCabinet.""I havent noticed," said Raymond mournfully."You will when they eventually choose the Leader.""Thats funny, thats exactly what ... Joyce said lastweek."218FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Sensible girl, Joyce. I fear it will happen in our timeas members."A waitress appeared at their side and they both ordered."I doubt it," said Raymond, "and I can tell you onething. I would opposethe idea, which wouldnt make me popular with theunions.""Perhaps. But every party needs a man like you, and theunion leaderswouldnt mind if you were a card-carrying Fascist-,theyd still back you."
  • 233. "Il] tell you something-Id trade it all in for yourjob at the HomeOffice. I didnt go into politics to spend my life onthe benches."As he spoke, the chairman of the Boilermakers Unionshouted across as hepassed their table, "Good to see you, Ray." lie showedno recognition ofJamie. Raymond turned and smiled at the man waving asCaesar might havedone to Cassius."Have you decided how youre going to vote in theLeadership battle?" askedFiona over breakfast."Yes," replied Charles. "And at this point in my career,I cant afford tomake the wrong choice.""So who have you decided on?" asked Fiona."While there isnt a serious contender willing to opposeTed Heath, itremains in my best interest to continue backing him.""Isnt there one shadow Cabinet Minister who has theguts to run againsthim?""The rumor grows that Margaret Thatcher will act as whii i I If she getsclose enough to force a second,pping gir . ballot, the serious contenders will thenjoin in.":What if she won the first round?"Dont be silly, Fiona," said Charles, taking moreinterest in hisscrambled egg. "The Tory Party would never elect a womanto lead them.Were far too hidebound and traditional. Thats the sortof immature mis-219FIRST AMONG EQUALStake the Labour Party would make to prove how much theybelieved inequality."
  • 234. Simon was still pusbing Margaret Thatcher to throw herhat in the ring."She certainly has enough of them," said Elizabeth.It amused Raymond to watch the Tory Party Leadershipstruggle while hegot on with his job. Raymond would have dismissedThatchers chances ifKate hadnt reminded him that the Tories had been thefirst and onlyparty to choose a Jewish leader in Benjamin Disraeli,and a bachelor inTed Heath."Why shouldnt they be the first to elect a woman?" shedemanded. Hewould have continued to argue with Kate, but the damnwoman had provedto be right so often in ihe past.The 1922 Conim ittee announced that the election forTory Leader wouldtake place on February 4, 1975. At a press conference inearly Januaryat the House of Commons, Margaret Thatcher. still theonly woman in theShadow Cabinet, announced she would allow herself to benominated for theLeadership. Simon immediately spent his time exhortinghis colleagues tosupport "the lady" and joined a small committee that wasformed for thepurpose. Charles Hampton warned his friends that theparty could neverhope to win a general election with a woman Leader. Asthe days passed,nothing became clearer than the uncertainty of theoutcome.At fout- oclock on a particularly wet and windy day,the chairman of the1922 Committee announced the figures:MARGARET THATCHER 130EDWARc) HEATH 119
  • 235. Hucm FRASER 16220FIRST AMONG EQUALSAccording to the 1922 Committee rules, the winner neededa 15 percentmajority, and so a second round was necessary. "It willbe held in sevendays tirae," the Chief Whip announced. Three formerCabinet Ministersimmediately declared they were candidates. Ted Heath,having been warnedthat he would get even fewer votes the second timearound, withdrew fromthe second ballot.The next seven days were the longest in Simons life. Hedid everythingin his power to hold Thatchers supporters together.Charles meanwhiledecided to play the second round very low key. When thetime came tovote, he put his cross on the ballot paper next to theformer Secretaryof State he bad served under at Trade and Industry. "Aman we can alltrust," he told Fiona.When the votes had been finally counted, the chairman ofthe 1922Committee announced that Margaret Thatcher was theoutright winner witha vote of 146 to 79 for her nearest challenger.Simon was delighted, while Elizabeth hoped he hadforgotten about herpromise to eat her hat. Charles was dumbfounded. Theyboth wrote to theirnew Leader immediately.Qrrrm9WVrx=sr""Februar 11, 1975 y
  • 236. Dear Margaret,Many congratulations on your victory as the firstwoman Leader of our Party. I was proud to haveplayed a smallpart in your triumph and will continueto workJor your success at the next election.Yours,SIMON221FIRST AMONG EQUALS27 Eaton Square London SW IFebruary 11, 1975Dear Ilargaret,I made no secret ojbacking Ted Heath in thefirst round()/,the leadershipcontest, having had the privilege ojserving it, hisadministration. I wasdelighted to have supportedyou on the second ballot. Itillustrates howprogressive our Pariv is that we have chosen a woman whowill undoubtedlybe Britains next Prime ffinister.Be assured qf my loyalty.Yours,CHARLESMargai-etrhatcher answered all her colleagues letterswithin the week.Simon received a handwritten letter inviting him tojointhe new Shadowteam as number two in the Education Department. Charlesreceived a typednote thanking him for his letter of support.22218HAMPTONs BANK had weathered the Great War, the thirtiescrash, and then theSecond World War. Charles had no intention of being the
  • 237. chairman whopresided over its demise in the seventies.Soon after taking over from Derek Spencer-at the boardsunanimousinsistence-Charles discovered that being chairman wasntquite as relaxeda job as he had expected. He lacked the knowledge andexpertise to runHamptons on a day-to-day basis.While Charles remained confident that the bank couldride the storm, hewasnt taking any risks. The business news sections ofthe newspapers werefull of stories of the Bank of Englapds acting as a"lifeboat" and havingto step in to assist ailing financial institutions,along with the dailyreports of the collapse of yet another property company.The time whenproperty values and rents automatically increased eachyear had become athing of the past.When he had accepted the boards offer, Charles insistedthat a chiefexecutive be appointed to carry out the professionalbusiness while heremained the man with whom other City chairmen dealt.Charles inter-223FIRST AMONG EQUALSviewed several people for the position but he did notfind anyone suitable.Head-hunting seemed to be the next move, the expense ofwhich was saved whenhe overheard, at a conversation at the next table atWhites. that the newlyappointed chief executive at the First Bank of Americawas sick of having toreport to the board in New York every time he wanted touse a firstclassstamp. -Charles immediately invited the First Bank of Americas
  • 238. chief executive tolunch at the House of Commons. Clive Reynolds had comefrom a backgroundsimilar to Derek Spencers: London School of Economics,followed by theHarvard Business School, and a series of successfulappointments which hadculminated in his becoming chief executive of the FirstBank of America.This similarity did not worry Charles, as he made itclear to Mr. Reynoldsthat any appointee would be the chairmans man.When Reynolds had been offered the appointment he haddriven a hardbargain, and Charles looked forward to his doing thesame for Hamptons.Reynolds ended up with fifty thousand pounds a year andenough of a profitincentive to insure that he didnt deal for himself orencourage any otherhead-hunters to invite him to join their particularjungle."Hes not the sort of fellow we could invite to dinner,"Charles toldFiona, "but his appointment will enable me to sleep atnight knowing thebank is in safe hands."Charless choice was rubber-stamped by the board attheir next meeting, andas the months passed it became obvious that the FirstBank of America hadlost one of its prime assets below market value.Clive Reynolds was a conservative by nature,butwhen he (hd take what Charles described as a risk--andwhat Reynolds called a "hunch"-more than 50 percentof such risks paid off. While Hamptons kept its reputation for caution and good husbandry under Charles, it224FIRST AMONG EQUALSmanaged a few quite spectacular coups thanks to their newchief executive.Reynolds had enough sense to treat his new chairman with
  • 239. respect withoutever showing undue deference, while their relationshipremained at alltimes strictly professional.One of Reynoldss first innovations had been to suggestthat they check onevery customer account over two hundred anilfifty-thousand pounds, andCharles had approved."When youve handled the account of a company for manyyears." Reynoldspointed out, "it sometimes is less obvious when one ofyour traditionalcustomers is heading for trouble than it would be with anewcomer. If thereare any lame ducks, lets discover them before theyhit the ground"--ametaphor that Charles repeated at several weekendparties.Charles enjoyed his morning meetings with CliveReynolds, where he pickedup a great deal about a profession to which he hadpreviously only broughtgut feeling and common sense. In a short time he learnedenough from hisnew tutor to make him sound like David Rockefeller whenhe rose to speak ina finance debate on the floor of the House-an unexpectedbonus.Charles knew little of Reynoldss private life exceptwhat was on file. Hewas forty-one, unmarried, and lived in Esher, whereverthat was. AllCharles cared about was that Reynolds arrived eachmorning at least an hourbefore him, and left after him every night, even whenthe House was inrecess.Charles had studied fourteen of the confidential reportson customers %ithloans over two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. CliveReynolds hadalready picked out two companies with whom he felt thebank should revise
  • 240. its current position.Charles still had three more reports to consider beforehe presented a fullassessment to the board.225FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe quiet knock on the door, however, meant that it wasten oclock andReynolds had arrived to make his daily report. Rumorswere circulating inLondon that the bank rate would go up on Thursday, soReynolds wanted to goshort on dollars and long on gold. Charles nodded. Assoon as theannouncement had been made about the bank rate, Reynoldscontinued, "Itwill be wiser to return to dollars, as the new round ofpay negotiationswith the unions is about to take place. This, in turn,will undoubtedlystart a fresh run on the pound." Charles nodded again."I think the dollar is far too weak at two ten,"Reynolds added. "With theunions settling at around twelve percent, the dollarmust strengthen, say,to nearer one ninety." He added that he was not happyabout the bankslarge holding in Slater Walker, Inc., and wanted toliquidate half thestock over the next month. He proposed to do so in smallamounts overirregular periods. "We also have three other majoraccounts to considerbefore we make known our findings to the board. Imconcerned about thespending policy of one of the companies, but the othertwo appear stable.I think we should go over them together when you havetime to consider myreports. Perhaps tomorrow morning, if you could managethat. The companiesconcerned are Speyward Laboratories, Blackies Limited
  • 241. and Nethercote andCompany. Its Speyward Im worried about.""Ill take the files home tonight," said Charles, "andgive you an opinionin the morning.""Thank you, Chairman."Charles had never suggested that Reynolds call him byhis first name.Archie Millburn held a small dinner party to celebrateSimons firstanniversary as the member for Pucklebridge. Althoughthese occasions hadoriginally been to introduce the Party hierarchy totheir new member,226FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon now knew more about the constituency and its flockthan Archie did, asArchie was the first to admit.Elizabeth, Peter and Lucy had settled comfortably intotheir small cottage,while Simon, as a member of the Shadow Education team,had visitedschools--nursery, primary, public and secondary;universities-red brick,plate glass and Oxbridge; technical colleges, artinstitutes andcorrectional centers. He had read Butler, Robbins,Plowden, and hadlistened to children and to professors of psychologyalle. He felt thatafter a year he was beginning to understand the subject,and only longedfor a General Election so that he could once again turnrehearsal intoperformance."Opposition must be frustrating," observed Archie whenthe ladies hadretired after dinner."Yes, but its an excellent way to prepare yourself forGovernment and do
  • 242. some basic thinking about the subject. I never foundtime for such luxuryas a Minister.""But it must be very different from holding office?"said Archie, clippmga cigar."True. In Government," said Simon, "youre surrounded bycivil servants whodont allow you to lift a finger or give you a moment toponder, while inOpposition you caa think policy through even if you dooften end up havingto type your own letters."Archie pushed the port down to Simons end of the table."Im glad thegirls are out," said Archie conspiratorily, "because Iwanted you to knowIve decided to give up being chairman at the end of theyear.""Why?" asked Simon, taken aback."Ive seen you elected and settled in. Its time for ayounger man to havea go.""But youre only my age.""I cant deny that, but the truth is that Im not givingenough time to myelectronics company, and the board is continuallyreminding me of it. Noone has to tell you that these are not easy times."227FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Its sad," said Simon. "Just as you get to know someonein politics, youor they always seem to move on.""Fear not," said Archie. "I dont intend to leavePucklebridge, and Ifeel confident that you will be my member for at leastanother twentyyears, by which time Ill be quite happy to accept aninvitation toDowning Street.""You may find that its Charles Hampton whos living at
  • 243. Number Ten," saidSimon, as he struck a match to light his cigar."Then I wont get an invitation," said Archie with asmile.CharleF couldnt sleep that night after his discovery,and his tossingand turning kept Fiona awake. He had opened theNethercote file when hewas waiting for dinner to be served. His first act withany company wasto glance down the names of the directors to see if heknew anyone on theboard. He recognized no one until his eye stopped at "S.J. Kerslake,MP." The cook felt sure that Mr. Hampton had not enjoyedhis dinner,because he hardly touched the main course.On his arrival at Hamptons only moments after CliveReynolds, he calledfor his chief executive. Reynolds appeared a few minuteslater withouthis usual armM of files, surprised to see the chairmanin so early. OnceReynolds was seated, Charles opened the file in front ofhim. "What doyou know about Nethercote and Company?""Private company. Net assets value approaching tenmillion pounds,running a current overdraft of seven million, ofwhichwe service half.Efficiently managed, with a good board of directors,will ride out thecurrent problems, in my view, and should be welloversubscribed when theyeventually go public.""How much of the company do we own?"228FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Seven and a halt percent. As you know, the bank nevertakes eight percentof any company because then we would have to declare an
  • 244. interest underSection Twenty-three of the Finance Act. It has alwaysbeen a policy ofthis bank to invest in a major client without becomingtoo involved withthe running of the company.""Who are their principal bankers?""The Midland.""What would happen if we put our seven and a halfpercent up for sale anddid not renew the overdraft facility at the end of thequarter but calledit instead?""They would have to seek financing elsewhere.""And if they couldnt?""They would have to start selling their assets, whichunder that sort offorced-sale position would be very damaging for anycompany, if notimpossible in the present climate.""And then?""I would have to check my file and .Charles passed over the file and Reynolds studied itcarefully, frowning."They already have a cash flow problem because of baddebts. With a suddenincreased demand, they might go under. I would stronglyadvise against sucha move, Chairman. Nethercote has proved a reliable riskover the years, andI think we stand to make a haiidsome profit when theyare quoted on theStock Exchange.""For reasons I camiot disclose to you," said Charles,looking up from hischair, "I fear that remaining involved with this companymay turn out to bea financial embarrassment for liamptons." Reynoldslooked at him, puzzled."You will inform the Midland Bank that we will not berenewing this loan atthe next quarter.""Then they would have to look for support from an-229
  • 245. FIRST AMONG EQUALSother bank. The Midland would never agree to shoulder theentire amounton their own.""And try to dispose of our seven and a half percentimmediately.""But that could lead to a crisis of confidence in thecompany.""So be it," said Charles, as he closed the file."But I do feel . . .""That will be all, Mr. Reynolds.""Yes, Chairman," said the mystified chief executive, whohad neverthought of his boss as an irrational man. He turned toleave. Had helooked back he would have been even more mystified bythe smile that wasspread across Charles Hamptons face."Theyve pulled the rug out from under our feet," saidRonnie Nethercoteangrily."Who?" said Simon, who had just come into the room."The Midland Bank.""Why would they do that?""An outside shareholder put all his stock on the marketwithout warning,and the Midland was unwilling to continue such a largeoverdraft becauseit was not convinced that the companys assets stillcovered the valueof the shares.""Have you been to see the manager?" asked Simon, unableto disguise hisanxiety."Yes, but he cant do anything. His hands are tied by amain boarddirective," said Ronnie, slumping deeper into his seat."How bad is it?""Theyve given me a month to find another bank.Otherwise Ill have tostart selling some of our assets.""What would be the outcomc if we dont manage to come up
  • 246. with anotherbank?" asked Simon desperately.230FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I could be bankrupt within a month. Do you know anybanker who can smellout a good deal?""Only one, and I can assure you he wouldnt help."Charles put the phone down, satisfied. He wondered ifthere was anythingthat could still be regarded as secret. It had taken himless than an hourto find out the size of Kerslakes overdraft."Banker-to-bankerconfidentiality," he had assured them. He was stillsmiling when Reynoldsknocked on the door."The Midland were not pleased," he told Charles."Theyll get over it," his chairman replied. "Whats thelatest onNethercote?""Only a rumor, but everyone now knows theyre in troubleand the chairmanis searching around for a new backer," said Reynoldsimpassively. "Hisbiggest problem is that no one is touching propertycompanies at themoment.""Once theyve collapsed, whats to stop us picking upthe pieces andmaking, a killing?""A clause that was slipped through in the finance actwhich your governmentpassed three years ago. The penalties range from a heavyfine to havingyour banking license takeen away.""Oh, yes, I rememi)er," said Charles. "Pity. So how longdo you expectthem. to last?""Once the month is up," said Reynolds, stroking aclean-shavei,i chin, "if
  • 247. they fail to find a backer, the creditors w0l swarm inlike locusts.""Arent the shares worth anything?" asked Charlesinnocently."Not the paper they are written on at the moment," saidReynolds, watchinghis chairman carefully.This time the chief executive couldnt miss thechairmans smile as Charlesthought of Simon Kerslake and his overdraft of onehundred and eightthousand231FIRST AMONG EQUALSpounds, now backed by worthless shares. Pucklebridgewould soon be lookingfor a new member.At the end of a month during which no bank came to hisrescue, RonnieNethercote caved in and agreed to call in the receiverand file abankruptcy notice. He still hoped that he could pay offall his creditorseven if the shares he and his fellow directors heldremained worthless.He felt as worried for Simon and his career as he didfor himself, buthe knew there was nothing the receiver would allow himto do to help oneindividual.When Simon told Elizabeth that night, she didnt cry.She was a fatalistat heart, and had always feared the outcome of herhusbands joining theboard of Nethercotes."Cant Ronnie help you? After all, youve supported himenough in thepast.""No, he cant," said Simon avoiding tefling her wherethe realresponsibility for his downfall lay.
  • 248. "Do bankrupts automatically have to leave Parliament?"was Elizabethsnext question."No, but I shall because I could never be considered forfurtherpromotion-Id always be rightly tainted with lack ofjudgment. 11"It seeins so unfair when you werent personally toblame.""There are different rules for those who wish to live inthe spotlight,"Simon said simply."But in time, surely-" began Elizabeth."Im not willing to remain on the back benches foranother twenty yearsonly to hear whispered in the corner of the smoking room. . . Wouldhave made the Cabinet if it hadnt been for . .."Elizabeths next question saddened Simon. "Does thatmean we will haveto give up the nanny,9"Not necessarily, but we both may have to make sacrificesin order to keepher part time."232FIRST AMONG EQUALS"But my work at the hospital . . ." began Elizabeth notcompleting thesentence. "So what happens nextT she asked hurriedly."Ill have to tell Archie Millburn tonight. Ive alreadywritten my letterof resignation to hand to him. I shall make anappointment to see the ChiefWhip on Monday to explain to him why I am going to applyfor the ChilternHundreds.""What does that mean?""Its one of the few ways of leaving the House inmidsession--,other thandying. Officially its a nominal office under the Crownwhich debars youfrom membership in the House."
  • 249. "It all sounds rather formal to me," said Elizabeth."Im afraid it will cause an embarrassing by-election inPucklebridge,"Simon admitted."Can nobody help?""There arent a lot of people around who have a sparehundred and eightthousand pounds for a worthless bunch of shares.""Would you like me to come with you when you go to seeArchie?" Elizabethasked, rising from her seat."No, darling. Its kind of you to ask."Elizabeth leaned over and pushed back the hair that hadfallen over hisforehead. She couldnt help noticing some gray strandsthat must haveappeared in the last few weeks. At that moment she feltlike stranglingRonnie Nethercote.Simon drove slowly down to Pucklebridge to keep hisimpromptu appointmentwith the chairman. Archie Millburn, standing hands onhips in his garden,listened to the tale with a sad face. "Its beenhappening to a lot of goodpeople in the city lately-but what I cant understandis, if the companyowns such prime properties, why has no one made atakeover bid? Sounds asif its a divestiture specialists dream.""It appears to be a matter of confidence," said Simon.233FIRST AMONG EQUALS"A sacred word in the City," agreed Archie, while hecontinued to prune hisRoosevelts and Red Mistresses.Simon handed him the prepared letter of resignation,which Millburn readover and reluctantly accepted."I wont mention this to anyone until youve seen theChief Whip on Monday.Ill call a special meeting of the full committee on
  • 250. Tuesday evening andinform them of your decision then."The two men shook hands. "Your misfortune is ourmisfortune," said Archie."In a very short time youve gained the respect and theaffection of thelocal people. Youll be imissed."Simon (trove back to London, and, although the car radiowas on, he did nottake in the news flash that they kept repeating everythirty minutes.Raymond was aniong the first to hear the announcement,and was stunned byit. Harold Wilson was going to resign less than halfwaythrough thefive-year Parliament, and for no apparent reason otherthan that he hadjust passed his sixtieth birthday. He proposed to remainPrime Ministeronly so long as the Labour Party took to select its newLeader, who would,Raymond hoped, serve out the full term. Raymond and Katesat glued to thetelevision, picking up every scrap of information theycould. Theydiscussed the implications far into the night."Well, Red, could this mean rehabilitation for ourforgotten hero?""Who can say?""Well, if you cant, who can?""The next Leadei, perhaps," said Raymond.The fight for the Leadership was a straight battlebetween the left andright wings of the Labour Party, James Callaghan on theright and MichaelFoot on the left. It was with some relief that Raymondsaw Cal-234FIRST AMONG EQUALSlaghan, despite losing the first ballot, come through to
  • 251. be electedLeader. The Queen duly called for Callaghan and asked himto form a newGovernment. As tradition demands, all serving Ministersof the Governmentsent their resignations to Downing Street to allow thenew Prime Ministerto select his own team.Raymond was in court listening to the judges summing upwhen his juniorpassed him a note: "Please call 10 Downing Street assoon as possible."The judge took a further thirty minutes to meticulouslyexplain to thejury the legal definition of manslaughter before Raymondcould escape.He ran down the corridor and stopped at one of theclerks private boxesto make the call. The dial rotating back into placeafter each numberseemed to take forever.After he eventually got through three people, a voicesaid, "Goodafternoon, Raymond": the unmistakable gravelly tones ofthe new PrimeMinister. "I think its time you joined the Government-"Raymond held hisbreath- "as Minister of State at the Department ofTrade." Minister ofState: only one place off the Cabinet."You still there, Raymond?""Yes, Prime Minister, and Id be delighted to accept.He put the phone down, immediately picked it up againand dialed the Cityoffice of the Chase Manhattan bank. They put him throughto the chiefsystems analyst."Ronnie phoned while you were in the bath.""Ill call him as soon as I reach the House."Neither of them spoke for several minutes. ThenElizabeth asked, "Areyoti dreading it?""Yes, I am," said Simon. "I feel like a condemned man
  • 252. eating his lastbreakfast, and the worst thing is I have to drive myselfto the gallows.""I wonder if we wili ever Itaugh about today?"235FIRST AMONG EQUALS"No doubt--when I collect my parliamentary pension.""Can we live off that?""Hardly. I dont get the first payment until Imsixtyfive, so we have along wait to find out." He got up. "Can I give you alift to the hospital?"he asked."No, thanks, I intend to savor the joys of being atwocar family for atleast another week."Simon kissed his wife and left for his appointment withthe Chief Whip atthe House of Commons.The policeman at the gate saluted as he drove in. "Goodmorning, sir," hesaid."Good morning," said Simon. When you salute next timeIll have to saygoodbye, he thought morosely. He parked his car on thesecond level of thenew underground parking lot and took the escalator up tothe membersentrance. He couldnt help remembering that ten yearsago he would havetaken the stairs. He continued through the memberscloakroom, up themarble staircase to the members lobby. Habit made himturn left into thelittle post office to check whether he had any mail."Mr. Kerslake," the man behind the counter called intoan intercom, and afew seconds later a parcel and a packet of letters heldtogether by a thickelastic band thudded into an office basket. Simon leftthe parcel marked
  • 253. London University and the letters on the desk in hisroom and checked hiswatch: over forty minutes before his appointment withthe Chief Whip. Hewent to the nearest phone and dialed Nethercote andCompany. Ronnieanswered the phone himself."Sacked the telephone operator last Friday," heexplained. "Only me and mysecretary left.""You called, Ronnie-" a millimeter of hope in Simonsvoice."Yes, I wanted to express how I felt. I tried to write236FIRST AMONG EQUALSyou a letter over the weekend but Im not very good withwords." Hepaused. "Nor, it seems, with figures. I just wanted tosay how desperatelysorry I am. Elizabeth told me you were going to see theChief Whip thismorning. Ill be thin-king of you.""Thats kind, Ronnie, but I went into it with my eyeswide open. As anadvocate of free enterprise, I can hardly complain whenI turn out to beone of its victims.""A very philosophical attitude for this time of themorning.""How are things at your end?""The receivers checking the books. I still believe wecan get out withall our creditors fully paid. At least that way Illavoid the stigma ofbankruptcy." There was a longer pause. "Oh, Christ, thatwas tactless.11"Dont worry about it, Ronnie. The overdraft was mydecision." Simonalready wished he had been as frank with his wife."Lets have lunch one day next week.""it will have to be somewhere that takes food stamps,"
  • 254. said Simon wryly."Good luck, mate," said Ronnie.Simon decided to fill up the remaining thirty minutes atthe House bygoing to the library and glancing over the rest of themorning papers.He settled himself in a comer of the library next to thefireplace overwhich hung a notice reminding members not to haveoverloud or prolongedconvcrsations.The story of the probable breakup of Nethercote andCompany was detailedon the financial pages. It quoted approvingly Ronniesview that allcreditors ought to be paid in full. Not one of thearticles mentionedSimons name, but he could already anticipate theheadlines in tomorrowspaper: "The Rise and Fall of Simon Kerslake." Over tenyears workquickly forgotten, he would be old news within a week.237FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe library clock inched toward the hour that he couldno longer put off.Simon heaved himself out of the deep leather chair likean old man andwalked slowly toward the Chief Whips office.Miss N(ITSe, the Chiefs ancient secretary, smiledbenignly as fie camein."Good morning, Mr. Kerslake," she said brightly. "Imafraid the Chief isstill with Mrs. Thatcher, but I did remind him of yourappointment so Idont expect him to be long. Would you care to have aseat?""Thank you," he said.Alec Pimkin always claimed that Miss Norse had a setpatter for everyoccasion. His imitation of her saying "I hope I find you
  • 255. in rude health,Mr. Pimkin" had brought chuckles to the members diningroom on many occa-sions. He must have exaggerated, thought Simon."I hope I find you in rude health, Mr. Kerslake," saidMiss Norse, notlooking up from her typing. Simon choked back a laugh."Very rude, thank you," he said, wondering how manytragic stories or talesof lost opportunities Miss Norse had had to listen toover the years. Shestopped suddenly and looked at her notepad."I should have mentioned it to you before, Mr.Kerslake-a Mr. Nethercoterang.""Thank you, Ive spoken to him already."Simon was leafing through an out-of-date copy of Punchwhen the Chief Whipstrode in."I can spare you one minute, Simon, one and a half ifyou are going toresign," he said, laughing, and marched off toward hisoffice. As Simonfollowed him down the corridor, the phone by MissNorses side rang. "Itsfor you, Mr. Kerslake," she shouted to their retreatingbacks.Simon turned and said, "Can you take the number?""He says its urgent."Simon stopped, hesitating. "With you in a moment,"238FIRST AMONG EQUALShe said to the Chief Whip, who disappeared into hisoffice. Simon walkedback and took the phone from Miss Norses outstretchedhand."Simon Kerslake here. Who is it?""Its Ronnie.""Ronnie," said Simon flatly."Ive just had a cail from Morgan Grenfell. One of theirclients has madean offer of one pound twenty-five a share for the
  • 256. company and theyrewilling to take over the current liabilities."Simon was trying to do the sums in his head."Dont bother working it out," Ronnie said. "At onetwenty-five, yourshares would be worth seventy-five thousand pounds.""It wont be enough," said Simon, as he recalled hisoverdraft of 108,712pounds, a figure etched in his memory."Dont panic. Ive told them I wont settle for anythingless than onepound fifty a share, and it has to be within seven days,which will givethem ample time to check the books. That would bring youin ninety thou-sand, but you would still be eighteen thousand down theSwanee, whichyoull have to learn to live with. If you sell the wifeas well as thesecond car, you should just about survive."Simon could tell by the way his friend was speaking thatRonnie already hada cigar between his lips."Youre a genius.""Not me---Morgan Grenfell. And I bet theyll make ahandsome profit in thelong run for their unnamed client, who seemed to haveall the insideinformation. If youre still on for lunch next Tuesday,dont bring yourfood stamps. Its on me."Simon put the phone down and kissed Miss Norse on theforehead. She wascompletely taken aback by a situation for which she hadno set reply. Sheremained silent as the Chief Whip peeked his head out ofhis office. "An239FIRST AMONG EQUALSorgy in the Chief Whips office?" he said. "Youll be onpage three of theSun next, Miss Norse." Simon laughed. "Ive got a crisison over tonights
  • 257. vote," the Chief Whip continued. "The Government isreneging on our agree-ment for pairing, and I have to get a delegation backfrom Brusiels in timefor the ten oclock division. Whatever it is, can itwait, Simon?""Yes, otcourse.""Can you come to my office, Miss Norse-if I can drag youaway from JamesDouble-O-Seven Kerslake?"Simon left and almost bounced to the nearest phone. Hecalled bothElizabeth and Archie Millburn to let them know the news.Elizabeth wasecstatic, while Archie didnt sound ail that surprised."Dont you think it might be wise for us to stop seeingeach other?""Whyl" said Raymond. "Palmerston had a mistress when hewas seventy, and hestill beat your precious Disraeli, came the election.""Yes, but that was before the days of a dozen nationalnewspapers andinvestigative journalism. FrankIv, it wouldnt take aWoodward andBernstein more than a few hours to discover our littlesecret.""Well be all right. Ive destroyed all the tapes.""Do be serious.""Youre always telling me Im far too serious.""Well, I want you to be now. Very."Raymond turned to face Kate. "I love you, Kate, and Iknow I always will.Why dont we stop this charade and get married?"She sighed. "Weve been over this a hundred times. Ishall want to returnto America eventually, and in any case I wouldnt make avery good PrimeMinisters wife.""Three American women have in the past," said Raymondsulkily.240FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 258. "To hell with your historical precedents-and whatsmore, I hate Leeds.""Youve never been there.""I dont need to if its colder than London.""Then youll have to be satisfied with being mymistress." Raymond tookKate in his arms. "You know, I used to think being PrimeMinister was worthevery sacrifice, but now Im not so sure.""Its still worth the sacrifice," said Kate, "as youlldiscover when youlive at Number Ten. Come on, or my dinner will be burnedto a cinder.""You havent noticed these," said Raymond smugly,pointing down at hisfeet.Kate stared at the fashionable new loafers."I nevei thought the day would come," she said. "Pityyoure starting to gobald."When Simon returned home his first words were, "Wellsurvive.""But what have you done about the resignation letter9"asked Elizabethanxiously."Archie Millburn said he would return it the day Ibecame Prime Minister.""Well, thats a relief," Elizabeth said. "And now thatthe worsts behindus, I want you to promise me just one thing.""Anything.""You will never speak to Ronnie Nethercote again."For a moment, Simon hesitated, before saying, "Thatsnot completely fair,because I havent been totally straight with you fromthe beginning." Hethen sat Elizabeth down on the sofa and told her thewhole truth.It was Elizabeths turn to remain silent."Oh, hell," she said eventually, looking up at Simon. "Ido hope Ronnie canforgive me."
  • 259. "What are you talking about?"241FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I phoned him back soon after you left for the Commonsand I spent atleast ten minutes telling him why he was the biggesttwo-faced bastardId ever met, and that I didnt want to hear from himagain in my life."It was Simons turn to collapse onto the sofa. "How didhe respond?" heasked anxiously.Elizabeth faced her husband. "Thats the strange thing,he didnt evenprotest. He just apologized."Charles paced up and down the room angrily. "Give me thefigures again.""Nethercote has accepted a bid of seven million fivehundred thousand,which works out at one pound fifty a share," said CliveReynolds.Charles stopped at his desk and scribbled the figuresdown on a piece ofpaper. Ninety thousand pounds, leaving a shortfall ofonly eighteenthousand pounds. It wouldnt be enough. "Damn," he said."I agree," said Revnolds, "I always thought we werepremature to lose ourposition in the company in the first place.""An opinion you will not voice outside this room," saidCharles.Clive Reynolds did not reply."Whats happened to Nethercote himself?" asked Charles,searching for anyscrap of information he could find about Simon Kerslake."Im told hes starting up again in a smaller way.Morgan Grenfell wasdelighted by the deal and the manner in which he handledthe companyduring the takeover. I must say we let it fall intotheir laps."
  • 260. "Can we get any stock in the new company9" askedCharles, ignoring hiscomment."Id doubt it. Its only capitalized at one million,although MorganGrenfell is giving Nethercote a large overdraft facilityas part of thedeal."242FIRsr AMONG EQUALS"Then all that remains necessary is to see the matter isnever referredto again.""Dad, can I have a leather soccer ball, please?""Whats wrong with the one youve got?""Its made of rubber and doesnt bounce like the properones they use inschool matches. Besides, its too small.""It will have to do, Im afraid.""But Martin Hendersons dad has given him a fullsizedleather ball tostart the new season.""Im sorry, son, the truth is that Martin Hendersonsfather is farbetter off than I am.""Ill tell. you one thing," said Peter with feeling."Im sure not goingto be an MP when I grow up." Simon smiled as his sonkicked the balltoward him. "Ill bet you cant score against me evenwith a small ball.""Dont forget, we still only have small goalposts," saidSi-non."Stop making excuses, Dad, just admit youre past yourprime."Simon burst out laughing. "We shall see," he said withmore bravado thanconviction. At the age of eight Peter was already ableto dribble andshoot with a confidence that was beginning to lookominous. An old school
  • 261. friend had recently warned him that "By twelve theybegin to beat you,and by fifteen they hope not to show they arent tryingtheir hardest anymore."Simon still needed to try his hardest before he managedto score againstPeter and take his place in the goal. He then watchedPeters fiercestshots safely into his arms and was again thankful thatthe goal was notfull size.He kept his sons best shots out for another twentyminutes before Lucycame to join them in the garden. Simon couldnt helpnoticing that shewas wearing a243FIRST AMONG EQUALSdress already too tight around the shoulders. "Suppersready, Dad," shesaid, and ran back inside. He cursed again at thesacrifices his own selfishgreed had brought upon the family and marveled at howlittle they com-plained.Elizabeth looked tired as she served up hamburgers andchips for thefamily, and then Simon remembered she had to be back onduty at St. Marysby eight that night. Thank God he hadnt married LaviniaMaxwellHarrington,he thought, as he looked up at his wife. Lavinia wouldnot have hung aroundfor hamburgers and chips."How did you get on?" asked Elizabeth."Ill survive," said. Simon, still thinking about hisoverdraft."Ill kill him next time," said Peter, "once I get areal ball."Raymond dug deeper into the red box.
  • 262. "You enjoying yourself, Red?""Its fascinating," said Raymond. "Do you know--?" "No, Idont. You haventspoken to me in the last three hours, and when you doits to tell me howyou spent the day with your new mistress.""My new mistress?""The Secretary of State for Trade.""Oh, him. 11"Yes, him.""What sort of day did you have at the bank?" askedRaymond, not looking upfrom his papers."I had a most fascinating day," replied Kate."Why, what happened?""One of our customers required a loan," said Kate. "Aloan," repeatedRaymond, still concentrating on the file in front of him."How much?"How much do you wantT I said. How much have you gotTthey asked. Fourhundred seventeen billion at 244FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe last count, I told them. That will do tine to startwith, theysaid. Sign here, I said. But I couldnt close the dealbe--ause the ladyconcerned was only in posses.sion of a fifty poundbanking card."Raymond burst out laughing and slammed down the lid ofthe red box. "Doyou know why I love you?""My taste in mens clothes?" suggested Kate."No, no. Just your taste in men.""I always thought that mistresses were supposed to getfur coats, tripsto the Bahamas, the odd solitaire diamond, yet all Ievet get is to shareyou with your red box."Raymond opened the box once more, took out a smallpackage a;)d handedit to Kate."Whats, this?"
  • 263. "Why dont you open it and find out?"Kate slipped off the purple Asprey paper and foundinside an exquisitelymade miniature solid-gold replica of the red box on agold chain. Theneat lettering on the side of the lid read, "For YourEyes Only."*Although they dont announce the birthdays ofMinisters mistresses inthe Sunday Tinies, I havent forgotten the apniversaryof the day wemet."24519ONCE THE CHANCELLOR had presented his budget, in November1976, the longprocess of the Finance Bifl, confirming all the newmeasures proposed, fullyoccupied the House. Charles, although not a member of thefront-benchFinance team, regularly took the lead among backbencherson clauses on whichhe had a specialists knowledge.He and Chve Reynolds studied the new Finance Billmeticulously and betweenthem picked out the seven clauses that would have anadverse effect onbanking.Reynolds guided Charles through each clause, suggestingchanges, rewording,and on some occasions presenting an argument fordeleting whole sections ofthe bill. Charles learned quickly and was soon addinghis own ideas; one ortwo made even Clive Reynolds reconsider. After Charleshad put forwardamendments to the House on three of the clauses, bothfront benches becamerespectfully attentive whenever he rose to present acase. One morning,after the Governments defeat on a clause relating tobanking loans, he
  • 264. received a note of congratulation from MargaretThatcher.The clause Charles most wanted to see removed from246FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe bill concerned a clients right to privacy whendealing with amerchant bank. The Shadow Chancellor was aware ofCharless specializedknowledge on this subject and invited him to -,peak outon Clause 110 fromthe front bench. Charles realized that if he could defeatthe Governmenton this clause he might be invited to join the ShadowFinance team.The Whips estimated that Clause 110 on banking privacywould be reachedsometime on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday morningCharles rehearsed hisarguments thoroughly with Clive Reynolds, who had onlyone or two rainoramendments to add before Charles set off for the House.When he arrivedat the Commons there was a note on the message boardasking him to phonethe Shadow Chancellor immediately."The Government is going to accept a Liberal amendmenttabled late lastnight," the Shadow Chancellor told him."Why?" said Charles."Minirmim change is what theyre really after, but itgets them off thehook and at the same time keeps the Liberal vote intact.In essence,nothing of substance has changed, but youll need tostudy the wordingcarefully. Can I leave you to handle the problem?""Certainly," said Charles, pleased with theresponsibility with whichthey were now entrusting him.He walked down the long corridor to the vote office andpicked up the
  • 265. sheet with Clause 110 on it and the proposed Liberalamendment. He readthem both through half a dozen times before he startedto make notes.Parliamentary counsel, with their usual expertise, hadproduced aningenious amendment. Charles ducked into a nearby phonebooth and rangClive Reynolds at the bank. Charles dictated theamendment over the phoneto him and then remained silent for a moment whileReynolds consideredits implications."Clever bunch otsharpies. Its a cosmeticjob, but it 247FIRST AMONG EQUALSwont change the power it invests in the Government oneiota. Were youthinking of returning to the bank? That would give metime to work on it.""No," said Charles. "Are you free for lunch?"Clive Reynolds checked his diary. A Belgian banker wouldbe lunching inthe boardroom but his cofleagues could handle that."Yes, Im free.""Good," said Charles. "Why dont you join me at Whitesaround oneoclock?"-Thank you," said Reynolds. "By then I should have hadenough time tocome up with some credible alternatives."Charles spent the rest of the morning rewriting hisspeech, which hehoped would counter the Labour argument and make themreconsider theirposition. If it met with Reynoldss imprimatur, the daycould still behis. He read through the clause once more, convinced hehad found a waythrough the loophole the civil servants couldnt block.He placed hisspeech and the amended clause in his inside pocket, wentdown to themembers entrance and jumped into a waiting taxi.
  • 266. As the cab drove up St. Jamess, Charles thought he sawhis wife comingdown the opposite side of the road. He rolled down thewindow to be sure,but she had disappeared into Pruniers. He wondered withwhich of hergirlfriends she was lunching. The cab traveled on up St.Jamess and cameto a halt outside Whites.Charles found he was a few minutes early so he decidedto walk down toPruniers and ask Fiona if she would like to come to theHouse afterlunch and hear him oppose the finance clause. Reachingthe restaurant,he glanced through the window. Charles froze on thespot. Fiona waschatting at the bar with a man whose back was toCharles, but he thoughthe recognized his profile. Charles noticed that his wifewas wearing adress he had never seen before. He didnt move as hewatched a waiterbow, then guide the pair toward a comer table 248FIRST AMONG EQUALSwhere they were conveniently out of sight. Charlessfirst instinct wasto march straight in and confront them, but he heldhimself in check.For what seemed a long time he stood alone, uncertainwhat to do next.Finally he crossed back over to St. Jamess and stood inthe doorway ofthe Economist Building going over several plans. In theend he decidedto do nothing but wait. He stood there so cold and soincensed that lietotally forgot about his lunch appointment with CtiveReynolds a fewhundred yards up the road.An hour and twenty minutes later the man came out ofPruniers alone an~lheaded up St. Jamess. Charles felt a sense of relief
  • 267. until he saw himturn into St. Jamess Place. A few minutes later Fionastepped out of therestaurant and followed in the mans footsteps. Charlescrossed the road,causing one cab to swerve while another motorist slammedon her brakes.He didnt notice. He shadowed his wife, careful to keepa safe distance,When she reached the far end of the street he watchedFiona enter theStafford Hotel. Once she was through the revolving doorsFiona steppedinto an empty elevator.Charles came up to the revolving doors and stared at thelittle numbersabove the elevator, watching them fight up in successionuntil theystopped at four.Charles marched through the revolving doors and up tothe reception desk."Can I help you, sir?" the hall porter asked."Er-is the dining room in this hotel on the fourthfloor?" asked Charles."No, sir," replied the hall porter, surprised. "Thedining room is on theground floor to your left." He indicated the way with asweep of hishand. "There are only bedrooms on the fourth floor.""Thank you," said Charles and marched back outside.249FIRST AMONG EQUALSHe returned slowly to the Economist Building, where hewaited for nearlytwo hours pacing up and down St. Jamess Place beforethe man emerged fromthe Stafford Hotel. Alexander Dalglish hailed a taxi anddisappeared in thedirection of Piccadilly.Fiona left the hotel about twenty minutes later and tookthe path throughthe park before setting off toward Eaton Square. On
  • 268. three occasions Charleshad to fall back to be certain Fiona didnt spot him;once he was so closehe thought he saw a smile of satisfaction on her face.He had followed his wife most of the way across St.Jamess Park when hesuddenly remembered. He checked his watch, then dashedback to theroadside, hailed a taxi and shouted, "The House ofCommons, as fast as youcan." The cabby took seven minutes and Charles passedhim two pound notesbefore running up the steps into the members lobby andthrough to thechamber out of breath. He stopped by thesergeant-atarmss chair.From the table where he sat during committee of thewhole House, thechairman of Ways and Means faced a packed House. He readfrom the divisionlist.THE AYES TO THE RIGHT, 294 THE NOS TO THE LEFT, 293THE AYES HAVE IT,THE AYES HAVE IT.The Government benches cheered and the Conservativeslooked distinctlyglum. "What clause were they debating?" a stillout-of-breath Charles askedthe sergeant-at-arms."Clause One Hundred and Ten, Mr. Hampton."Simon was in Manchester as a guest of the businessschool when he receivedElizabeths message to call her.250FIRST AMONG EQUALSIt was most unusual for Elizabeth to phone in the middleof the day andSimon assumed the worst. Something must have happened tothe children. The
  • 269. principal of the business school accompanied Simon to hisprivate office,then left him alone.Doctor Kerslake was not at the hospital, he was told,which made him evenmore anxious. He dialed the Beaufort Street number.Elizabeth picked up the receiver so quickly that shemust have beensitting by the phone waiting for him to call."Ive lost myjob," she said."What?" said Simon, unable to comprehend."Ive been made redundant-isnt that the modem termmeant to lessen theblow? The hospital governors have been instructed by theDepartment ofHealth and Social Security to make cutbacks, and threeof us in gy-necology have lost our jobs. I go at the end of themonth.""Darling, Im sorry," he said, knowing how inadequatehis words mustsound."I didnt mean to bother you, but I just wanted someoneto talk to," shesaid. "Everyone else is allowed to complain to their MP,so I thought itwas my turn.""Normally what I do in these circumstances is to put theblame on theLabour Party." Simon was relieved to hear Elizabethlaugh."Thanks for ringing me back so quickly, darling. See youtomorrow," shesaid and put the phone down.Simon returned to his group and explained that he had toleave for Londonimmediately. He took a taxi to the airport and caughtthe next shuttleto Heathrow. He was back at Beaufort Street within threehours."I didnt want you to come home," Elizabeth saidcontritely when she sawhim on the doorstep."Ive come back to celebrate," Simon said. "Lets
  • 270. 251FIRST AMONG EQUALSopen the bottle of champagne that Ronnie gave us when heclosed the dealwith Morgan Grenfell.""Why9""Because Ronnie taught me one thing. You should alwayscelebratedisasters, not successes."Simon hung up his coat and went off in search of thechampagne. When hereturned with the bottle and two glasses Elizabethasked, "Whats youroverdraft looking like nowadays?""Down to sixteen thousand pounds, give or take a pound.""Well, thats another problem then-I wont be giving anypounds in thefuture, only taking."Simon embraced his wife. "Dont he silly. Someone willsnap you up.""It wont be quite that easy," said Elizabeth."Why not?" asked Simon, trying to sound cheerful."Because I had already been warned about whether Iwanted to be apoliticians wife or a doctor."Simon was stunned. "I had no idea," he said. "Im sosorry.""It was my choice, darling, but I will have to make oneor two decisionsif I want to remain in medicine, especially if youregoing to become aMinister.""You mustnt be allowed to give up being a doctor. Itsevery bit asimportant as wanting to be a Minister. Shall I have aword with GerryVaughan? As Shadow Minister of Health he might-""Certainly not, Simon. If I am to get another job, itllbe withoutanyone doing you or me a favor."Raymonds first trip to the States was at the behest of
  • 271. the Secretary ofState for Trade. He was asked to present the countrysexport and importassessment to the International Monetary Fund, followingup a loangranted to Britain the previous November. His civilservants went252FIRST AMONG EQUALSover the prepared speech with him again and again,emphasizing to theirMinister the responsibility that had been placed on hisshoulders.Raymonds speech was scheduled for Wednesday morning. Heflew intoWashington on the Sunday before and spent Monday andTuesday listeningto the problems of other nations trade ministers whiletrying to getused to the dreadful earphones and the femaleinterpreters.The night before he was to deliver his speech, Raymondhardly slept. Hecontinued to rehearse each crucial phrase and repeatedthe salient pointsthat needed to be emphasized until he almost knew themby heart. At threeoclock in the morning he dropped his speech on thefloor beside his bedand phoned Kate to have a chat before she went to work."Id enjoy hearing your speech at the conference," shetold him."Although I dont suppose it would be much differentfrom the thirtytimes Ive listened to it in the bedroom."All the homework and preparation proved to beworthwhile. By the time heturned the last page Raymond couldnt be certain howconvincing his casehad been, but he knew it was the best speech he had everdelivered. Whenhe looked up, the smiles all around the oval table
  • 272. assured him that hiscontribution had been a triumph. As the Britishambassador pointed outto him when he rose to leave, any signs of emotion atthese gatheringswere almost unknown.At the end of the afternoon sessions Raymond walked outinto the clearWashington air and decided to make his way back to theEmbassy on foot.He was exhilarated by the experience of dominating aninternationalconference. He quickened his pace. Just the closing dayto go, followedby the official banquet, and he would be back home bythe weekend.253FIRST AMONG EQUALSWhen he reached the Embassy the guard had todouble-check. they werentused to Ministers arriving on foot and without abodyguard. Raymond wasallowed to proceed down the tree-lined drive toward themassive LutyensBuilding. He looked up to see the British flag flying athalf-mast andwondered which distinguished American had died."Who has died?" he asked the tailcoated butler whoopened the door forhim."One of your countrymen, sir, Im sorry to say. TheForeign Secretary.""Anthony Crosland? But I had lunch with him only lastweek," saidRaymond. He hurried into the Embassy to find it abuzzwith telexes andmessages.Raymond sat alone in his room for several hours andlater, to the horrorof the security staff, slipped out for a solitary dinnerat the MayflowerHotel.
  • 273. Raymond returned to the conference table at nine oclockthe next morningto hear the closing speeches. He was savoring thethought of the officialbanquet at the White House to be held that evening whenhe was tapped onthe shoulder by Sir Peter Ramsbotham, who indicated theymust have a wordin private."The Prime Minister wants you to return on themidmorning Concorde," saidSir Peter. "It leaves in an hour. On arrival in Britainyoure to gostraight to Downing Street.""Whats this all about?""I have no idea. Thats the only instruction Ivereceived from NumberTen," confided the ambassador.Raymond returned to the conference table and made hisapologies to thechairman, left the room and was driven immediately tothe waiting plane."Your bags will follow, sir," he was assured.He was back on English soil three hours and forty-oneminutes later. Thepurser ensured that he was the first to254FIRST AMONG EQUALSdisembark. A car waiting by the side of the plane whiskedhim to DowningStreet. He arrived just as the Prime Minister was goinginto dinneraccompanied by an elderly African statesman."Welcome home, Ray," said the Prime Minister, leavingthe African leader."Id ask you to join us, but as you can see Im tied uphere. Lets havea word in my study."Once Raymond had settled into a chair opposite the PrimeMinister, Mr.Callaghan wasted no time. "Because of Tonys tragicdeath, I have had to
  • 274. make a few changes which will include moving theSecretary of State forTrade. I was hoping you would be willing to take overfrom him."Raymond sat up straighter. "I should be honored, PrimeMinister.""Good. Youve earned the promotion, Raymond. I also hearyou did us proudin America, very proud.""Thank you.""Youll be appointed to the Privy Council immediatelyand your firstCabinet meeting will be at ten oclock tomorrow morning.Now if youllexcuse me, I must catch up with Dr. Banda."Raymond was left standing in the hall.He asked his driver to take him back to the flat. On thejourney hereflected with satisfaction that he was the first fromhis intake to bemade a Cabinet Minister. All he wanted to do was to tellKate the news.When he arrived, the flat was empty; then he rememberedshe wasntexpecting him back until the next day. He phoned herhome, but aftertwenty continuous rings he resigned himself to the factthat she was out."Damn," he said out loud and after pacing around phonedJoyce to let herknow the news. Once again there was no reply.He went into the kitchen and checked to see what was255FIRST AMONG kQUALSin the fridge: a piece of curled-up bacon, some halfeatenBrie andthree eggs. He couldnt help thinking about the banquethe was missingat the White House.The Right Honorable Raymond Gould, QC, MP, Her BritannicMajestysPrincipal Secretary of State for Trade, sat on the
  • 275. kitchen stool,opened a tin of baked beans and devoured them with afork.256-P-ART FOURThe LabourCabinet1977-197820CHARLES CLOSED THE FILE. It had taken him a month togather all the proofhe needed. Albert Cruddick, the private investigatorCharles had selectedfrom the yellow pages, had been expensive but discreet,Dates, times,places were all fully chronicled. The only name was thatof AlexanderDalglish, the same rendezvous, lunch at Pruniersfollowed by the StaffordHotel. They hadnt stretched Mr. Cruddicks imagination,but at least theprivate detective had spared Charles the necessity ofstanding in theentrance of the Economist Building once, sometimes twicea week, for hourson end.Somehow he had managed to get through that month withoutgiving himselfaway. He had also made his own notes of the dates andtimes Fiona claimedshe was going to be in the constituency. He had thencalled his campaignmanager in Sussex Downs and, after veiled questioning,elicited answersthat corroborated Mr. Cruddicks findings.Charles saw as little of Fiona as possible during thistime, explainingthat the Finance Bill was occupying his every moment.His lie had atleast a semblance of credi-
  • 276. 259FIRST AMONG EQUALSbility for he had worked tirelessly on the remainingclauses left fordebate, and by the time the watereddown bill had becomelaw he had justabout recovered from the disaster ofthe Governmentssuccessful retentionof Clause 110.Charles placed the file on the table by the side of hischair and waitedpatiently for the call. He knew exactly where she was atthat moment andjust the thought of it made him sick to his stomach. Thephone rang."The subject left five minutes ago," said a voice."Thank you," said Charles and replaced the receiver, Heknew it wouldtake her about twenty minutes to reach home."Why do you think she walks home instead of taking ataxi?" he had onceasked Mr. Cruddick."Gets rid of any smells," Mr. Cruddick had replied quitematter-of-factly.Charles shuddered. "And what about him? What does hedo?" He never couldrefer to him as Alexander, or even Dalglish-never asanything but "him.""He goes to the Lansdowne Club, swims ten lengths orplays a game ofsquash before returning home. Swimming and squash bothsolve theproblem," Mr. Cruddick explained cheerily.The key turned in the lock. Charles braced himself andpicked up thefile. Fiona came straight into the drawing room and wasvisibly shakento discover her husband sitting in an armchair with asmaH suitcase byhis side.She recovered quickly, walked over and kissed him on thecheck. "What
  • 277. brings you home so early, darling? The Labourites takenthe day off?" Shelaughed nervously at her joke."This," lie said, standing up and holding the file outto her.She took off her coat and dropped it over the sofa. Thenshe opened thebuff folder and started to read. He260FIRST AMONG EQUALSwatched her carefully. First the color drained from hercheeks, then herlegs gave way and she collapsed onto the sofa. Finallyshe started to sob."Its not true, none of it," she protested."You know very well that every detail is accurate.""Charles, its you I love, I dont care about him, youmust believe that.""Youre no longer someone I could live with," saidCharles."Live with? Ive been living on my own since the day youenteredParliament.""Perhaps I might have come home more often if you hadshown some interestin starting a family.""And do you imagine I am to blame?" she said.Charles ignored the comment and continued. "In a fewmoments I am going tomy club, where I shall spend the night. I expect you tobe out of thishouse within seven days. When I return I want there tobe no sign of you orany of your goods or chattels, to quote the ofiginalagreement.""Where will I go?" she cried."You could try your lover first, but no doubt his wifemight object.Failing that, you can camp at your fathersplace.""What if I refuse to go?" said Fiona, turning todefiance.
  • 278. "Then I shall throw you out, as one should a whore, andcite AlexanderDalglish in a very messy divorce case.""Give me another chance. Ill never look at him again,"begged Fiona,starting to cry once more."I seem to remember your telling me that once before,and indeed I did giveyou another chance. The results have been all too plainto see." He pointedto the file where it had fallen to the floor.Fiona stopped weeping when she realized that Charlesremained unmoved.261FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I shall not see you again. We shall be separated for atleast two years,when we will carry through as quiet a divorce aspossible in thecircumstances. If you cause me any embarrassment I shalldrag you boththrough the mire. Believe me.""Youll regret your decision, Charles. I promise youllregret it."She knew she had to plan the whole operation so that herhusband wouldnever find out. She sat alone in the house consideringthe severalalternative ways in which she could deceive him. Afterhours ofunproductive thought the idea finally came in a flash.She went over theproblems and repercussions again and again until she wasconvinced thatnothing could go wrong. She leafed through the YellowPages and made anappointment for the next morning.The saleslady helped her to try on several wigs, butonly one wasbearable."I think it makes madam look most elegant, I must say."
  • 279. She knew that it didnt-it made madam look awful-but shehoped it wouldserve its purpose.She then applied the eye makeup and lipstick she hadacquired at Harrods,and pulled out from the back of her closet a floralprint dress she hadnever liked. She stood in front of the mirror andchecked herself. Surelyno one would recognize her in Sussex, and she prayedthat if he found outhe would be forgiving.She left and drove slowly toward the outskirts ofLondon. How would sheexplain herself if she was caught? Would he remainunderstanding when hediscovered the truth? When she reached the constituencyshe parked thecar in a side road and walked up and down the HighStreet. No one showedany sign of recognition, which gave her the confidenceto go through withit. And then she saw him.262FIRST AMONG EQUALSShe had hoped hed be in the city that morning. She heldher breath as hewalked toward her. As he passed she said, "Goodmorning." He turned andsmiled, replying with a casual "Good morning," as hemight to anyconstituent. Her heartbeat returned to normal and shewent back to find hercar.She drove off completely reassured she could now getaway with it. She wentover once again what she was going to say. Then all toosuddenly she hadarrived. She parked the car outside the house opposite,got out and bravelywalked up the path.
  • 280. As Raymond stood outside the Cabinet room, several ofhis colleagues cameover to congratulate him. At exactly ten oclock thePrime Minister walkedin, bade everyone good morning and took his place at thecenter of theoblong table, while the other twenty-one members of theCabinet filed inbehind him and took their seats. The Leader of theHouse, Michael Foot, saton his left, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer andthe Foreign Secre-tary were placed opposite him. Raymond was directed to aseat at the end ofthe table between the Secretary of State for Wales andthe Minister for theArts."I would like to start the meeting," said the PrimeMinister, "by welcomingDavid Owen as Foreign Secretary and Raymond Gould asSecretary of State forTrade." The other twenty-one Cabinet members murmured"Hear, hear" in adiscreetly conservative way. David Owen smiled slightly;Raymond loweredhis eyes."Perhaps, Chancellor, you would be kind enough to startus off."Raymond sat back and decided that today he would onlylisten.When Charles returned home he knew at once Fiona hadleft. He felt animmediate sense of relief. After a week at his club, hewas glad thecharade was over,263FIRST AMONG EQUALSa clean, irrevocable break. He strolled into the drawingroom and stopped:something was wrong. It took him a few moments before herealized what she
  • 281. had done.Fiona had removed every one of the family paintings.No Wellington above the fireplace, no Victoria behindthe sofa. Where thetwo Turners and the Constable had hung, there werenothing more than thindusty outlines indicating the size of each picture shehad removed. Hewalked to the library: the Van Dyck, the Murillo and thetwo smallRembrandts were also missing. Charles ran down the hall.It couldnt bepossible, he thought, as he threw open the dining-roomdoor. It was. Hestared at the blank wall where only the previous weekthe Holbeinportrait of the first Earl of Bridgewater had hung.Charles scrabbled in the back of his pocket diary forthe number anddialed it frantically. Mr. Cruddick listened to thestory in silence."Remembering how sensitive you are about publicity, Mr.Hampton, thereare two avenues of approach," he began in his normallevel tone andsounding unperturbed. "You can grin and bear it, or thealternative isone I have used often in the past . . ."Because of the demands of his new job Raymond saw lessof Kate, andalmost nothing of Joyce apart from his twice monthlyvisits to Leeds. Heworked from eight in the morning until he fell asleep atnight."And you love every minute of it," Kate reminded himwhenever hecomplained. Raymond had also become aware of the subtlechanges that hadtaken place in his life since he had become a member ofthe Cabinet-4heway he was treated by other people, how quickly hisslightest whim wasgranted, how flattery fell from almost every tongue. He
  • 282. began to enjoythe change264FIRST AMONG EQUALSin status, although Kate reminded him that only the Queencould afford toget used to it.At the Party conference that year he was nominated for aplace on thenational executive board of the Labour Party. Althoughhe failed to beelected, he managed to finish ahead of several otherCabinet Ministers andpolled only a few votes less than Neil Kinnock, who wasfast becoming thenew darling of the unions.Jamie Sinclair and he had what was becoming theirtraditional lunchtogether on the third day of the Party conference. Jamietold Raymond ofhis distress at the Partys continued drift to the left."If some of those resolutions on defense are passed, mylife will be madeimpossible," he said, slicing into an end cut of roastbeef."The hotheads always put up resolutions that are neverallowed more than atoken discussion.""Token discussion be damned. Some of their mad ideas arebeginning to gaincredence, which, translated, could become Party policy.""Any particular resolution worrying you?" asked Raymond."Yes, Tony Benns latest proposal that members must bereelected beforeevery election. His idea of democracy andaccountability.""Why should you fear that?""If your management committee is taken over by half adozen Reds they canreverse a decision fifty thousand voters have previouslyagreed on.""Youre overreacting, Jamie."
  • 283. "Raymond, if we lose the next election I can see a splitin the Party thatwill be so great we may never recover.""Theyve been saying that in the Labour Party since theday it wasfounded.""I hope youre right, but I fear times have changed,"265FIRST AMONG EQUALSsaid Jamie. "Not so long ago it was you who envied me.""That can changeagain." Raymond abandoned the beef, waved his hand andasked the waitressto bring two large brandies.Charles picked up the phone and dialed a number he hadnot needed to lookup. The new young Portuguese maid answered."Is Lady Fiona at home?""Lady no home, sir.""Do you know where she is?" asked Charles, speakingslowly and clearly."Go down to country, expect back six oclock. Takemessage please?""No, thank you," said Charles. "Ill call this evening."He replaced thereceiver.As always, the reliable Mr. Cruddick was proved rightabout Fionasmovements. Charles called him immediately. They agreedto meet as plannedin twenty minutes.He drove into the Boltons, parked on the far side of theroad a few yardsfrom his father-in-laws house and settled down to wait.A few minutes later a large anonymous moving van camearound the cornerand stopped outside number 36. Mr. Cruddick jumped outfrom the driversseat. He was dressed in long brown overalls and a flatcap. He was joinedby a young assistant who unlocked the back of the van.
  • 284. Mr. Cruddicknodded to Charles before proceeding up the steps to thefront door.The Portuguese maid answered when he pressed the bell."We have come to collect the goods for Lady Hampton.""No understand," said the maid.Mr. Cruddick removed from an inside pocket a long266FIRST AMONG EQUALStypewritten letter on Lady Hamptons personal stationery.The Portuguesemaid was unable to read the words of a letter hermistress had addressed toHurlingham Croquet Club agreeing to be their LadiesPresident, but sheimmediately recognized the letterhead and the signature,Fiona Hampton. Shenodded and opened the door wider. All Mr. Cruddickscarefully laid planswere failing into place.Mr. Cruddick tipped his hat, the sign for Mr. Hampton tojoin them. Charlesgot out of the car cautiously, checking both ways beforehe crossed theroad. He felt uncomfortable in brown overalls, and hehated the cap Mr.Cruddick had supplied for him. It was a little small andCharles wasacutely conscious how strange he must look, but thePortuguese maidapparently didnt notice the incongruity between hisaristocratic mien andhis workingmans overalls. It did not take long todiscover the whereaboutsof the paintings, Many were stacked up in the hall, andonly one or two hadalready been hung.Forty minutes later the three men had located and loadedin the van all butone of them. The Holbein portrait of the first Earl ofBridgewater wasnowhere to be found.
  • 285. "We ought to be on our way," suggested Mr. Cruddick alittle nervously, butCharles refused to give up the search. For anotherthirty-five minutes Mr.Cruddick sat tapping the wheel of the van before Charlesfinally concededthat the painting must have been taken elsewhere. Mr.Cruddick tipped hishat to the maid while his partner locked up the back ofthe van."A valuable picture, Mr. Hampton?" he inquired."A family heirloom that would fetch two million atauction," said Charlesmatter-of-factly before returning to his car."Silly question, Albert Cruddick," said Mr. Cruddick267FIRST AMONG EQUALSto himselfas he pulled out from the curb and drove towardEaton Square. Whenthey arrived, the locksmith had replaced all three lockson the front doorand was waiting on the top step impatiently."Strictly cash, guvnor. No receipt. Makes it possiblefor the missus andme to go to Ibiza each year, tax free."By the time Fiona had returned to the Boltons from hertrip to Sussex,every picture was back in its place at Eaton Square withthe exception ofHolbeins first Earl of Bridgewater. Mr. Cruddick hadleft clutching alarge check and uttering the mollifying view that Mr.Hampton wouldprobably have to grin and bear it."Im delighted," said Simon, when he heard the news."And at PucklebridgeGeneral Hospital?""Yes, I answered an advertisement in the medical journalfor the post ofgeneral consultant in the maternity section.""Our name must have helped there."
  • 286. "Certainly not," said Elizabeth vehemently."How come?""I didnt apply as Dr. Kerslake. I filled out theapplication form in mymaiden name of Drummond."Simon was momentarily silenced. "But they would haverecognized you," heprotested."I had the full frontal treatment from Est6e Lauder toinsure they didnt.The final effect fooled even you.""Dont exaggerate," said Simon."I walked straight past you in Pucklebridge High Street,and said Goodmorning, and you returned the greeting."Simon stared at her in disbelief. "But what will happenwhen they findout?""They already have," replied Elizabeth sheepishly. "Assoon as they offeredme the post I went down to see268FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe senior consultant and told him the truth. He hasntstopped tellingeveryone since.""He wasnt cross?""Far from it. In fact, he said I nearly failed to beoffered the postbecause he felt I wouldnt be safe let loose on theunmarried doctors.""What about this married politician?"26921WHEN QUEEN ELIZABETH ii opened the new undergroundextension to HeathrowAirport on December 16, 1977, Raymond was the Ministercommanded to bepresent. Joyce made one of her rare trips down to London,as they were
  • 287. invited to join the Queen for lunch after the ceremony.When Joyce selected her new dress from Marks andSpencer, she stood inthe little cubicle behind a drawn curtain to make sureit was possiblefor her to curtsey properly. "Good morning, YourMajesty," she practicedwith a slight wobble, to the bernusement of the shopassistant waitingpatiently outside.By the time she had returned to the flat, Joyce wasconfident that shecould carry out her part in the proceedings as well asany courtier. Asshe prepared for Raymonds return from the morningCabinet meeting, shehoped he would be pleased with her efforts. She hadgiven up any hope ofbeing a mother, but she still wanted him to believe shewas a good wife.Raymond had forewarned her that he would have to changeas soon as hearrived at the flat to be sure of being at Green Parkbefore the Queenarrived. After270FIRST AMONG EQUALSthey had accompanied an entourage to Heathrow on the newextension, ajourneythat would take thirty minutes, they were to return toBuckingham Palace forlunch. Raymond had already come in contact with hismonarch on severaloccasions in his official capacity as a Cabinet Minister,but for Joyce itwas to be the first time she had been presented.Once she had had her bath and dressed-she knew Raymondwould never forgiveher if she made him late-she began to lay out hisclothes. Tailcoat, graypinstriped trousers, white shirt, stiff collar and asilvergray tie, all
  • 288. hired that morning from Moss Brothers. All that he stillneeded was a cleanwhite handkerchief for his top pocket, just showing in astraight line,like the Duke of Edinburgh always wore his.Joyce rummaged around in Raymonds chest of drawers,admiring his newshirts as she searched for a handkerchief. When shefirst saw the scribblednote peeking out of the breast pocket of a pink shirtlying near the bottomof the pile, she assumed it must be an old cleaningbill. Then she spottedthe word "Darling." She felt suddenly sick as she lookedmore closely.Darling Red,If you ever wear this one I might even agree tomarry you.KA TEJoyce sank on the end of the bed as the tears trickleddown her face. Herperfect day was shattered. She knew at once what courseof action she musttake. She replaced the sbirt and closed the drawer,after first removingthe note, and then sat alone in the drawing room waitingfor Raymond toreturn.He arrived back at the flat with only a few minutes tospare and wasdelighted to find his wife changed and ready.271FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Im running it a bit close," he said, going straightinto the bedroom.Joyce followed and watched him don his morningdresssuit. When he hadstraightened his tie in the mirror, she faced him."What do you think?" he asked, not noticing the slightpaleness in her
  • 289. cheeks.She hesitated. "You look fantastic, Raymond. Now comealong or well belate, and that would never do."In 1978, the House passed a resolution allowing theproceedings in theCommons to be broadcast on the radio.Simon had supported the motion on broadcasting, puttingforward theargument that radio was a further extension ofdemocracy, as it showedthe House at work and allowed the voters to know exactlywhat theirelected representatives were up to. Simon listenedcarefully to a numberof his supplementary questions and realized for thefirst time that hehad spoke a little too quickly when he had a Minister onthe run.Raymond, on the other hand, did not support the motion,as he suspectedthat the cries of "Hear, hear," and the heckling of thePrime Ministerwould sound to listeners like schoolchildren in aplayground squabble.Overhearing the words with only ones imagination to setthe scene would,he believed, create a false impression about the manyaspects of amembers daily duties. When one evening Raymond heard aparliamentary de-bate in which he had taken part, he was delighted todiscover that theforce of his arguments carried so much conviction.Charles found the morning program an excellent way ofcatching up withany proceedings he missed the previous day. As he nowwoke each morningalone, "Yesterday in Parliament" became his constantcompanion. He272FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 290. hadnt been aware how upper class he sounded until thetime he followed TomCarson. He had no intention of changing for the radio.When Ronnie Nethercote invited him to lunch at the Ritz,Simon knew thingsmust be looking up again. After a drink in the lounge,they were ushered toa corner table overlooking the park in the most palatialdining room inLondon. Scattered around the other tables were men whowere household namesin Ronnies world as well as in Simons.When the head waiter offered them menus Ronnie waved hishand and said,"Order the country vegetable soup, followed by beefoffthe trolley, take myword for it.""Sounds like a safe bet," said Simon."Unlike our last little venture." Ronnie grunted. "Howmuch are you stillin hock because of the collapse of Nethercote andCompany?""Fourteen thousand three hundred pounds when I lastlooked, but Im makinginroads slowly. Its paying the interest before you cancut down on thecapital that really hurts.""How do you imagine I felt when we were overdrawn sevenmill, and then thebank decided to pull the rug from under my feet withoutany warning?""As two of the buttons on your waistcoat can no longerreach the holes theywere originally tailored for, Ronnie, I must assumethose problems are nowa thing of the past.""Youre right." He laughed. "Which is why I invited youto lunch. The onlyperson who ended up losing money on that deal was you.If youd stayed onas the other directors did, with your whack of fivegrand a year the
  • 291. company would still owe you eleven thousand pounds ofearned income."273FIRST AMONG EQUALSSimon groaned.The carver wheeled the trolley of beef up to theirtable."Wait a moment, my boy, I havent even begun. MorganGrenfell wants meto change the structure of the new company and will beinjecting a largeamount of cash. At the moment Whitechapel Properties-Ihope you approveof the name-is still a one-hundred-pound off-the-shelfcompany. I ownsixty percent and the banks got forty. Now before thenew agreement issigned, Im going to offer you-""Would you like it well done, as usual, Mr. Nethercote?""Yes, Sam," said Ronnie, slipping the carver a poundnote."I am going to offer you----""And your guest, sir?" the carver said, glancing atSimon."Medium, please.""Yes, sir.""I am going to offer you one percent of the new company,in other wordsone share."Simon didnt comment, feeling confident Ronnie stillhadnt finished."Arent you going to ask?" said Ronnie."Ask what?" said Simon."You politicians get dumber by the minute. If I am goingto offer you ashare, how much do you think I am going to demand inreturn?""Well, I cant believe its going to be one pound," saidSimon grinning."Wrong," said Ronnie. "One percent of the company isyours for onepound."
  • 292. "Will that be sufficient, sir?" said the carver, puttinga plate of beefin front of Simon."Hold it, Sam," said Ronnie before Simon could274FIRST AMONG EQUALSreply. "I repeat Im offering you one percent of thecompany for one pound;now ask your question again, Sam.""Will that be sufficient, sir?" repeated the carver."Its most generous," said Simon."Did you hear that, Sam?""I certainly did, sir.""Right, Simon, you owe me a pound."Simon laughed, removed his wallet from his insidepocket, took out a poundnote and handed it over."Now the purpose of that little exercise," said Ronnie,turning back to thecarver and pocketing the note, "was to prove that Samhere isnt the onlyperson who could make a quid for himself thisafternoon." Sam smiled,having no idea what Mr. Nethercote was talking about,and placed a largeplate of well-done beef in front of him.Ronnie took out an envelope from his inside pocket andpassed it to Simon."Do I open it now?" asked Simon."Yes-I want to see your reaction."Simon opened the envelope and studied its contents: acertificate for oneshare in the new company with a true value of over tenthousand pounds."Well, well, what do you say?" asked Ronnie."Im speechless," said Simon."First politician Ive known whos ever suffered fromthat problem."Simon laughed. "Thank you, Ronnie. Its an incrediblygenerous gesture.""No its not. You were loyal to the old company-so whyshouldnt you
  • 293. prosper with the new one?""That reminds me, does the name Archie Millburn meananything to you?"Simon asked suddenly.Ronnie hesitated. "No, no, should it?""Only that I thought he might be the man who con-275FIRST AMONG EQUALSvinced Morgan Grenfell that you were worth bailing out.""No, that name doesnt ring any bells with me. Mind you,Morgan Grenfellhas never admitted where they obtained their informationfrom, but theyknew every last detail about the old company. But if Icome across thename Millburn Ill let you know. Enough of business.Fill me in on whatshappening in your world. Hows your lady wife?""Deceiving me.""Deceiving you?""Yes, sties been putting on wigs and dressing up instrange clothes."Finally, Charles knew he had to discuss with his lawyer,Sir DavidNapley, what could be done about the stolen Holbein. Sixweeks and eighthundred pounds later, he was told that if he sued, theHolbein mighteventually be returned, but not before the episode hadbeen on the frontpage of every newspaper. Charles had Albert Cruddicksopinion confirmed:"Grin and bear it."Fiona had been out of touch for well over a year whenthe letter came.Charles immediately recognized her hand and ripped openthe envelope.Only one glance at her handwriting was enough to makehim tear up themissive and deposit the little pieces in the wastepaperbasket by hisdesk. He left for the Commons in a rage.
  • 294. All through the day he thought of the one word he hadtaken in from thescrawled words: Holbein. When Charles returned from theCommons after theten oclock division, he searched for the remains of theletter, whichthe cleaning woman had conscientiously deposited in thedustbin. Afterrummaging among potato peelings, eggshells, and emptycans Charles spentover an hour taping the little pieces of paper together.Then he read theletter carefully.276FIRST AMONG EQUALS36 The Boltons London SW10 October 11, 1978 Dear Charles,Enough time has nowpassedfor us to try and treat eachother in acivilized way. Alexander and I wish to marry andVeronica Dalglish hasagreed to an immediate divorce and has not insisted wewait two yearsto establish legal separation."Youll have to wait every day of statutory two years,you bitch," hesaid out loud. Then he came to the one sentence forwhich he wassearching.I realize this might not immediately appeal to you, but!fyoufeel abletofall in with our plans I would be happy to return theHolbeinimmediately.Yours ever, FIONAHe crumpled up the paper in the ball of his hand beforedropping it onthe fire.Charles remained awake into the early hours considering
  • 295. his reply.The Labour Government struggled on toward the Christmasof 1978 througha session dubbed by the press as "The Winter ofDiscontent." Trying toget bills through the House, losing a clause here and aclause there, itwas only too delighted to reach the recess in one piece.Raymond spent a cold Christmas in Leeds with Joyce. Hereturned to Londonearly in the new year sadly aware it could not be longbefore theConservatives felt277FIRST AMONG EQUALSassured enough to call for a vote of no confidence in theLabourGrovernment.The debate, when it came, caused a day of intenseexcitement, not leastbecause a strike had caused the Commons bars to run dry,and thirstymembers were huddled together in the lobbies, thetearoom, the smokingroom and the dining rooms. Harassed whips rushed hitherand thitherchecking lists, ringing up hospitals, boardrooms andeven great-aunts intheir efforts to track down the last few elusivemembers.When Mrs. Thatcher rose on April seventh to address apacked House thetension was so electric that the Speaker hadconsiderable difficultykeeping control. She addressed the House in firm,strident tones whichbrought her own side to their feet when she resumed herplace. Theatmosphere was no different when it was the turn of thePrime Ministerto reply. Both Leaders made a gallant effort to rise
  • 296. above the petulanceof their adversaries but it was the Speaker who had thelast word:THE AYES rO THE MGM,, 311THE NOSTO THE LEFT, 310THE AYES HAVE IT, THE AYES HAVE IT,Pandemonium broke out. Opposition members waved theiragenda papers intriumph, knowing that James Callaghan would now have tocall a GeneralElection. He immediately announced the dissolution ofParliament, andafter an audience with the Queen, Election Day was setfor May 3, 1979.At the end of that momentous week, those few membersleft at Westminsterwere stunned by an explosion in the members parkinglot. Airey Neave,the Shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland, had been blownup by Irishterrorists as he was driving up the exit ramp to leavethe Commons. Hedied on the way to the hospital. 278FIRST AMONG EQUALSMembers hurried back to their constituencies. Raymondfound it hard toescape from his department at such short notice, butCharles and Simon wereout in their respective High Streets shaking hands withthe voters by themorning following the Queens proclamation.For three weeks the arguments about who was competent togovern went backand forth, but on May 3 the British people elected theirfirst woman PrimeMinister and gave her party a comfortable majority offorty-three in theCommons.Raymonds vote in Leeds was slightly reduced, whileJoyce won the office
  • 297. pool for predicting most accurately what her husbandsmajority would be.He was beginning to reali7e that she knew more about theconstituency thanhe ever would.A few days later, when Raymond returned to London, Katehad never seen himso depressed, and decided to hold off telling him herown news once hesaid, "God knows how many years it will be before I canbe of some useagain.""You can spend your time in Opposition making sure theGovernment doesntdismantle all your achievements.""With a majority of forty-three they could dismantle meif they wanted to,"he told her. He placed the red leather box marked"Secretary of State forTrade" in the comer, next to the ones marked "Ministerof State at theDepartment of Trade" and "Parliamentary Under Secretaryat the Departmentof Employment.""Theyre only your first three," Kate tried to reassurehim.Simon increased his majority at Pucklebridge to 19,461,notching up anotherrecord, after which he and279FIRST AMONG EQUALSElizabeth spent the weekend in their cottage with thechildren, waitingfor Mrs. Thatcher to select her team.Simon was surprised when the Prime Minister phonedpersonally and askedif he could come up to see her in Downing Street: thatwas an honorusually afforded only to Cabinet Ministers. He tried notto anticipatewhat she might have in mind.
  • 298. He duly traveled up from the country and spent thirtyminutes alone withthe new Prime Minister. When he heard what Mrs. Thatcherwanted him todo, he was impressed that she had taken the trouble tosee him in person.She knew that no member ever found it easy to accede tosuch a requestbut Simon accepted without hesitation. Mrs. Thatcheradded that noannouncement would be made until he had had time to talkhis decisionover with Elizabeth. Simon was touched by her personalconsideration.Simon thanked her and traveled back to his cottage inPucklebridge.Elizabeth sat in silence as she listened to Simonsaccount of hisconversation with the Prime Minister."Oh, my God," she said, when he had finished. "Sheoffered you the chanceto be Minister of State, but in return well have nocertainty of peacefor the rest of our lives.""I can still say no," Simon assured her."That would be the act of a coward," said Elizabeth,"and youve neverbeen that.""Then Ill phone the Prime Minister and tell her Iaccept.""I ought to congratulate you," she said. "But it nevercrossed my mindfor one moment...."Charless was one of the few Tory seats in which themajority went down.A missing wife is hard to explain, especially when it iscommon knowledgethat she is liv-280FIRST AMONG EQUALSing with the former chairman of the adjoining
  • 299. constituency.Charles had faced a certain degree of embarrassment withhis localcommittee and he made sure that the one woman whocouldnt keep her mouthshut was told his version of the story "in strictestconfidence." Anytalk of removing him had died when it was rumored thatCharles wouldstand as an independent candidate if replaced.When the vote was counted, Sussex Downs still returnedCharles toWestminster with a majority of 20,176. He sat alone ittEaton Square overthe weekend, but no one contacted him. He read in theMonday Telegraphthe full composition of the new Tory team.The only surprise was Simon Kerslakes appointment asMinister of Statefor Northern Ireland.28122"WELL, SAY SOMETHING.""Very flattering, Kate. What reason did you give forturning the offerdown?" asked Raymond, who had been surprised to find herwaiting for him atthe flat."I didnt need a reason.""How did they feel about that?""You dont seem to understand. I accepted their offer."Raymond removed his glasses and tried to take in whatKate was saying. Hesteadied himself by holding on to the mantelpiece.Kate continued. "I had to, darting.""Because the offer was too tempting?""No, you silly man. It had nothing to do with the offeras such, but itgives me the chance to stop letting my life drift. Cantyou see it wasbecause of you?""Because of me youre going to leave London and go back
  • 300. to New York?""To work in New York and start getting my life inperspective. Raymond,dont you realize its been five years?"282FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I know how long it is and how many times Ive asked youto many me.""We both know that isnt the answer; Joyce cant bebrushed aside thateasily. And it might even end up being the single reasonyou fail in yourcareer.""Given time, we can overcome that problem," Raymondreasoned."That sounds fine now, until the Party wins the nextelection and lessermen than you are offered the chance to shape futurepolicy.""Cant I do anything to make you change your mind?""Nothing, my darling. Ive handed Chase my resignationand begin my newjob with Chemical Bank in a month.""Only four weeks," said Raymond."Yes, four weeks. I had to hold off telling you until Ihad severed allthe bonds, had resigned and could be sure of not lettingyou talk me outof it.""Do you know how much I love you?""I hope enough to let me go before its too late."Charles would not normally have accepted the invitation.Lately he hadfound cocktail parties to consist of nothing but sillylittle bits offood, never being able to get the right drink and rarelyenjoying thetrivial conversation. But when he glanced on hismantelpiece and saw aninvitation from Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary,he felt it might
  • 301. be an amusing break from the routine he had fallen intosince Fiona hadleft. He was also keen to discover more about therumored squabbles inthe Cabinet over expenditure cuts. Charles checked histie in the mirror,removed an umbrella from the hat stand and left EatonSquare for OvingtonSquare.He and Fiona had been apart for nearly two years.Charles had heard fromseveral sources that his wife had now moved in withDalglish on apermanent basis de-283FIRST AMONG EQUALSspite his unwillingness to co-operate in a divorce. Hehad remaineddiscreetly silent on his wifes new life except for oneor two tidbits hedropped selectively in the ears of well-chosen gossips.That way he hadelicited for himself sympathy from every quarter whileremaining themagnanimous loyal husband.Charles had spent almost all of his spare time in theCommons, and hismost recent budget speech had been well received by boththe House andthe national press. During the committee stage of theFinance Bill he hadallowed himself to be burdened with a lot of the donkeywork. CliveReynolds had been able to point out discrepancies insome clauses of thebill, which Charles passed on to a grateful Chancellor.Then Charles re-ceived praise for saving the Government from anyunnecessaryembarrassment. At the same time, he disassociatedhimself from the "wets"as the Prime Minister referred to those of her
  • 302. colleagues who did notunreservedly support her monetarist policies. If hecould keep up hiswork output, he was confident he would be preferred inthe firstreshuffle.By spending his mornings at the bank and his afternoonsand evenings inthe Commons, Charles managed to combine both worlds withminimuminterruption from his almost nonexistent private life.He arrived at Lord Carringtons front door a littleafter six forty-five.A maid answered his knock, and he walked straightthrough to a drawingroom that could have held fifty guests and very nearlydid.He even managed to be served with the right blend ofwhiskey beforejoining his colleagues from both the Upper and LowerHouses. He saw herfirst over the top of Alec Pimkins balding head."Who is she?" asked Charles, not expecting Pimkin toknow."Amanda Wallace," said Pimkin, glancing over hisshoulder. "I could tell you a thing or twoBut284FIRST AMONG EQUALSCharles had already left his colleague in mid-sentence.The sexuality ofthe woman was attested to by the fact that she spent theentire eveningsurrounded by attentive men like moths around a candle.If Charles had notbeen one of the tallest men in the room he might neverhave seen theflame.It took him another ten minutes to reach her side of theroom, whereJulian Ridsdale, a colleague of Charless in theCommons, introducedthem, only to be dragged away moments later by his wife.Charles was left staring at a woman who would have
  • 303. looked beautiful inanything from a ballgown to a towel. Her slim body wasencased in a whitesilk dress, and her fair hair touched her bareshoulders. It had beenyears since he had found it so hard to makeconversation."I expect you already have a dinner engagement?" Charlesasked her in thebrief interval before the vultures closed in again."No," she replied and smiled encouragingly. She agreedto meet him atWaltons in an hours time. Charles dutifully began tocirculate aroundthe room, but it was not long before he found his eyesdrawn back to her.Every time she smiled, he found himself responding, butAmanda didntnotice because she was always being flattered by someoneelse. When heleft, an hour later, he smiled directly at her, and thistime he did wina knowing grin-Charles sat alone at a comer table in Waltons foranother hour. He wasjust about to admit defeat and return home when she wasushered to thetable. The anger that had developed from being keptwaiting was forgottenthe moment she smiled and said, "Hello, Charlie."He was not surprised to learn that his tall, elegantcompanion earned herliving as a model. As far as Charles could see, shecould have modeledanything from toothpaste to stockings. So enchantingwere her fair curlsand large blue eyes that he hardly noticed that285FIRST AMONG EQUALSher conversation rarely strayed beyond the worlds gossipcolumns."Shall we have coffee at my place?" Charles asked after
  • 304. an unhurrieddinner. She nodded her assent and he called for thebill, not checking theaddition as he normally did.He was delighted, if somewhat surprised, when she restedher head on hisshoulder in the cab on the way back to Eaton Square. Bythe time they hadbeen dropped off at Eaton Square, most of Amandaslipstick had beenremoved. The cabbie thanked Charles for his excessivetip and couldntresist adding, "Good luck, sir. ~1Charles never did get around to making the coffee.When he woke in the morning, to his surprise he foundher even morecaptivating, and for the first time in weeks he quiteforgot to turn on"Yesterday in Parhament."Elizabeth listened carefully as the man from SpecialBranch explained howthe safety devices worked. She tried to make Peter andLucy concentrate onnot pressing the red buttons that were in every room andwould bring thepolice at a moments notice. The electrician had alreadywired every roomin Beaufort Street and now he had nearly finished at thecottage.At Beaufort Street a uniformed policeman stood watch bythe front doornight and day. In Pucklebridge, because the-cottage wasso isolated, theyhad to be surrounded by arc lamps that could be switchedon at a momentsnotice."It must be damned inconvenient," suggested ArchieMillburn during dinner.Upon his arrival at the cottage he had been checked bysecurity patrolswith dogs before he was able to shake hands with hishost."Inconvenient is putting it mildly," said Elizabeth.
  • 305. 286FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Last week Peter broke a window with a cricket ball andwe wereimmediately lit up like a Christmas tree.""Do you get any privacy?" asked Archie."Only when were in bed. Even then you can wake up tofind youre beinglicked; you sigh and it turns out to be an Alsatian."Archie laughed. "Lucky Alsatian."Each morning when Simon was driven to work, he wasaccompanied by twodetectives, a car in front and another to the rear. Hehad always thoughtthere were only two ways from Beaufort Street toWestminster. For thefirst twenty-one days as Minister, he never traveled thesame routetwice.Whenever he was due to fly to Belfast, he was notinformed of either hisdeparture time or from which airport he would beleaving. While theinconvenience drove Elizabeth mad, the tension had theopposite effecton Simon. Despite everything, it was the first time inhis life he didntfeel it was necessary to explain why hed chosen to be apolitician toanyone but Lucy."Why cant the North and South be friends?" she hadasked her father."Because," replied Simon, "most of the people in theSouth are Catholics,while in the North they are nearly all Protestants.""And that stops them from liking each other?" said Lucyin disbelief."Yes, because the Protestants in the North fear that ifthey separatedfrom Britain, as the Catholics are demanding, and becamepart of a UnitedIreland, they would lose all their rights. And then the
  • 306. Catholics wouldbe in control.""I thought you told me that Christians believed all menwere equal in theeyes of God."Simon had no reply.Inch by inch he worked to try to bring the Catholics287FIRST AMONG EQUALSand Protestants together. Often after a month of incheshe would lose ayard in one day, but he never displayed any anger orprejudice exceptperhaps, as he told Elizabeth, "a prejudice for commonsense." Given time,Simon believed, a breakthrough would be possible-if onlyhe could find onboth sides a handful of men of good will.During the all-party meetings in Northern Ireland, bothfactions beganto treat him with respect and-privately-with affection.Even theOpposition spokesman at Westminster openly acknowledgedthat Simon Kers-lake was turning out to be an excellent choice for the"dangerous andthankless Ministry.""This is the third time in five years," said the doctor,trying not tosound disapproving."I may its well book into the same clinic as before,"said Amandamatter-of-factly."Yes, I suppose so," said the doctor. "Is there anychance the fatherwould want you to have this child?""I cant be certain who the father is," said Amanda,looking shamefacedfor the first time.The doctor made no comment other than to say, "Iestimate that you are
  • 307. at least six weeks pregnant, but it could be as much asten.""The end of one affair and the beginning of another,"said Amanda underher breath.The doctor looked down at the confidential file. "Haveyou consideredgiving birth to the child and then bringing it upyourself? ""Good heavens, no," said Amanda. "I make my living as amodel, not as amother.""So be it," sighed the doctor, closing the file. "Illmake all the -_-she avoided saying "usual"-"necessary arrangements.Perhaps you couldgive me a call in about a week rather than make the tripdown again."Amanda nodded and said, "Could you let me know 288FIRST AMONG EQUALSwhat the chnic is going to charge this time? Im sureits suffering frominflation like the rest of us."Somehow the doctor managed to check her temper as sheshowed Amanda tothe door. Once Amanda had left, the doctor picked up theconfidentialfile from her desk, walked over to the cabinet andflicked through S, T,U, until she found the right slot for Wallace. Shepaused and wonderedif having the child might change the patients wholecavalier attitudeto life.Peter and Lucy had certainly changed her whole life farmore than she hadever anticipated.Raymond drove Kate to Heathrow. He was wearing the pinkshirt she hadchosen for him; she was wearing the little red box. Hehad so much totell her on the way to the airport that he hardly spoke
  • 308. at all. The lastfour weeks had gone by in a flash. It was the first timehe had beengrateful for being in Opposition."Its all right, Red. Dont fuss. Well see each otherwhenever you cometo New York.""Ive only been to America once in my life," he said.She tried to smile.Once she had checked her eleven bags in at the counter,a process thatseemed to take forever, she was allocated a seat."Flight BA one hundred seven, Gate fourteen, boarding inten minutes,"she was informed."Thank you," she said and rejoined Raymond, who wassitting on the endof an already crowded tubular settee. He had bought twocups of coffeewhile Kate had been checking in. They were both alreadycold. They satand held hands like children who had met on a summerholiday and now hadto return to separate schools."Promise me you wont start wearing contact lenses themoment Ive gone.""Yes, I can promise you that," said Raymond, touchingthe bridge of hisglasses.289FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Ive so much I still want to tell you," she said.He turned toward her. "Vice-presidents of banksshouldnt cry," he said,brushing a tear from her cheek. "The customers willrealize youre a softtouch.""Neither should future Prime Ministers," she replied."AN I wanted to sayis that if you really feel . . ." she began."Hello, Mr. Gould."They both looked up to see a broad smile spread across
  • 309. the face ofsomeone whose tan proved that he had just arrived from asunnier climate."Im Bert Cox," he said, thrusting out his hand, "Idont suppose youremember me." Raymond let go of Kates hand and shookMr. Coxs."We were at the same primary school in Leeds, Ray. Mindyou, that was amillion light years ago. Youve come a long way sincethen."How can I get rid of him? wondered Raymond desperately."This is the missus," Bert Cox continued obliviously,gesturing at thesilent woman in a flowery dress by his side. She smiledbut didnt speak."She sits on some committee with Joyce, dont you,love?" he said, notwaiting for her reply."This is the final call for Flight BA one hundred seven,now boarding atGate fourteen.""We always vote for you, of course," continued Bert Cox."The rnissus--"he pointed to the lady in the flowered dressagain--thinks youll bePrime Minister. I always say---""I must go, Mr. Gould," said Kate, "or Ill miss myflight.""Can you excuse rne for a moment, Mr. Cox?" saidRaymond."Delighted. Ill wait, I dont often get a chance tohave a word with myMP."290FIRST AMONG EQUALSRaymond walked with Kate toward the gate. "I am sorryabout this, Imafraid theyre all like that in Leeds--hear-ts of gold,but never stoptalking. What were you going to say?""Only that I would have been happy to live in Leeds,
  • 310. however cold it is.I never envied anyone in my life, but I do envy Joyce."She kissed himgently on the cheek and walked toward the securitybarrier before hecould reply. She didnt look back."Are you feeling all right, madam?" asked an airportofficial as she wentthrough the gate."Im fine," said Kate, brushing aside her tears. Shewalked slowly towardGate 14, happy that he had worn the pink shirt for thefirst time. Shewondered if he had found the note she had left in thebreast pocket. Ifhe had asked herjust one more time ...Raymond stood alone and then turned to walk aimlesslytoward the exit."An American lady, I would have guessed," said Mr. Coxrejoining him."Im good on accents.""Yes," said Raymond, still alone."A friend of yours?" he asked."My best friend," said Raymond.Charles returned home after the debate feeling pleasedwith himself. Hehad received praise for his latest speech from everywing of the party,and the Chief Whip had made it quite clear thatCharless efforts on theFinance Bill had not gone unnoticed.As he drove back to Eaton Square he wound down the carwindow and let thefresh air rush in and the cigarette smoke out. His smilewidened at thethought of Amanda sitting at home waiting for him. Ithad been a gloriouscouple of months. At forty-eight, he was experiencingrealities he hadnever dreamed of in fantasy. As each day passed, heexpected theinfatuation to wear off, but
  • 311. 291FIRST AMONG EQUALSinstead it only grew more intense. Even the memory theday after was betterthan anything he had experienced in the past.Once the Holbein had been restored to his dining roomwall, he would bewilling to grant Fiona her divorce. Charles then plannedto talk to Amandaabout their future. He parked the car and took out hislatchkey, but shewas already there opening the front door to throw herarms around him."Lets go straight to bed," she said. "I feel in themood."Charles would have been shocked had Fiona uttered suchfeelings even oncein all their years of married life, but Amanda made itappear quitenatural. She was already lying naked on the bed beforeCharles could gethis vest off. After they had made love and she wassettled in his arms,Amanda told him she would have to go away for a fewdays."Why?" said Charles, puzzled."Im pregnant," she said matter-offactly. "I can alwaysgo to a clinic.Dont worry, Ill be as right as rain in no time.""But why dont we have the baby?" said a delightedCharles, looking downinto her blue eyes. "Ive always wanted a son.""Dont be silly, Charlie. Theres years ahead of me forthat.""But if we were married?""Youre already married. Besides, Im only twentysix.""I can get a divorce in a moment and life wouldnt be sobad with me, wouldit?""Of course not, Charlie. Youre the first man Ive everreally cared for."Charles smiled hopefully. "So youll think about theidea?"
  • 312. 292FIRST AMONG EQUALSAmanda looked into Charlies eyes anxiously. "If I had achild I wouldhope he had blue eyes like yours.""Will you marry me?" he asked.-IT think about it. In any case, you may have changedyour mind bymorning."When ten days had passed and Elizabeth had not yet heardfrom MissWallace, she decided the time had come to phone her.Elizabeth flickedthrough her patients file and noted the latest numberAmanda Wallace hadgiven.Elizabeth dialed the number. It was some time before itwas answered."9712. Charles Hampton speaking." There was a longsilence. "Is anyonethere?"Elizabeth couldnt reply. She replaced the phone andfelt her whole bodycome out in a cold sweat. She closed Amanda Wallacesfile, and returnedit to the cabinet.29323SIMON HAI) SPENT nearly a year preparing a White Paperentitled "A GenuinePartnership for Ireland," for consideration by the House.The Governmentsaim was to bring North and South together for a period often years, atthe end of which a more permanent arrangement could beconsidered. Duringthe ten years both sides would remain under the directrule of Westminsterand Dublin. Both Protestants and Catholics had
  • 313. contributed to "theCharter," as the press had dubbed the complex agreement.With considerableskill and patience Simon had convinced the politicalleaders of NorthernIreland to append their names to the final draft when andif it wasapproved by the House.He admitted to Elizabeth that the agreement was only apiece of paper,but he felt it was a foundation stone on which the Housecould base aneventual settlement. On both sides of the Irish sea,politicians andjournalists alike were describing the Charter as agenuine breakthrough.The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was topresent the WhitePaper to the Commons when Irish business was nextscheduled on theparfiamentary calen-294FIRST AMONG EQUALSdar. Simon, as the architect of the Charter, had beenasked to deliver thefinal speech on behalf of the Government. He knew that ifthe House backedthe concept of the document he might then be allowed toprepare aparliamentary bilI and thus overcome a problem so manyother politicianshad failed to solve before him. If he succeeded, Simonfelt that all hisefforts would prove worthwhile.When Elizabeth sat down to read through the final draftin Simons study,even she admitted for the first time that she waspleased that he hadaccepted the Irish appointment.Peter rushed in the front door covered with mud. "We wonfour to three.Whens dinner? Im starving."
  • 314. Both Simon and Effizabeth laughed."As soon as youve had a bath," she said to herretreating son. "Now,embryonic statesman," Elizabeth continued, turning backto Simon, "areyou also ready for your dinner like every normal humanbeing at this timein the evening9""I certainly am, and I havent won four to three yet."Simon moved hiscopy of the one hundred and twentynine page Charter ontohis desk,planning to go over it again once he had finisheddinner.Peter came bounding down the stairs a few minutes later."I scored thewinning goal, Dad.""During the half-time interval, no doubt?""Very funny, Dad. No, I was on the right wing when I ...11"Damn," they both heard Elizabeth say from the kitchen."What is it?" asked Simon."Im out of milk.""IR go and buy some," Simon volunteered."Can I come with you?" said Peter. "Then I can tell youabout my goal.""Of course you can, son."295FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSThe two policemen on the door were chatting when Simonand Peter came out."Come on, one of you, my wife needs a carton of milk, soaffairs of statemust be held up for the time being.""Im sorry, Minister," said the sergeant. "When I wastold you would be infor the rest of the evening I allowed the official carto go off duty. ButConstable Barker can accompany you.""Thats no problem," said Simon. "We can take my wifescar. Peter, run
  • 315. back and pick up Mums car keys, and while youre at it,find out whereshes parked the damned thing."Peter disappeared back inside."Been in the force long9" Simon asked Constable Barkeras they waited onthe doorstep for Peter to return."Not that long, sir. Started on the beat just over ayear ago-""Are you married, Constable?""Fine chance on my salary, sir.""Then you wont have encountered the problem of beingmilkless.""I dont think theyve ever heard of milk in the policecanteen, sir.""You should try the House of Commons sometime," saidSimon. "I dontimagine youd find it any betterthe food, that is, notto mention thesalary."The constable laughed as Peter returned, jangling thecar keys."Off we go, Constable, but I warn you, youll have tosuffer a runningcommentary on my sons school football match. He scoredthe winning goal,"said Simon, winking at the policeman."I was going down the right wing," said Peter, obliviousto his fatherssarcasm, "and first I dodged past my opposite number,then I flicked theball to my captain296FIRST AMONG EQUALSbefore running flat out back into the center." Peterpaused to make sureboth men were following the details with rapt attention.Satisfied, hecontinued. "The captain passed the ball back to me and Itook it on the fulltoss with my left leg, blocked it, controlled it and thenshot at the far
  • 316. corner of the goal mouth." Peter paused again."Dont keep us in suspense," said Simon as they reachedthe car."The goalie dived full length, his finger touching theball," said Peter asSimon opened the car door, "but it was too late. I . . "Like everyone else in Beaufort Street, Elizabeth heardthe explosion, butshe was the first to realize what it must be. She ranout of the front doorin search of the duty policeman. She saw him runningdown the road andquickly followed.The little red car was scattered all over the sidestreet, the glass fromits windows making the pavement look as though there hadbeen a suddenhailstorm.When the sergeant saw the severed head, he pulledElizabeth back. Two otherforms lay motionless in the road.Within minutes, six police cars and an ambulance hadarrived and SpecialBranch officers had cordoned off the area with whiteribbon. The job ofpicking up the remains of the police constable needed avery resolute man.Elizabeth was taken to Westminster Hospital in a policecar, where shelearned that both her husband and son were in criticalcondition. When shetold the surgeon in charge that she was a doctor, he wasmore forthcomingand answered her questions candidly. Simon was sufferingfrom multiplefractures and lacerations, a dislocated hip, and asevere loss of blood.The doctors were attempting to remove a piece of glasslodged only inchesfrom Peters heart.297FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 317. She sat alone outside the operating room waiting for anyscrap of news.Hour after hour went by, and Elizabeth kept recallingSimons words: "Betolerant. Always remember there are still men of goodwill in NorthernIreland." She found it almost impossible not to scream,to think of thewhole lot of them as murderers. Her husband had workedtirelessly on theirbehalf. He wasnt working as a Catholic or a Protestant,just as a man try-ing to do an impossible task. Her son only wanted to getback home and tellher about his goal. And in the back of her mind was theknowledge that shehad been the intended target.Another hour passed. She watched a policeman steerreporters-who werearriving by the minute-into an anteroom off the mainentrance. Finally atired, grayfaced man came out into the corridor throughthe flapping rubberdoors. "Your husbands still hanging on, Dr. Kerslake.He has theconstitution of an ox; most people would have let go bynow. Well knowmore about your sons condition as soon as the operationis over. All Iknow is, they have managed to remove the piece ofglass." He smiled. "CanI find you a room so that you can get some sleep?""No, thank you," Elizabeth replied. "Id prefer to benear them." She addedin a distracted way, "I want to hear about the winninggoal."She did not notice the doctors puzzled look.Elizabeth phoned home to check how Lucy was coping.Elizabeths motheranswered the phone. She had rushed over the moment shehad heard and waskeeping Lucy away from the radio and the television."How are they?" sheasked.
  • 318. Elizabeth told her mother all she knew and then spoke toLucy."Im taking care of Grandmother," Lucy promised her.Elizabeth couldnt hold back the tears. "Thank you,298FIRST AMONG EQUALSdarling," she said and quickly replaced the receiver. Shereturned to thebench outside the operating room, kicked off her shoes,curled her legsunder her body and tried to snatch some sleep.She woke with a start in the early morning. Her backhurt and her neckwas stiff. She walked slowly up and down the corridor inher bare feetstretching her aching limbs, searching for anyone whocould tell her somenews. Finally a nurse who brought her a cup of teaassured her that herhusband and son were both still alive. What did "stillalive" mean?She stood and watched the grim faces coming out of thetwo operatingrooms and tried not to recognize the telltale signs ofdespair. Thesurgeon told her she ought to go home and rest. Theycould tell hernothing definite for at least twenty-four hours.Elizabeth didnt move from the corridor for another dayand anothernight, and she didnt return home until the surgeon toldher the news.When she heard she fell on her knees and wept.Simon would live; they had saved her husbands life. Shecontinued toweep. Her son Peter had died a few minutes before. Theyhad triedeverything.29924.
  • 319. "GOT TIME FOR A QUICK ONET asked Alexander Dalglish."If you press me," said Pimkin."Fiona," shouted Alexander. "Its Alec Pimkin; hesdropped in for adfink."Fiona came in to join them. She was dressed in a brightyellow frock andhad allowed her hair to grow down to her shoulders."It suits you," said Pimkin, tapping his bald head."Thank you," said Fiona. "Why dont we all go through tothe drawingroom?"Pimkin happily obeyed and had soon settled himself intoAlexandersfavorite chair."What will you have?" asked Fiona, as she stood by thebar cabinet."A large gin with just a rumor of tonic.""Well, hows the constituency faring since myresignation?" askedAlexander."It ticks along, trying hard to survive the biggest sexscandal sinceProfumo," chuckled Alec."I only hope it hasnt harmed you politically," saidAlexander.300FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Not a bit of it, old fellow," said Pimkin, acceptingthe largeBeefeater-and-tonic Fiona handed him. "On the contrary,its taken theirminds off me for a change."Alexander laughed."In fact," continued Pimkin, "interest in the date ofyour wedding has beeneclipsed only by that of Charles and Lady Di. Gossipstell me," hecontinued, clearly enjoying himself, "that my Honorablefriend, the Memberfor Sussex Downs, made you wait the full two yearsbefore you could place
  • 320. an announcement in The Times.""Yes thats true," said Fiona. "Charles didnt evenanswer my lettersduring that period, but lately, when any problemsarisen, hes been almostfriendly.""Could that be because he also wants to place anannouncement in TheTimes?" said Pimkin, downing his gin quickly in the hopeof being offereda second."What do you mean?""The fact that he has lost his heart to Amanda Wallace.""Amanda?" said Fiona in disbelief. "Surely, hes gotmore sense thanthat.""I dont think it has much to do with sense," saidPimkin, holding out hisglass. "More to do with sexual attraction.""But hes old enough to be her father. Besides, Amandais hardly his type.""That may well be the case, but I am informed by areliable source thatmarriage is being proposed.""You cant be serious," said Fiona flatly."The subject has most certainly been broached, for sheis undoubtedlypregnant and Charles is hoping for a son," said Pirakinin triumph as heaccepted his second double gin."Thats not possible," said Fiona. "I can assureyou---2 She caughtherself and stopped."And I can assure you that some of the more ungener-301FIRST AMONG EQUALSous of our brethren are already suggesting the names ofseveral candidatesfor the role of father.""Alec, youre incorrigible.""My dear, it is common knowledge that Amanda has sleptwith half theCabinet and a considerable cross section of
  • 321. backbenchers.""Stop exaggerating," said Fiona."And whats more," continued Pimkin as if he hadntheard her, "she hasonly stopped short of the Labour front bench because hermother told herthey were common and she might catch something fromthem."Alexander laughed, "But surely Charles hasnt fallen forthe pregnancytrick?""Hook, line and sinker. Hes like an Irishman whos beenlocked into aGuinness brewery over a weekend. Dear Amanda has myHonorable frienduncorking her at every opportunity.""But shes just plain stupid," said Alexander. "The onlytime I met hershe assured me that David Frost was turning out to be anexcellentchairman of the Conservative Party.""Stupid she may be, but plain she is not. Im told theyare updating theKama Sutra together.""Enough, Alec, enough," said Fiona, laughing."Youre right," said Pimkin, aware that his glass wasnearly empty onceagain. "A man of my impeccable reputation cannot affordto be seenassociating with people living in sin. I must leaveimmediately,darlings," he said, rising to his feet. Pimkin put hisglass down andAlexander accompanied him to the front door.As it closed, Alexander turned to Fiona. "Never short ofusefulinformation, our member," he said."I agree," said Fiona. "So much gleaned for such a smallinvestment inBeefeater."As Alexander walked back into the drawing room he added,"So what haveyou done about the Holbein?""I signed the final documents this morning, after we
  • 322. 302FIRST AMONG EQUALSboth agreed that at last Charles had come to his senses.He even wanted torush the proceedings through.""And now we know why," said Alexander. "So I see noreason why we shouldfall in so conveniently with his little plan.""What do you have in mind?" asked Fiona."Have you seen this?" he asked, passing her a copy ofSothebys latestcatalogue of Old Master paintings.Three weeks after the bombing, Simon left theWestminster Hospital oncrutches, Elizabeth by his side. His fight leg had beenso shattered thathe had been told he would never walk properly again. Ashe stepped out ontoHorseferry Road, a hundred cameras flashed to meeteditors demands tocapture the tragic hero. None of the photographers askedSimon andElizabeth to smile. Normally cynical journalists weremoved by the simpledignity with which both the Minister and his wifeconducted themselves. Thepictures the press carried the next day showed clearlythey had lost theironly son.After a month of complete rest, Simon returned to hisIrish Charter againstdoctors orders, knowing the document was still due tobe debated in theHouse in only two weeks time.The Secretary of State and the Under Secretary forNorthern Ireland visitedSimon at home on several occasions, and it was agreedthat the UnderSecretary would take over Simons responsibilitiestemporarily and deliverthe winding-up speech. During his absence the whole
  • 323. Northern Ireland officecame to realize just how much work Simon had put intothe Charter, and noone was complacent about taking his place.The attempt on Simons life and the death of his son hadturned the specialdebate on the Charter into a national media event, theBBC scheduling abroadcast of the entire proceedings on Radio Four fromthree-thirty to thevote at ten oclock.303FIRST AMONG EQUALSOn the afternoon of the debate, Simon sat up in bed,listening to everyword on the radio as if it were the final episode in adramatic serial,desperate to learn the outcome. The speeches opened witha clear andconcise presentation of the Charter by the Secretary ofState for NorthernIreland, which left Simon feeling confident that thewhole House wouldsupport his plan. The Opposition spokesman followed witha fair-mindedspeech, raising one or two queries about thecontroversial Patriots Clausewith its special rights for Protestants in the South andCatholics in theNorth, and about how it would affect the Catholicsunwilling to register inNorthern Ireland. Otherwise, he reassured the House thatthe Oppositionsupported the Char-ter and would not call for a divisionvote.Simon began to relax for the first time as the debatecontinued, but hismood changed as some back-bench members started toexpress more and moreanxiety over the Patriots Provision. One or two of themwere eveninsisting that the Charter should not be sanctioned by
  • 324. the House until theneed for the Patriots Provision was fully explained bythe Government.Simon realized that a few narrow-minded men were simplyplaying for time inthe hope the Charter would be held up and in latermonths forgotten. Forgenerations such men had succeeded in stifling the hopesand aspirations ofthe Irish people while they allowed bigotry to undermineany real progresstoward peace. Elizabeth came in and sat on the end ofthe bed."Hows it going?" she asked."Not well," said Simon. "It will now all depend on theOppositionspokesman." They both listened intently.No sooner had the Opposition spokesman risen than Simonrealized that thisman had misunderstood the real purpose of the PatriotsProvision and thatwhat Simon had agreed to with both sides in Dublin andBelfast was notbeing accurately explained to the House. There was304FIRST AMONG EQUALSno malice in the speech. The man was clearly followingwhat had been agreedto through the usual channels, but Simon could sense thathis lack ofconviction was sowing doubts in the minds of members. Adivision vote mightbe called after all.After one or two members raised further questions aboutthe PatriotsClause, the Shadow Minister finally suggested, "Perhapswe should waituntil the Minister of State is fully recovered and ableto report to theHouse himself."Simon felt sick. He was going to lose the Charter if itdidnt get through
  • 325. the House tonight. All the hard work and good will wouldcount for nothing.His sons death would count for nothing. Simon made adecision. "Id lovea hot cup of cocoa," he said, trying to sound casual."Of course, darling. Ill just go and turn the kettleon. Would you like abiscuit while Im up7"Simon nodded, Once the bedroom door was closed, heslipped quietly out ofbed and dressed as quickly as he could. He picked up hisblackthorn stick,a gift from Dr. Fitzgerald, the Irish Prime Minister,which had been amongthe dozens of presents sent to his home awaiting hisreturn from thehospital. Then he hobbled silently down the stairs andacross the hall,hoping Elizabeth and Lucy would not hear him. He easedthe front door open.When the policeman on duty saw him, Simon put a fingerto his lips andclosed the door very slowly behind him. He made his waylaboriously up tothe police car, lurched into the back and said, "Switchon the radio,please, and drive me to the House as quickly aspossible."Simon continued to listen to the Opposition spokesman asthe police carweaved in and out of the traffic on a route he hadnttraveled before. Theyarrived at the St. Stephens entrance to the Commons atnine twenty-five.Visitors stood to one side as they might for royalty.But Simon didntnotice. He hobbled on as quickly as he 305FIRST AMONG EQUALScould through the central lobby, oblivious to theawkwardness of his gait,turning left past the policeman and on toward theentrance of the House.He prayed he would reach the chamber before the
  • 326. Government spokesman roseto deliver his winding-up speech. Simon passed anastonished chiefdoorkeeper and arrived at the bar of the House as the newdigital clockshowed 9:29.The Opposition spokesman was resuming his place on thefront bench tomuffled cries of "Hear, hear." The Speaker rose, butbefore he had timeto call upon the Minister of State to reply, Simonstepped slowly forwardonto the green carpet of the Commons. For a moment therewas a stunnedsilence; then the cheering began. It had reached acrescendo by the timeSimon arrived at the front bench. His blackthorn stickfell to the flooras he clutched the dispatch box. The Speaker called outhis name sottovoce.Simon waited for the House to come to complete silence."Mr. Speaker, I must thank the House for its generouswelcome. I returnthis evening because, having listened to every word ofthe debate on theradio, I feel it necessary to explain to HonorableMembers what wasbehind my thinking on the Patriots Provision. This wasnot somesuperficial formula for solving an intractable problem,but an act ofgood faith to which the representatives from all sidesfelt able to puttheir names. It may not be perfect, since words can meandifferent thingsto different people-as lawyers continually demonstrateto us."The laughter broke the tension that had been building inthe House."But if we allow this opportunity to pass today, it willbe anothervictory for those who revel in the mayhem of NorthernIreland, whatever
  • 327. their reason, and a defeat for all men of good will."The House was silent as Simon went on to explain in 306FIRST AMONG EQUALSdetail the theory behind the Patriots Provision and theeffect it wouldhave on both Protestants and Catholics in North andSouth. He also coveredthe other salient clauses in the Charter, answering thepoints that had beenraised during the debate until, in glancing up at theclock above theSpeakers chair, he realized he had less than a minuteleft."Mr. Speaker, we in this great House, who have in thepast decided the fateof nations, are now given an opportunity to succeedtoday where ourpredecessors have failed. I ask you to support thisCharter-not unreserv-edly, but to show the bombers and the murderers thathere in Westminster wecan cast a vote for the children of tomorrows Ireland.Let thetwenty-first century be one in which the Irish problemis only a part ofhistory. Mr. Speaker, I seek the support of the wholeHouse."The motion on the Charter was agreed to without adivision.Simon immediately returned home, and on arrival silentlycrept upstairs. Heclosed the bedroom door behind him and fumbled for theswitch. The light bythe side of the bed went on, and Elizabeth sat up."Your cocoas gone cold and Ive eaten all thebiscuits," she saidbrightly, "but thank you for leaving the radio on. Atleast I knew whereyou were."Simon started to laugh.Elizabeth started to cry."Whats the matter, darling?" said Simon, coming to herside.
  • 328. "Peter would have been so proud of you."30725CHARLES AND AMANDA were married at the most inconspicuousregistry officein Hammersmith. They then departed for a long weekend inParis. Charleshad told his bride that he preferred not to let anyonelearn of themarriage for at least another week. He didnt want Fionato find a furtherexcuse for not returning the Hotbein. Amanda readilyagreed, and then sheremembered; but surely Alec Pirnkin didnt count?When they arrived on Friday night at the PlazaAth6n6e,they were escortedto a suite overlooking the courtyard. Later, overdinner, Amandaastonished the waiters with her appetite as well as thecut of her dress.Paris turned out to be fun, but when Charles read in theHerald Tribunethe next day that Mrs. Thatcher was considering areshuffle that veryweekend, he cut their honeymoon short and returned toLondon on Sunday,two days earlier than planned. Amanda was not overjoyed.Her husbandspent Saturday evening and the whole of Sunday at EatonSquare next toa phone that never tang.That same Sunday evening the Prime Minister called forSimon Kerslake andtold him that he was to be made308FIRST AMONG EQUALSa Privy Councillor and would be moved from the NorthernIreland Office tothe Foreign Office as Minister of State.
  • 329. He had started to protest, but Mrs. Thatcher forestalledany discussion. "Idont want any more dead heroes, Simon," she saidsharply. "Your family hasbeen through enough."Elizabeth was relieved when she heard the news--althoughSimon doubted ifshe would ever fully recover from the ordeal. Whereashis scars werevisible for all to see, hers, he suspected, weredeeper-grained.Mrs. Thatcher finally called Charles Hampton on Tuesdaymorning while hewas waiting in Eaton Square for the return of theHolbein. His lawyers hadagreed with Fionas that the first Earl of Bridgewatershould he back atCharless home by eleven that morning. Only the Queen orMrs. Thatchercould have kept Charles from being there to receive it.The PrimeMinisters call came long after he thought the reshufflewas over.Charles took a taxi to Downing Street and was quicklyushered into thePrime Ministers study. Mrs. Thatcher began bycomplimenting him on thework he had carried out on successive finance bills inOpposition and inGovernment. She then invited him to join the front-benchteam as a Ministerof State at the Treasury.Charles accepted gracefully, and after a short policydiscussion with thePrime Minister drove back to Eaton Square to celebrateboth his triumphs.Amanda met him at the door to tell him the Holbein hadbeen returned. Fionahad kept her part of the bargain: the painting had beendelivered at elevenoclock sharp.Charles strode confidently into his drawing room,delighted to find the
  • 330. bulky package awaiting him. He was by no means sopleased to be followed byAmanda, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of gin inthe other-, but thiswas not a day for quarrels, he decided. He told her 309FIRST AMONG EQUALSof his appointment, but she didnt seem to take in itssignificance untilher husband opened a bottle of cham-pagne.Charles poured out two glasses and handed one to hisbride."A double celebration. What fun," she said, firstfinishing her gin.Charles took a quick sip of the champagne before hebegan to untie theknots and tear away the smart red wrapping paper thatcovered hismasterpiece. Once the paper had been removed he pulledback the finalcardboard covers. Charles stared with delight at theportrait.The first Earl of Bridgewater was back home. Charlespicked up the goldframe he knew so well to return it to its place in thedining room, buthe noticed that the picture had come a little loose."Damn," he said."Whats the matter?" asked Amanda, still leaning againstthe door,"Nothing important, only I shall have to get the framefixed. Ill dropit at Oliver Swanns on the way to the bank. Ive waitednearly threeyears-another couple of days wont make any difference."Now that Charles had accepted the post of Minister ofState at theTreasury he knew there was one little arrangement he hadto clear upbefore the appointment became public knowledge. Withthat in mind, hedrove to the bank and summoned Clive Reynolds to hisoffice. It was clear
  • 331. from Reynoldss manner that the news of CharlessMinisterial appointmenthad not yet become public."Clive--" Charles called him that for the first time-"Ihave aproposition to put to you."Clive Reynolds remained silent."The Prime Minister has offered me a post in theGovernment."310FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Congratulations," said Reynolds, "and well deserved, ifI may say so.""Thank you," said Charles. "Now-Im considering offeringyou the chanceto stand in for me as chairman during my absence."Clive Reynolds looked surprised."On the clear understanding that if the Conservativeswere to return toOpposition or I were to lose my appointment inGovernment, I would bereinstated as chairman immediately.""Naturally," said Reynolds. "I should be delighted tofill theappointment for the interim period.""Good man," said Charles. "It cant have escaped yournotice whathappened to the last chairman in the same situation.""I shall make certain that will not happen again.""Thank you," said Charles. "I shall not forget yourloyalty when Ireturn.""And I shall also endeavor to carry on the traditions ofthe bank in yourabsence," said Reynolds, his head slightly bowed."I feel sure you will," said Charles,The board accepted the recommendation that CliveReynolds be appointedas temporary chairman, and Charles vacated his officehappily to take uphis new post at the Treasury.
  • 332. Charles considered it had been the most successful weekof his life, andon Friday evening on the way back to Eaton Square hedropped into OliverSwanns gallery to pick up the Holbein."Im afraid the picture didnt quite fit the frame,"said Mr. Swann."Oh, I expect its worked loose over the years," Charlessaid."No, Mr. Hampton, this frame was put on the portraitquite recently,"said Swann.311FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Thats not possible," said Charles. "I remember theframe as well as Iremember the picture. The portrait of the first Earl ofBridgewater hasbeen in my family for over four hundred years.""Not this picture," said Swann."What (to you mean?" said Charles, beginning to soundanxious."This picture came up for sale at Sothebys about threeweeks ago."Charles went cold as Swann continued."Its the school of Holbein, of course," he said."Probably painted byone of his pupils around the time of his death. I shouldthink there area dozen or so in existence.""A dozen or so," repeated Charles, the blood quitedrained from his face."Yes, perhaps even more. At least its solved onemystery for me," saidSwann, chuckling."Whats that?" asked Charles, choking out the words."I couldnt work out why Lady Fiona was bidding for thepicture, and thenI remembered that your family name is Bridgewater.""At least this wedding has some style," Pimkin assuredFiona between
  • 333. mouthfuls of sandwiches at the reception after hermarriage to AlexanderDalglish. Pimkin always accepted wedding invitations asthey allowed himto devour mounds of smoked-salmon sandwiches and consumeunlimitedquantities of champagne. "I particularly enjoyed thatshort service ofblessing in the Guards Chapel; and Claridges canalways be relied onto understand my little proclivities." He peered aroundthe vast room andonly stopped to stare at his reflection in a chandelier.Fiona laughed. "Did you go to Charless wedding9""My darling, Im told that only Amanda was invited,312FIRST AMONG EQUALSand even she nearly found she had another engagement.With her doctor, Ibelieve.""And he certainly cant afford another divorce?""No, not in Chafless present position as Her MajestysMinister ofState. One divorce might go unnoticed but two would beconsideredhabit-forming, and all diligent readers of the gossipcolumns have beenable to observe that consummation has taken place.""But how long will Charles be able to tolerate herbehavior?""As long as he still believes she has given him a sonwho will inheritthe family title. Not that a marriage ceremony willprove legitimacy,"added Pimkin."Perhaps Amanda wont produce a son?""Perhaps whatever she produces will be obviously notCharlessoffspring," said Pimkin, falling into a chair that hadbeen momentarilyvacated by a large buxom lady."Even if it was, I cant see Amanda as a housewife."
  • 334. "No, but it suits Amandas current circumstances to bethought of as theloving spouse.""Time may change that too," said Fiona."I doubt it," said Pimkin. "Amanda is stupid; that hasbeen proven beyondreasonable doubt-but she has a survival instinct secondonly to amongooses. So while Charles is spending all the hoursof the dayadvancing his glittering career, she would be foolish tosearch publiclyfor greener pastures. Especially when she can always hein themprivately.""Youre a wicked old gossip," said Fiona."I cannot deny it," said Pimkin."Fhank you for such a sensible wedding present," saidAlexander, joininghis wife of two hours. "You selected my favoriteclaret.""Giving a dozen bottles of the finest claret serves twopurposes," saidPimkin, his hands resting lightly on his313FIRST AMONG EQUALSstomach. "First, you can always be assured of a decentwine when you inviteyourself to dine.""And second?" asked Alexander."When the happy couple split up you can feel relievedthat they will nolonger have your present to quarrel over.""Did you give Charles and Amanda a present?" askedFiona."No," said Pimkin, deftly removing another glass ofchampagne from apassing waiter. "I felt your return of the bogus Earl ofBridgewater wasquite enough for both of us.""I wonder where he is now9" said Alexander."The Earl no longer resides in Eaton Square," said
  • 335. Pirnkin with the air ofone who has divulged a piece of information which canonly guaranteefurther rapt attention."Who would want the phony Earl?""We are not aware of the provenance of the buyer, as heemanates from oneof Her Majestys former colonies, but the seller. ..""Stop teasing, Alec. Who?""None other than the Honorable Mrs. Amanda Hampton.""Amanda?""Yes. Amanda, no less. The dear, silly creatureretrieved the false Earlfrom the cellar, where Charles had buried him with fullmilitary honors.""But she must have realized it was a fake?""My dear, Amanda wouldnt know the difference between aHolbein and an AndyWarhol, but she still happily accepted ten thousandpounds for the imper-sonation. I am assured that the dealer who purchasedthis fabricatedmasterpiece made what I think vulgar people in the citydescribe as aquick turn. ""Good God," said Alexander. "I only paid eight thousandfor it myself"314FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Perhaps you should get Amanda to advise you on thesematters in thefuture," said Pimkin. "In exchange for my invaluablepiece ofinformation, Im bound to inquire if the real Earl ofBridgewater is toremain in hiding9""Certainly not, Alec. He is merely awaiting the rightmoment to make apublic appearance," said Fiona, unable to hide a smile."And where is Amanda now?" asked Alexander, obviouslywanting to changethe subject.
  • 336. "In Switzerland, producing a baby, which we can but hopewill bearsufficient resemblance to a white Caucasian to convinceone of Charlesslimited imagination that he is the father.""Where do you get all your information from?" askedAlexander.Pimkin sighed dramatically. "Women have a habit ofpouring their heartsout to me, Amanda included.""Why should she do that?" asked Alexander."She lives safe in the knowledge that I am the one manshe knows who hasno interest in her body." Pimkin drew breath, but onlyto devour anothersmokedsalmon sandwich.Charles phoned Amanda every day while she was in Geneva.She keptassuring him all was well, and that the baby wasexpected on time. He hadconsidered it prudent for Amanda not to remain inEngland advertising herpregnancy, a less than recent occurrence to even themost casualobserver. She for her part did not complain. With tenthousand poundssafely tucked away in a private Swiss account, therewere few littlenecessities she could not have brought to her, even inGeneva.It had taken a few weeks for Charles to becomeaccustomed to Governmentafter such a long break. He enjoyed the challenge of theTreasury andquickly fell in315FIRsr AMONG EQUALSwith its strange traditions. fie was constantly remindedthat his was thedepartment on which the Prime Minister kept her closesteye, making the
  • 337. challenge even greater. The civil servants, when askedtheir opinion ofthe new Minister of State, would reply variously: able,competent,efficient, hardworking-but without any hint of affectionin their voices.When someone asked Charless driver, whose name Charlescould never re-member, the same question, he proffered the view, "Hesthe sort ofMinister who never remembers your name. But Id still puta weeks wageson Mr. Hampton becoming Prime Minister."Amanda produced her child in the middle of the ninthmonth. After a weekof recuperation, she was allowed to return to England.She discoveredthat traveling with the brat was a nuisance, and by thetime she arrivedat Heathrow she was more than happy to turn the childover to the nannyCharles had selected.Charles had sent a car to pick her up from the airport.He had anunavoidable conference with a delegation of Japanesebusinessmen, heexplained, all of them busy complaining about the newGovernment tariffson imports.At the first opportunity to be rid of his Orientalguests, he bolted backto Eaton Square. Amanda was there to meet him at thedoor. Charles hadalmost forgotten how beautiful his wife was, and howlong she had beenaway."Wheres my child?" he asked, after he had given her along kiss."In a nursery thats more expensively furnished than ourbedroom," shereplied a little sharply.Charles ran up the wide staircase and along the passage.Amanda followed.He entered the nursery he had spent so much time
  • 338. preparing in her absenceand stopped in his tracks as he stared at the futureEarl of316FIRST AMONG EQUALSBridgewater. The little black curls and deep brown eyescame as somethingof a shock."Good heavens," said Charles, stepping forward for acloser examination.Amanda remained by the door, her hand clutching itshandle.She had a hundred answers ready for his question."Hes the spitting image of my great-grandfather. Youskipped a coupleotgenerations, Harry," said Charles, lifting the boyhigh into the air,"but theres no doubt youre a real Hampton."Amanda sighed with inaudible relief. The hundred answersshe could nowkeep to herself."Its more than a couple of generations the littlebastard has skipped,"said Pimkin. "Its an entire continent." He took anothersip ofchristening champagne before continuing. "This poorcreature, on theother hand," he said, staring at Fionas firstborn,"bears a strikingresemblance to Alexander. Dear little girl should havebeen given akinder legacy with which to start her life.""Shes beautiful," said Fiona, picking her daughter upfrom the cradleto check her diaper."Now we know why you needed to be married so quickly,"added Pimkinbetween gulps. "At least this child made wedlock, evenif it was a closerace."Fiona continued as if she hadnt heard his remark. "Have
  • 339. you actuallyseen Charless son?" she asked."I think we should refer to young Harold as Amandaschild," said Pimkin."We dont want to be in violation of the TradeDescription Act.""Come on, Alec, have you seen Harry?" she asked,refusing to fill hisempty glass."Yes, I have. And I am afraid he also bears too strikinga resemblanceto his father for it to go unnoticed in later life."317FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Anyone we know?" asked Fiona, probing."I am not a scandalmonger," said Pimkin, removing acrumb from hiswaistcoat. "As you well know. But a certain Brazilianfazendeiro whofrequents Cowdray Park and Ascot during the summermonths has obviouslymaintained his interest in the English fillies."Pimkin confidently held out his glass.31826ON A SLEEPY THURSDAY in April 1982 Argentina attacked andoccupied twosmall islands whose eighteen hundred British citizenswere forced to lowerthe Union Jack for the first time in over a hundredyears.Mrs. Thatcher immediately dispatched a task forcehalfway around theglobe to recapture the sovereign islands. Her fellowcountrymen followedevery scrap of news so intently that London theatersfound themselvesempty at the height of the season.Simon felt exhilarated to be a member of the ForeignOffice at such an
  • 340. historic moment, and Elizabeth didnt begrudge him thosedays when heleft before she had awakened, and arrived home after shehad fallenasleep. By the end of the two long months that provednecessary for theBritish forces to recapture the Falklands, Simon lookedwell placed tojoin the Cabinet if Mrs. Thatcher won the next election.Under less public scrutiny but almost equal pressure,Charles beaveredaway at the Treasury addressing the economic problemsthat had previouslyeroded his Prime Ministers popularity. After the Aprilbudget had319FIRST AMONG EQUALSbeen presented, he spent day after day in the Househelping to put theGovernments case. Like Simon, he found he could onlysnatch moments tobe at home, but unlike Elizabeth, his wife remained inbed until midday.When Charles did manage to slip away from the department,he spent all hisspare time with Harry, whose progress he followed withdelighted interest.At the time when the Union Jack was raised once again inthe Falklands,the budget became an act.Charles also considered he would be a contender for aCabinet seat if theConservatives won a second term.Raymond approved of Mrs. Thatchers resolute stance onthe Falklands,despite its damping effects on his own political hopes.So greatly didher personal popularity increase when the islands werereoccupied thatRaymond knew there was little chance for the Labour
  • 341. Party to win the nextGeneral Election.When James Callaghan had been replaced by Michael Footas Labour Leadertwo years before, the Party had drifted even more to theleft. Some ofthe more moderate members had deserted Foot to join thenewly formedSocial Democratic Party. Raymond himself was nevertempted, as hebelieved Michael Foot would be quickly replaced afterthe next election.When Foot had invited Raymond to continue with theShadow Tradeportfolio, Raymond had accepted the assignment with asmuch enthusiasmas he could muster.Raymond hated not being able to share his frustrationswith Kate, as oneafter another of her predictions became Party policy-notleast, theprocess of electing a Leader at the annual Partyconference. In thebeginning she had phoned once a week, and then it becameonce a month;she always sounded so happy that he refused to admit howmuch he missedher. Lately, he found he only contacted her on rareoccasions.320FIRST AMONG EQUALSA year after the recapture of the Falklands, Mrs.Thatcher found that herlead in the opinion polls remained at its all-time high.Although it was ayear earher than necessary, she called a GeneralElection.Once the date had been announced, Charles realized hecould no longer avoidintroducing Amanda to the constituency. He had explainedto those whoinquired that his wife had had rather a bad time of it
  • 342. after the birth, andhad been told by her doctors not to participate inanything that mightraise her blood pressure-though one or two constituentsconsidered that theSussex Downs Conservatives would find it hard to raisethe blood pressureof a ninety-year-old with a pacemaker.The annual garden party held in the grounds of LordSussexs country homeseemed to Charles to be the ideal opportunity to showoff Amanda, and heasked her to be certain to wear something appropriate.He was aware that designerjeans had come into fashion,and that hisclothes-conscious wife never seemed to dress in the samething twice. Healso knew that liberated women didnt wear bras. But hewas neverthelessshocked when he saw Amanda in a nearly seethrough blouseand jeans so tightthat the outline of her underwear could be seen. Charleswas genuinelyhorrified."Cant you find something a little more ...conservative?" he suggested."Like the things that old frump Fiona used to wear9"Charles couldnt think of a suitable reply. "The gardenparty will befrightfully dull," said Charles desperately. "Perhaps Ishould go on myown."Amanda turned and looked him in the eye. "Are youashamed of me, Charles?"He drove his wife silently down to the constituency, andevery time heglanced over at her he wanted to make an excuse to turnback. When theyarrived at Lord Sussexs home, his worst fears wereconfirmed. Neither321FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 343. the men nor the women could take their eyes off Amanda asshe strolledaround the lawns devouring strawberries. Many of themwould have used theword "hussy" if she hadnt been the members wife.Charles might have escaped lightly had it only been theone risqu6 jokeAmanda told-to the Bishops wife--or even her curtrefusal to judge thebaby contest or to draw the raffle; but he was not to beso lucky. Thechairman of the Ladies Advisory Committee had met hermatch when she wasintroduced to the members wife."Darling," said Charles, "I dont think youve met Mrs.Blenkinsop.""No, I havent," said Amanda, ignoring Mrs. Blenkinsopsoutstretchedhand."Mrs. Blenkinsop," continued Charles, "was awarded theOBE for herservices to the constituency.""OBET Amanda asked innocently.Mrs. Blenkinsop drew herself up to her full height."Order of the BritishEmpire," she said."Ive always wondered," said Amanda, smiling. "Becausemy dad used totell me it stood for other buggers efforts. "Amanda didnt accompany her husband throughout theelection campaign, butit made little difference to Charless vast majority inSussex Downs.Simon was surprised by the huge 144 majority theConservatives gained inthe Commons, while Raymond resigned himself to anotherfive years inOpposition and began to turn more of his attention tohis practice at thebar and a new round of time-consuming cases. When theAttorney Generaloffered him the chance to become a High Court judge,with a place in the
  • 344. House of Lords, Raymond gave the matter considerablethought beforefinally asking Joyce for her opinion."Youd be bored to tears in a week," she told him.322FIRST AMONG EQUALS"No more bored than I am now.""Your turn will come.""Joyce, Im nearly fifty, and all I have to show for itis thechairmanship of the Select Committee on Trade andIndustry. If the Partyfails to win next time, I may never hold office again.Dont forget thaton the last occasion we lost this badly we were inOpposition forthirteen years. ~9"Once Michael Foot has been replaced, the Party willtake on a new look,and Im sure youll be offered one of the senior Shadowjobs.""Thatll depend on whos our next Leader," said Raymond."And I cant seea great deal of difference between Neil Kinnock, wholooks unbeatable,and Michael Foot. I fear they are both too far left towin a GeneralElection.""Then why not run yourself?" asked Joyce."Its too early for me," said Raymond. "Ill be aserious candidate nexttime.""Then why dont you at least wait until we know whosgoing to be Leaderof the Party?" said Joyce. "You can become a judgeanytime."When Raymond returned to his chambers on Monday hefollowed Joycesadvice, let the Attorney General know that he was notinterested in beinga judge for the foreseeable future, and settled down tokeep a watchfuleye on the new Secretary of State for Trade and
  • 345. Industry.Only a few days later Michael Foot announced that hewould not be runningagain for Leader when the Partys annual conference tookplace. That leftNeil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley the frontrunners. Duringthe weeksleading up to the Labour Partys conference, severaltrade unionists andMPs approached Raymond and asked him to run but he toldthem all, "Nexttime."As Raymond had predicted, Kinnock won handily.Hattersley was elected hisdeputy.323FIRST AMONG EQUALSAfter the conference Raymond returned to Leeds for theweekend, stillconfident that he would be offered a major post in theShadow Cabinetdespite the fact that he hadnt supported the winner.Having completed hisLeeds office hours, he hung around the house waiting forthe new Leader tocall him. When Neil Kinnock eventually phoned late thatevening Raymond wasshocked by his offer and replied without hesitation thathe was notinterested. It was a short conversation.Joyce came into the drawing room as he sank back intohis favoritearmchair."Well, what did he offer you?" she asked, facing him."Transport. Virtually a demotion.""What did you say?""I turned him down, of course.""Who has he given the main jobs to?""I didnt ask, and he didnt volunteer, but I suspectwell only have towait for the morning papers to find out. Not that Imthat interested," he
  • 346. continued, staring at the floor, "as I intend to takethe first place thatcomes free on the legal bench. Ive wasted too manyyears already.""So have I," said Joyce quietly-"What do you mean?" asked Raymond, looking up at hiswife for the firsttime since she had come into the room."If youre going to make a complete break, I think itstime for me to doso as well.""I dont understand," said Raymond."We havent been close for a long time, Ray," saidJoyce, looking straightinto her husbands eyes. "If youre thinking of givingup the constituencyand spend even more time in London, I think we shouldpart." She turnedaway."Is there someone else?" asked Raymond, his voicecracking."No one special."324FIRST AMONG EQUALS"But someone?""There is a man who wants to marry me," said Joyce, "ifthats what youmean. We were at school in Bradford together. Hes anaccountant now andhas never married.""But do you love him?"Joyce considered the question. "No, I cant pretend Ido. But were goodfriends, hes very kind and understanding, and, moreimportant, hesthere."Raymond couldnt move."And the break would at least give you the chance to askKate Garthwaiteto give up her job in New York and return to London."Raymond gasped."Think about it and let me know what you decide." She
  • 347. left the roomquickly so that he could not see her tears.Raymond sat alone in the room and thought back over hisyears withJoyce-and Kate-and knew exactly what he wanted to do,now that the wholeaffair was out in the open.Harry Hamptons third birthday party was attended by allthosethree-year-olds in the vicinity of Eaton Square whom hisnanny consideredacceptable. Charles managed to escape from adepartmental meeting accom-panied by a large box of paint and a red tricycle. As heparked his carin Eaton Square he spotted Fionas old Volvo drivingaway toward SloaneSquare. He dismissed the coincidence. Harry naturallywanted to ride thetricycle around and around the dining-room table.Charles sat watchinghis son and couldnt help noticing that he was smallerthan most of hisfriends. Then he remembered that Great-grandfather hadonly been fivefeet eight inches tall.It was the moment after the candles had been blown out,and nanny hadswitched the light back on, that Charles was first awarethat somethingwas missing. It was like the game children play withobjects on a tray:325FIRST AMONG EQUALSeveryone shuts his eyes, nanny takes one object away andthen you all haveto guess which it was.It took Charles some time to realize that the missingobject was hissmall gold cigar box. He walked over to the sideboardand studied the
  • 348. empty space. He continued to stare at the spot where thesmall gold boxleft to him by his great-grandfather had been theprevious night. Now allthat was left in its place was the matching lighter.He immediately asked Amanda if she knew where theheirloom was, but hiswife seemed totally absorbed in lining up the childrenfor a game ofmusical chairs. After checking carefully in the otherrooms, Charles wentinto his study and phoned the Chelsea police.An inspector from the local precinct came aroundimmediately and tookdown all the details. Charles was able to supply thepolice officer witha photograph of the box, which carried the initialsC.G.H. He stoppedjust short of mentioning Fiona by name.Raymond caught the last train to London the same eveningbecause he hadto be in court to hear a verdict by ten oclock the nextmorning. In theflat that night he slept intermittently as he thoughtabout how he wouldspend the rest of his new life. Before he went intocourt the nextmorning he ordered a dozen red roses via Interflora. Hephoned theAttorney General. If he was going to change his life, hemust change itin every way.When the verdict had been given and the judge had passedsentence,Raymond checked the plane schedules. Nowadays you couldbe there in sucha short time. He booked his flight and took a taxi toHeathrow. He saton the plane praying it wasnt too late and that toomuch time hadntpassed. The flight seemed endless, as did the taxi drivefrom theairport.
  • 349. When he arrived at her front door she was astonished.326FIRST AMONG EQUALS"What are you doing here on a Monday afternoon?" sheasked."Ive come to try and win you back," said Raymond."Christ, that soundscomy," he added."Its the nicest thing youve said in years," she saidas he held her inhis arms; over Joyces shoulder Raymond could see theroses brightening upthe drawing room.Over a quiet dinner, Raymond told Joyce of his plans toaccept the AttorneyGenerals offer to join the Bench, but only if she wouldagree to live inLondon. They had a second bottle of champagne.When they arrived at home a little after one, the phonewas ringing.Raymond opened the door and stumbled toward it whileJoyce groped for thelight switch."Raymond, Ive been trying to get you all night," alilting Welsh voicesaid."Have you now9" Raymond said thickly, trying to keep hiseyes open."You sound as if youve been to a good party.""Ive been celebrating with my wife.""Celebrating9 Before youve heard the news?""What news?" said Raymond, collapsing into the armchair."Ive been juggling the new team around all day and Iwas hoping you wouldagree to join the Shadow Cabinet as..."Raymond sobered up very quickly and listened carefullyto Neil Kinnock."Can you hold the line?""Of course," said the surprised voice at the other end."Joyce," said Raymond, as she came out of the kitchenclutching two mugs of
  • 350. very black coffee. "Would you agree to five with me inLondon if I dontbecome a judge?"A wide smile spread over Joyces face with the realiza-327FIRST AMONG EQUALStion that he was seeking her approval. She nodded severaltimes."Id be delighted to accept," he said."Thank you, Raymond. Perhaps we could meet at my officein the Commonstomorrow and talk over policy in your new field.""Yes, of course," said Raymond. "See you tomorrow." Hedropped the phone onthe floor and fell asleep in the chair, grinning.Joyce replaced the phone and didnt discover until thefollowing morningthat her husband was the new Shadow Secretary of Statefor Defense.Charles had heard nothing for three weeks about themissing gold box andwas beginning to despair when the inspector phoned tosay that the familyheirloom had been found."Excellent news," said Charles. "Are you able to bringthe box around toEaton Square?""Its not quite as simple as that, sir," said thepoliceman."What do you mean?""I would prefer not to discuss the matter over thephone. May I come andsee you, sir?""By all means," said Charles, slightly mystified.He waited impatiently for the inspector to arrive,although the policemanwas at the front door barely ten minutes later. Hisfirst question tookCharles by surprise."Are we alone, sir?""Yes," said Charles. "My wife and son are away visitingmy mother-in-law in
  • 351. Wales. You say youve found the gold box," he continued,impatient to hearthe inspectors news."Yes, sir.""Well done, Inspector. I shall speak to the commis-328FIRST AMONG EQUALSsioner personally," he added, guiding the officer towardthe drawing room."Im afraid theres a complication, sir.""How can there be when youve found the box?""We cannot be sure there was anything illegal about itsdisappearance inthe first place.""What do you mean, Inspector?""The gold case was offered to a dealer in Grafton Streetfor twenty-fivehundred pounds.""And who was doing the selling?" asked Charlesimpatiently."Thats the problem, sir. The check was made out toAmanda Hampton and thedescription fits your wife," said the inspector. Charleswas speechless."And the dealer has a receipt to prove the transaction."The inspectorpassed over a copy of the receipt. Charles was unable tosteady his shakinghand as he recognized Amandas signature."Now, as this matter has already been referred to theDirector of PublicProsecutions, I thought I ought to have a word with youin private, as I amsure you would not want us to press charges.""Yes, no, of course, thank you for your consideration,Inspector," saidCharles flatly."Not at all, sir. The dealer has made his positionclear: he will be onlytoo happy to return the cigar box for the exact sum hepaid for it. I dontthink that could be fairer."Charles made no comment other than to thank the
  • 352. inspector again beforeshowing him out.He returned to his study, phoned Amanda at her mothershouse and told herto return immediately. She started to protest, but hedalready hung up.Charles remained at home until they all arrived back atEaton Square latethat night. The nanny and Harry were immediately sentupstairs.329FIRST AMONG EQUALSIt took Charles about five minutes to discover that onlya few hundredpounds of the money was left. When his wife burst intotears he struckher across the face with such force that she fell to theground. "Ifanything else disappears from this house," he said, "youwill go with it,and I will also make sure you spend a very long time injail." Amanda ranout of the room sobbing uncontrollably.The following day Charles advertised for a full-timegoverness. He alsomoved his own bedroom to the top floor so that he couldbe close to hisson. Amanda made no protest.Raymond gave up his flat in the Barbican, and he andJoyce moved into asmall Georgian house in Cowley Street, only a fewhundred yards from theHouse of Commons.Raymond watched Joyce decorate his study first, then sheset about therest of the house with the energy and enthusiasm of anewlywed. OnceJoyce had completed the guest bedroom, Raymonds parentscame down tospend the weekend. Raymond burst out laughing when hegreeted his father
  • 353. at the door clutching a bag marked "Gould the FamilyButcher.""They do have meat in London, you know," said Raymond."Not like mine, son," his father replied.Over the finest beef dinner Raymond could remember, hewatched Joyce andhis mother chatting away. "Thank God I woke up in time,"he said outloud."What did you say?" asked Joyce."Nothing, my dear. Nothing."Alec Pimkin threw a party for all of his Tory colleagueswho had enteredthe House in 1964, "To celebrate the first twenty yearsin the Commons,"as he330FIRST AMONG EQUALSdescribed the occasion in an impromptu after-dinnerspeech.Over brandy and cigars the corpulent, balding figure satback and surveyedhis fellow members. Many had fallen by the way over theyears, but of thosethat were left, he believed only two men now dominatedthe intake.Pimkins eyes first settled on his old friend CharlesHampton. Despitestudying him closely, he was still unable to spot a grayhair on theTreasury Ministers head. From time to time Pimkin stillsaw Amanda, whohad returned to being a fulltime model and was rarely tobe found inEngland nowadays. Charles, he suspected, saw more of heron magazine coversthan he ever did in his home at Eaton Square. Pimkin hadbeen surprised byhow much time Charles was willing to put aside forlittle Harry. Charleswas the last man he would have suspected of ending up a
  • 354. doting father.Certainly the coals of his ambitions had in no waydimmed, and Pimkinsuspected that only one man remained a worthy rival forthe PartyLeadership.Pimkins eyes moved on to someone for whom theresponsibility of highoffice seemed to hold no fears. Simon Kerslake was deepin animatedconversation about his work on the proposed disarmamenttalks betweenThatcher, Chernenko and Reagan. Pimkin studied theForeign Office Ministerintently. He considered that if he himself had beengraced with such looks,he would not have had to fear for his dwindlingmajority.Rumors of some financial crisis had long since diedaway, and Kerslake nowseemed well set for a formidable future.The party began to break up as one by one hiscontemporaries came over tothank him for such a "splendid ... .. memorable,""worthwhile" evening.When the last one had departed and PJmkin found himselfalone,331FIRST AMONG EQUALShe drained the drop of brandy that remained in hisballoon and stubbed outthe dying cigar. He sighed as he speculated on the factthat he could nownever hope to be made a Minister.He therefore determined to become a kingmaker, for inanother twentyyears there would be nothing left on which to speculate.Raymond celebrated his twenty years in the House bytaking Joyce to theIvy Restaurant off Berkeley Square for dinner. Headmired the long
  • 355. burgundy dress his wife had chosen for the occasion andeven noticed thatonce or twice women gave it more than a casual glancethroughout theirmeal.He too reflected on his twenty years in the Commons, andhe told Joyceover a brandy that he hoped he would spend more of thenext twenty yearsin Government. Nineteen eighty-four was not turning outto be a good yearfor the Conservatives, and Raymond was already formingplans to make 1985as uncomfortable for the Government as possible.The winter of 1985 brought further rises in unemploymentand the levelof inflation, which only increased the Labour Partyslead in the polls.For a short period after the Chancellor had brought inan emergencybudget, Tory popularity fell to its lowest point in fiveyears.Mrs. Thatcher took that as a cue to introduce new bloodinto her Cabinet,and announced the names of those who would beformulating policy in therun-up to the next General Election. The average age ofthe Cabinet fellby seven years, and the press dubbed it "Mrs. Thatchersnew-lamps-for-old reshuffle."332PART FIVETheConservativeCabinet1985-198827RAYMOND WAS ON HIS WAY to the House of Commons when heheard the first
  • 356. reports on his car radio. There had been no mention ofthe news in themorning papers so it must have happened during the night.It began with anews flash-just the bare details. HMS Broadsword, a typeT.K. 22 frigate,had been passing through the Gulf of Surt between Tunisand Benghazi whenshe was boarded by a group of mercenaries, posing ascoast guard officials,who took over the ship in the name of Libyas ColonelMuammar Qaddafi. Thenewscaster went on to say that there would be a moredetailed report intheir ten oclock bulletin.Staying near a radio most of the morning, Raymondlearned that HMSBroadsword was now in the hands of over a hundredguerrillas. They weredemanding the freedom of all Libyan prisoners in Britishjails in exchangefor the two hundred and seventeen-strong crew of theBroadsword, who werebeing held hostage in the engine room.By lunch time the ticker-tape machine in the memberscorridor wassurrounded by members with craning335FIRST AMONG EQUALSnecks, and the dining rooms were so full that many ofthem had to go withoutlunch.The Palace of Westminster was already packed and buzzingwith each newsnippet of information. Political correspondents waitedhawklike in themembers lobby seeking opinions on the crisis from anysenior politiciansas they passed to and from the chamber. Few were rashenough to sayanything that might be reinterpreted the next day.At three twenty-seven the Prime Minister, followed by
  • 357. the Foreign Secretaryand the Secretary of State for Defense, filed into theHouse and took herplace on the front bench. All three looked suitablysomber.At three-thirty the Speaker rose and called for order."Statements to the House," he announced in his crisp,military style."There will be two statements on HMS Broadsword beforethe House debatesWelsh affairs." The Speaker then called the Secretary ofState for Defense.Simon Kerslake rose ftorn the ftont bench and placed aprepared statementon the dispatch box in front of him."Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of theHouse, I would like tomake a statement concerning Her Majestys frigateBroadsword. Atseven-forty GMT this morning, HMS Broadsword was passingthrough the Gulfof Surt between Tunis and Benghazi when a group ofguerrillas, posing asofficial coast guards, boarded the ship and seized hercaptain, CommanderLawrence Packard, and placed the crew under arrest. Theguerriflas,claiming to represent the Libyan Peoples Army, havesince placed CommanderPackard and the crew in the engine room of the ship. Asfar as it ispossible to ascertain from our Embassy in Tripoli, nolives have been lost.There is no suggestion that Broadsword was other thangoing about herlawful business. This barbaric act must be looked uponas piracy under the1958 336FIRST AMONG EQUALSGeneva Convention on the High Seas. The guerrillas aredemanding the releaseof all Libyan prisoners in British prisons in exchangefor the return of HMS
  • 358. Broadsword and her crew. My Right Honorable friend, theHome Secretary,informs me there are only four known Libyans in Britishprisons at thepresent time, two of whom have been sentenced to threemonths for persistentshoplifting, while the other two were convicted on moreserious drugcharges. Her Majestys Government cannot and will notinterfere with the dueprocess of law and has no intention of releasing thesemen."Loud "Hear, hears" came from all sections of the House."My Right Honorable friend, the Foreign Secretary, hasmade Her MajestysGovernments position clear to the Libyan Ambassador, inparticular thatHer Majestys Government cannot be expected to toleratethis sort oftreatment of British subjects or of British property. Wehave demanded andexpect immediate action from the Libyan government.,,Simon sat down to loud and prolonged cheers beforeRaymond Gould rose fromhis place. The House went silent as everyone wanted todiscover what theLabour Party line would be."Mr. Speaker," began Raymond, "we in the Labour Partyalso look upon thisbarbaric act as one of piracy on the high seas. But canI ask the Secretaryfor Defense if he has any plans at this early stage forthe recovery ofBroadsword?"Simon rose again. "We are, Mr. Speaker, at presentseeking a diplomaticsolution, but I have already chaired a meeting of theJoint Chiefs, and Ianticipate making a further statement to the Housetomorrow."Raymond rose again from his place on the front bench."But can the RightHonorable Gentleman tell the House how long he willallow negotiations to
  • 359. continue when it is well known throughout the diplomatic337FIRST AMONG EQUALSworld that Qaddaft is a master of procrastination,especially if we are torely on the United Nations to adjudicate on this issue?"From the noise thatgreeted Raymonds inquiry, it seemed that his views wereshared by themajority of the House.Simon rose to answer the question. "I accept the pointthe HonorableGentleman is making, but he will know, having been aMinister in the lastGovernment himself, that I am not in a position todivulge any informationwhich might imperil the safety of Broadsword.- Raymondnodded hisacquiescence.Question after question came at Simon. He handled themwith such confidencethat visitors in the Strangers Gallery would have foundit hard to believethat he had been invited to join the Cabinet only fiveweeks before.At four-fifteen, after Simon had answered the lastquestion the Speaker wasgoing to allow, he sank back on the front bench tolisten to the statementfrom the Foreign Office. The House fell silent onceagain as the ForeignSecretary rose from his place and checked the largedouble-spaced sheets infront of him. All eyes were now on the tall, elegant manwho was making hisfirst official statement since his appointment."Mr. Speaker, with your permission and that of theHouse, I too would liketo make a statement concerning HMS Broadsword. Once newshad reached theForeign Office this morning of the plight of HerMajestys ship Broadsword,
  • 360. my office immediately issued a strongly worded statementto the governmentof Libya. The Libyan ambassador has been called to theForeign Office andI shall be seeing him again immediately after thisstatement and thequestions arising from it have been completed."Raymond looked up at the Strangers Gallery from hisplace on theOpposition front bench. It was one of the ironies ofmodem diplomacy thatthe Libyan ambassador was in Parliament making noteswhile the For338FIRST AMONG EQUALSeign Secretary delivered his statement. He couldntimagine ColonelQaddafi inviting the British ambassador to take noteswhile he sat in histent addressing his followers. Raymond was pleased to seean attendant askthe ambassador to stop writing; the prohibition datedfrom the time whenthe House had jealously guarded its secrecy. Raymondseyes dropped backto the front bench, and he continued to listen to CharlesHampton."Our ambassador to the United Nations has presented aresolution to bedebated by the General Assembly this afternoon, askingrepresentativesto back Britain against this flagrant violation of the1958 GenevaConvention on the High Seas. I confidently expect thesupport of the freeworld. Her Majestys Government will do everything inits power to insurea diplomatic solution, bearing in mind that the lives oftwo hundred andseventeen British servicemen are still at risk."The Shadow Foreign Secretary rose and asked at whatpoint the ForeignSecretary would consider once again breaking offdiplomatic relations
  • 361. with Libya."I naturally hope it will not come to that, Mr. Speaker,and I expect theLibyan government to deal quickly with their ownmercenaries." Charlescontinued to answer questions from all sections of theHouse but couldonly repeat that there was little new intelligence tooffer the House atthe present time.Raymond watched his two contemporaries as they displayedover twentyyears of parliamentary skill in presenting their case.He wondered ifthis episode would make one of them Mrs. Thatchersobvious successor.At four-thirty the Speaker, realizing nothing new hadbeen said for sometime, announced that he would allow one further questionfrom each sidebefore returning to the business of the day. He shrewdlycalled AlecPimkin, who sounded to Raymond like "the very model of amodemmajor-general," and then Tom Carson, who339FIRST AMONG EQUALSsuggested that Colonel Qaddafi was often misrepresentedby the Britishpress. Once Carson had sat down, the Speaker found iteasy to move on toother business.The Speaker rose again and thanked the HonorableGentleman, the memberfor Leeds North, for his courtesy in informing him thathe would bemaking an application under Standing Order Number 10 foran emergencydebate. The Speaker said he had given the matter carefulthought but hereminded the House that, under the terms of the StandingOrder, he did
  • 362. not need to divulge the reasons for his decision-merelywhether thematter should have precedence over the orders of theday. He ruled thatthe matter was not proper for discussion within theterms of StandingOrder Number 10.Raymond rose to protest, but as the Speaker remainedstanding, he had toresume his seat."This does not mean, however," continued the Speaker,"that I would notreconsider such a request at a later date."Raymond realized that Charles Hampton and Simon Kerslakemust havepleaded for more time, but he was only going to allowthem twenty-fourhours. The clerkat-the-table rose and bellowed above thenoise of membersleaving the chamber, "Adjournment." The Speaker calledthe Secretary ofState for Wales to move the adjournment motion on theproblems facing theWelsh mining industry. The chamber emptied of all butthe thirty-eightWelsh MPs who had been waiting weeks for a full debateon theprincipalitys affairs.Simon made his way back to the Ministry of Defense tocontinuediscussions with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whileCharles was drivenimmediately to the Foreign Office.When Charles reached his office, he was told by thePermanent UnderSecretary that the Libyan ambassador awaited him.340FIRS,r AMONG EQUALS"Does he have anything new to tell us?" asked Charles."Frankly, nothing.""Send him in."Charles stubbed out his cigarette and stood by the
  • 363. mantelpiece below aportrait of Palmerston. Having taken over at the ForeignOffice only fiveweeks previously, Charles had never met the ambassadorbefore.Mr. Kadir, the dark-haired immaculately dressedfive-foot-one ambassadorfor Libya entered the room."Foreign Secretary?" began Mr. Kadir. Charles wasmomentarily taken abackwhen he noticed the ambassadors Etonian tie. Herecovered quickly."Her Majestys Government wishes to make it abundantlyclear to yourgovernment," began Charles, not allowing the ambassadorto continue,"that we consider the act of boarding and holding HerMajestys shipBroadsword against her will as one of piracy on the highseas.""May I say-T began Mr. Kadir again."No, you may not," said Charles. "And until our ship hasbeen released,we shall do everything in our power to bring pressure,both diplomaticand economic, on your government.""But may I just say--T Mr. Kadir tried again."My Prime Minister also wants you to know that shewishes to speak toyour Head of State at the soonest possible opportunity,so I shall expectto hear back from you within the hour.""Yes, Foreign Secretary, but may I-T"And you may further report that we will reserve ourright to take anyaction we deem appropriate if you fail to secure therelease into safecustody of HMS Broadsword and tier crew by twelve noontomorrow, GMT. DoI make myself clear?""Yes, Foreign Secretary, but I would like to ask---2341FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 364. "Good day, Mr. Kadir."After the Libyan ambassador was shown out, Charlescouldnt helpwondering what it was he had wanted to say."What do we do now?" he asked when the Permanent UnderSecretaryreturned, having deposited Mr. Kadir in the elevator."We act out the oldest diplomatic game in the world.""What do you mean?" said Charles."Our sit-and-wait policy. Were awfully good at it,"said the PermanentUnder Secretary, "but then weve been at it for nearly athousand years.""Well, while we sit lets at least make some phonecalls. Ill start withSecretary of State Kirkpatrick in Washington and thenId like to speakto Gromyko in Moscow."When Simon arrived back at the Ministry of Defense fromthe C ommons hewas told that the Joint Chiefs were assembled in hisoffice waiting forhim to chair the next strategy meeting. As he enteredthe room to takehis place at the table, the Joint Chiefs rose."Good afternoon, gentlemen," Simon said. "Please beseated. Can you bringme up to date on the latest situation, Sir John?"Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, Chief of the Defense staff,pushed up thehalf-moon glasses from the end of his nose and checkedthe notes in frontof him."Very little has changed in the last hour, sir," hebegan. "The PrimeMinisters office has still had no success in contactingColonel Qaddafi.I fear we must now treat the capture of Broadsword as ablatant act ofterrorism, rather similar to the occupation seven yearsago of theAmerican Embassy in Iran by students who backed the late
  • 365. AyatollahKhomeini. In such circumstances we can either jaw-jawor war-war, toquote Sir Winston. With that in mind, this committeewill have342FIRST AMONG EQUALSformed a detailed plan by the early evening for therecapture of HMSBroadsword, as we assume the Foreign Office is betterqualified to preparefor jaw-jaw." Sir John looked toward his Minister."Are you in a position to give me a provisional planthat I could placein front of the Cabinet for their consideration?""Certainly, Minister," said Sir John, pushing up hisglasses again beforeopening a large blue file in front of him.Simon listened intently as Sir John went over hisprovisional strategy.Around the table sat eight of the senior-ranking staffofficers of thearmy, the navy and the air force, and even the firstdraft plan bore thestamp of their three hundred years of militaryexperience. Simon couldnthelp remembering that his call-up status was still thatof a 2ndLieutenant. For an hour he asked the Joint Chiefsquestions that rangedfrom the elementary to those that demonstrated a clearinsight into theirproblems. When Simon left the room to attend the Cabinetmeeting atNumber 10, the Joint Chiefs were already updating theplan.Simon walked slowly across Whitehall from the Departmentof Defense toDowning Street, his private detective by his side.Downing Street wasthronged with people curious to see the comings andgoings of Ministers
  • 366. involved in the crisis. Simon was touched that the crowdapplauded himall the way to the front door of Number 10, wherethejournalists and TVcrews awaited each arrival. The great television arcfights were switchedon as he reached the door, and a microphone was thrustin front of him,but he made no comment. Simon was surprised by how manyof the normallycynical journalists called out, "Good luck," and "Bringour boys home."The front door opened and he went straight through tothe corridoroutside the Cabinet room, where twenty343FIRST AMONG EQUALStwo of his colleagues were already waiting. A momentlater, the PrimeMinister walked into the Cabinet room and took her seatin the center ofthe table, with Charles and Simon opposite her.Mrs. Thatcher began by telling her colleagues that shehad been unableto make any contact with Colonel Qaddafi and that theymust thereforedecide on a course of action that did not involve hisacquiescence. Sheinvited the Foreign Secretary to brief the Cabinetfirst.Charles went over the actions in which the ForeignOffice was involvedat the diplomatic level. He reported his meeting withAmbassador Kadir,and the resolution which had been proposed at the UN andwhich was al-ready being debated at an emergency session of theGeneral Assembly. Thepurpose of asking the United Nations to back Britain onResolution 12/40,he said, was to capture the diplomatic initiative andvirtually guaranteeinternational sympathy. Charles went on to tell theCabinet that he
  • 367. expected a vote to take place in the General Assemblythat evening whichwould demonstrate overwhelming support for the UnitedKingdomsresolution and which would be regarded as a moralvictory by the wholeworld. He was delighted to be able to report to theCabinet that theforeign ministers of both the United States and Russiahad agreed to backthe UK in her diplomatic endeavors as long as shelaunched no retaliatoryaction. Charles ended by reminding his colleagues of theimportance oftreating the whole affair as an act of piracy ratherthan as an injuryat the hands of the Libyan government itself.A legal nicety, thought Simon as he watched the faces ofhis colleaguesaround the table. They were obviously impressed thatCharles had broughtthe two superpowers together in support of Britain. ThePrime Ministersface remained inscnitable. She called upon Simon to airhis views.He was able to report that Broadsword had, since the 344FIRST AMONG EQUALSlast meeting of the Cabinet, been towed into the Bay ofSurt and moored,there was no hope of boarding her except by sea.Commander Packard and hiscrew of two hundred and seventeen remained under closearrest in the engineroom on the lower deck of the ship. From confirmedreports Simon hadreceived in the last hour, it appeared that the shipscompany were boundand gagged, and that the ventilation systems had beenturned off. "Itherefore suggest," said Simon, "that we have no choicebut to mount arescue operation in order to avoid a protractednegotiation that can only
  • 368. end in grave loss of morale for the entire armed forces.The longer we putoff such a decision, the harder our task will become. TheJoint Chiefs areputting the final touches to a plan code-namedShoplifter, which they feelmust be carried out in the next forty-eight hours if themen and the shipare to be saved." Simon added that he hoped diplomaticchannels would bekept open while the operation was being worked out, inorder that out rescueteam could be assured of the greatest element ofsurprise."But what if your plan fails?" interrupted Charles. "Wewould risk losingnot only Broadsword and her crew but also the good willof the free world.""There is no serving officer in the British navy whowill thank us forleaving Broadsword in Libyan waters while we negotiate asettlement inwhich, at best, our ship will be returned when it suitsthe guerrillas-tosay nothing of the humiliation of our navy. Qaddafi canlaugh at the UnitedNations while he has captured not only one of our mostmodem frigates butalso the headfines of the world press. Unlike the St.Jamess Square siege,he has the initiative this time. These headlines canonly demoralize ourcountrymen and invite the sort of election defeat Cartersuffered at thehands of the American people after the Iranian Embassydebacle.""We would be foolish to take such an unnecessary 345FIRST AMONG EQUALSrisk while we have world opinion on our side," protestedCharles. "Let usat least wait a few more days.""I fear that if we wait," said Simon, "the crew will betransferred from
  • 369. the ship to a military prison, which would only resultin our having twotargets to concentrate on, and then Qaddafi can sitaround in the deserttaking whatever amount of time suits him."Simon and Charles weighed argument againstcounterargument while thePrime Minister listened, taking note of the views of herother colleaguesaround the table to see if she had a majority for onecourse or theother. Three hours later, when everyone had given hisopinion, she had"14-9" written on the pad in front of her."I think we have exhausted the arguments, gentlemen,"she said, "andhaving listened to the collective views around thistable I feel we muston balance allow the Secretary of State for Defense toproceed with Op-eration Shoplifter. I therefore propose that theForeign Secretary, theDefense Secretary, the Attorney General and myself makeup asubcommittee, backed up by a professional staff, toconsider the JointChiefs plan. The utmost secrecy will be required fromus at all times,so the subject will not be raised again until the planis ready forpresentation to a full meeting of the Cabinet.Therefore, with theexception of the subcommittee, all Ministers will returnto theirdepartments and carry on with their normal duties. Wemust not lose sightof the fact that the country still has to be governed.Thank you,gentlemen." The Prime Minister asked Charles and Simonto join her in thestudy.As soon as the door was closed she said to Charles,"Please let me knowthe moment you hear the results of the vote in the
  • 370. General Assembly. Nowthat the Cabinet has favored a military initiative, itis important thatyou are seen to be pressing for a diplomatic solution.""Yes, Prime Minister," said Charles without emotion. 346FIRST AMONG EQUALSMrs. Thatcher then turned to Simon. "When can I have arundown on thedetails of the Joint Chiefs, plan?""We anticipate working on the strategy through thenight, Prime Minister,and I should be able to make a full presentation to youby ten tomorrow.""No later, Simon," said the Prime Minister. "Now ournext problem istomorrows proposed emergency debate. Raymond Gould willundoubtedly put ina second request for a full debate under Standing OrderNumber Ten, and theSpeaker gave the House a clear hint today that he willallow it. Anyway, wecant avoid making a policy statement without an outcryfrom the Oppositionbenches~-and I suspect our own-so I have decided that wewill grasp thenettle and no doubt get stung."The two men looked at each other, united for a moment inexasperation atthe thought of having to waste precious hours in theCommons."Charles, you must be prepared to open the debate forthe Government, andSimon, you will wind up. At least the debate will be onThursday afternoon;that way some of our colleagues may have gone home forthe weekend, thoughfrankly I doubt it. But with any luck we will havesecured a moral victoryat the United Nations, and we can keep the Oppositionminds concentratingon that. When you sum up, Simon, just answer thequestions put during thedebate. Do not offer any new initiative." She then
  • 371. added, "Report any newsyou hear directly to me. I shant be sleeping tonight."Charles walked back to the Foreign Office, thankful atleast that Amandawas off somewhere in South America.Simon returned to the Joint Chiefs to find a large mapof Libyanterritorial waters pinned to a blackboard. Generals,admirals and airmarshals were studying the contours and ocean depthslike so many childrenpreparing for a geography test.347FIRST AMONG EQUALSThey all stood again when Simon entered the room. Theylooked at him inanticipation, men of action who were suspicious of talk.When Simon toldthem the Cabinets decision was to back the Ministry ofDefense, thesuggestion of a smile came over the face of Sir John."Perhaps that battlewill turn out to be our hardest," he said, just loudenough for everyone tohear."Take me through the plan again," said Simon, ignoringSir Johns comment."I have to present it to the Prime Minister by tenoclock tomorrow."Sir John placed the tip of a long wooden pointer on amodel of HMSBroadsword in the middle of a stretch of water in awell-protected bay.When Charles reached his office, the internationaltelegrams and telexes ofsupport for a diplomatic solution were piled high on hisdesk. ThePermanent Under Secretary reported that the debate inthe United Nationshad been so onesided that he anticipated an overwhelmingmajority when they
  • 372. came to vote. Charles feared his hands were tied; he hadto be seen to gothrough the motions, even by his own staff, although hehad not yet givenup hopes of undermining Simons plan. He intended thewhole episode to endup as a triumph for the Foreign Office and not for thosewarmongers at theMinistry of Defense. After consulting the PermanentUnder Secretary,Charles appointed a small "Libyan task force" consistingof some olderForeign Office mandarins with experience of Qaddafi andfour of thedepartments most promising "high fliers."Oliver Milas, the former ambassador to Libya, had beendragged out ofretirement from his comfortable Wilshire home anddeposited in a tiny roomin the upper reaches of the Foreign Office so thatCharles could call onhis knowledge of Libya at any time, day or night,throughout the crisis.Charles asked the Permanent Under Secretary to link348FIRST AMONG EQUALShim up with Britains ambassador at the United Nations."And keep trying to raise Qaddafi."Simon listened to Sir John go over the latest version ofOperationShoplifter. Thirty-seven men from the crack Special BoatService, a branchof the SAS regiment which had been involved in the St.Jamess Square siegein April 1984, were now in Rosyth on the Scottish coast,preparing to boardHMS Brilliant, the sister ship to Broadsword.The men were to be dropped from a submarine a mileoutside Rosyth harborand swim the last mile and a half underwater until theyreached the ship.
  • 373. They would then board Brilliant and expect to recaptureher from a mockLibyan crew in an estimated twelve minutes. Brilliantwould then be sailedto a distance of one nautical mile off the Scottishcoast. The operationwas to be completed in sixty minutes. The SBS planned torehearse theprocedure on Brilliant three times before first lightthe followingmorning, when they hoped to have the entire exercisedown to the hour.Simon had already confirmed the order to send twosubmarines from theMediterranean full steam in the direction of the Libyancoast. The rest ofthe fleet was to be seen to be conspicuously going aboutits normal busi-ness, while the Foreign Office appeared to be searchingfor a diplomaticsolution.Simons request to the Joint Chiefs came as no surpriseand was grantedimmediately. He phoned Elizabeth to explain why hewouldnt be home thatnight. An hour later the Secretary of State for Defensewas strapped intoa helicopter and on his way to Rosyth.Charles followed the proceedings at the United Nationslive in his office.At the end of a brief debate a vote was called for. TheSecretary Generalannounced 147-3 349FIRST AMONG EQUALSin Great Britains favor, with twenty-two abstentions.Charles wondered ifsuch an overwhelming vote would be enough to get thePrime Minister tochange her mind over Kerslakes plan. He checked over thevoting listcarefully. The Russians, along with the Warsaw Pactcountries and the
  • 374. Americans, had kept their word and voted with the UK.Only Libya, SouthYemen and Djibouti had voted against. Charles was putthrough to DowningStreet and passed on the news. The Prime Minister,although delighted withthe diplomatic triumph, refused to change course untilshe had heard fromQaddafi. Charles put the phone down and asked hisPermanent Under Secretaryto call Ambassador Kadir to the Foreign Office once more."But its two oclock in the morning, Foreign Secretary.19"I am quite aware what time it is but I can see noreason why, while we areall awake, he should be having a peaceful nightssleep."When Mr. Kadir was shown into the Foreign Office itannoyed Charles to seethe little man still looking fresh and dapper. It wasobvious that he hadjust shaved and put on a clean shirt."You called for me, Foreign Secretary?" asked Mr. Kadirpolitely, as if hehad been invited to afternoon tea."Yes," said Charles. "We wished to be certain that youare aware of thevote taken at the United Nations an hour ago supportingthe UnitedKingdoms Resolution 12/40.9"Yes, Foreign Secretary.""In which your government was condemned by the leadersof ninety percent ofthe people on the globe"---a fact the Permanent UnderSecretary had fed toCharles a few minutes before Mr. Kadir had arrived."Yes, Foreign Secretary."350FIRST AMONG EQUALS"My Prime Minister is still waiting to hear from yourhead of state."
  • 375. "Yes, Foreign Secretary.""Have you yet made contact with Colonel Qaddafi?""No, Foreign Secretary.""But you have a direct telephone link to hisheadquarters.""Then you will be only too aware, Foreign Secretary,that I have beenunable to speak to him," said Mr. Kadir with a wrysmile.Charles saw the Permanent Under Secretary lower hiseyes. "I shall speak toyou on the hour every hour, Mr. Kadir, but do not pressmy countryshospitality too far. 1)"No, Foreign Secretary.""Good night, Ambassador," said Charles."Good night, Foreign Secretary.Mr. Kadir turned and left the Foreign Office to bedriven back to hisembassy. He cursed the Right Honorable Charles Hampton.Didnt the manrealize that he hadnt been back to Libya, except tovisit his mother,since the age of four? Colonel Qaddafi was ignoring hisambassador everybit as much as he was the British Prime Minister. Hechecked his watch: itread 2:44.Simons helicopter landed in Scotland at two fortyfive.He and Sir Johnwere immediately driven to the dockside and then ferriedout to HMSBrilliant through the misty night."The first Secretary of State not to be piped on boardin living memory,"said Sir John as Simon made his way with difficulty, hisblackthorn sticktapping on the gangplank. The captain of the Brilliantcouldnt disguisehis surprise when he saw his uninvited guests, and heescorted them quicklyto the bridge. Sir John whispered something in the
  • 376. captains ear whichSimon missed.351FIRST AMONG EQUALS"When is the next raid due?" asked Simon, staring outfrom the bridge butunable to see more than a few yards in front of him."They leave the sub at three hundred hours," said thecaptain, "andshould reach Brilliant at approximately three-twenty.They hope to havetaken command of the ship in eleven minutes and be amile beyondterritorial waters in under the hour."Simon checked his watch: it was five to three. Hethought of the SBSpreparing for their task, unaware that the Secretary ofState and theChief of the Defense Staff were on board Brilliantwaiting for them. Hepulled his coat collar up. Suddenly, he was thrown tothe deck, a blackand oily hand clamped over his mouth before he couldprotest. He felt hisarms whipped up and tied behind his back as his eyeswere blindfolded andhe was gagged. He tried to retaliate and received asharp elbow in theribs. Then he was dragged down a narrow staircase anddumped on a woodenfloor. He lay trussed up like a chicken for what hethought was about tenminutes before he heard the ships engines revving upand felt themovement of the ship below him. The Secretary of Statecould not move foranother fifteen minutes."Release them," Simon heard a voice say in distinctlyOxford English. Therope around his arms was untied and the blindfold andgag removed.Standing over the Secretary of State was an SBS frogman,
  • 377. black from headto toe, his white teeth gleaming in a wide grin. Simonwas still slightlystunned as he turned to see the commander of HerMajestys forces alsobeing untied."I must apologize, Minister," said Sir John, as soon ashis gag wasremoved, "but I told the captain not to inform thesubmarine commanderwe were on board. If I am going to risk two hundred andseventeen of mymens lives, I wanted to be sure this rabble from theSBS knew what theywere up to." Simon backed away from352FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe six foot two giant who towered over him stillgrinning,"Good thing we didnt bring the Prime Minister along forthe ride," saidSir John."I agree," said Simon, looking up at the SBS commando."She would havebroken his neck." Everyone laughed except the frogman,who pursed hislips."Whats wrong with him?" said Simon."If he utters the slightest sound during these sixtyminutes, he wontbe selected for the final team.""The Conservative Party could do with some backbenchmembers ofParliament like that," said Simon. "Especially when Ihave to address theHouse tomorrow and explain why Im doing nothing."By three forty-five Brilliant was once again beyondterritorial waters.The newspaper headlines that next morning ranged from"DiplomaticVictory" in the Times to "Qaddafi the Pirate" in the
  • 378. Mirror.At a meeting of the inner Cabinet held at ten in themorning Simonreported his first-hand experience of OperationShoplifter to the PrimeMinister.Charles was quick to follow him. "But after theoverwhelming vote in ourfavor at the UN, it must be sensible for us to postponeanything thatmight be considered as an outright act of aggression.""If the SBS doesnt go tomorrow morning, we will neverhave as good achance, Prime Minister," said Simon, interrupting him.All eyes at the meeting of the inner Cabinet turned toKerslake."WhY9" asked Mrs. Thatcher."Because Ramadan comes to an end today, and tomorrow theMoslems breaktheir daylight fasts. Traditionally its a heavyfeasting-day, whichmeans353FIRST AMONG EQUALStomorrow will be our best chance to catch the guerrillasoff guard. I havebeen over the entire operation in Rosyth and by now theSBS are well ontheir way to the submarines and preparing for theassault. Its all sofinely tuned, Prime Minister, that I obviously dont wantto throw awaysuch a good opportunity.""Thats good reasoning," she concurred. "With theweekend ahead of us wemust pray that this mess will be all over by Mondaymorning. Lets puton our negotiating faces for the Commons this afternoon.I expect a veryconvincing performance from you, Charles."When Raymond rose at three-thirty that Thursday
  • 379. afternoon to ask a secondtime for an emergency debate, the Speaker granted hisrequest, directingthat the urgency of the matter warranted the debate tocommence at sevenoclock that evening.The chamber emptied quickly as the members scuttled offto prepare theirspeeches, although they all knew that less than 2percent of them couldhope to be called. The Speaker departed the chamber anddid not returnuntil five to seven when he took over the chair from hisdeputy.By seven oclock, when Charles and Simon had entered theHouse, allthirty-seven SBS men were aboard Her Majestys submarineConqueror, lyingon the ocean bed about sixty nautical miles off theLibyan coast. Asecond submarine, Courageous, was ten miles to the rearof her. Neitherhad broken radio silence for the past twelve hours.The Prime Minister had still not heard from ColonelQaddafi and they werenow only eight hours away from Operation Shoplifter.Simon looked aroundthe House. The atmosphere resembled budget day, and aneerie silence fellas the Speaker called on Raymond Gould to address theHouse.Raymond began by explaining, under Standing Order 354FIRST AMONG EQUALSNumber 10, why the matter he had raised was specific,important and neededurgent consideration. He quickly moved on to demand thatthe ForeignSecretary confirm that if negotiations with Qaddafifailed or dragged on,the Secretary of State for Defense would not hesitate totake the necessaryaction to recover HMS Broadsword. Simon sat on the frontbench looking glum
  • 380. and shaking his head."Qaddafis nothing more than a pirate," said Raymond."Why talk ofdiplomatic solutions?"The House cheered as each well-rehearsed phrase rolledoff Raymondstongue. Simon listened intently, privately agreeing withhis sentiments andknew that, had their roles been reversed, it would havebeen no different.When Raymond sat down, the cheers came from all parts ofthe chamber and itwas several minutes before the Speaker could bring theHouse back to order.Mr. Kadir sat in the Distinguished Strangers Gallerystaring impassivelydown, trying to memorize the salient points that hadbeen made and theHouses reaction to them, so that-if he were ever giventhe chance-he couldpass them on to Colonel Qaddafi."The Foreign Secretary," called the Speaker, and Charlesrose from hisplace on the Treasury bench. He placed his speech on thedispatch box infront of him and waited. Once again the House fellsilent.Charles opened his case by emphasizing the significanceof the UnitedNations vote as the foundation for a genuine negotiatedsettlement. He wenton to say that his first priority was to secure thelives of the two hun-dred seventeen men on board HMS Broadsword, and that heintended to worktirelessly to that end. The Secretary General was hopingto contact Qaddafipersonally and brief him on the strong feelings of hiscolleagues in theGeneral Assembly. Charles stressed that taking any othercourse at thepresent time could355
  • 381. FIRST AMONG EQUALSonly lose the support and good will of the free world.When Charles satdown, he realized that the rowdy House was not convinced.The contribution from the back benches confirmed thePrime Ministers andSimons belief that they had gauged the feelings of thenation correctly,but neither of them allowed the slightest show ofemotion to cross theirfaces and give hope to those who were demanding militaryaction.By the time Simon rose to wind up for the Government atnine-thirty thatnight, he had spent two and a half hours in the chamberlistening to menand women tell him to get on with exactly what he wasalready doing.Blandly he backed the Foreign Secretary in his pursuitof a diplomaticsolution. The House became restive, and when the clockreached ten, Simonsat down to cries of "Resign" from some of his owncolleagues and the moreright wing of the Labour benches.Raymond watched carefully as Kerslake and Hampton leftthe chamber. Hewondered what was really going on behind the closed doorof Number 10 Dowi g Street.When Raymond arrived home after the debate, Joycecongratulated him on hisspeech and added, "But it didnt evoke much of aresponse from SimonKerslake.""Hes up to something," said Raymond. "I only wish I wassitting in hisoffice tonight and could find out what it is."When Simon arrived back in his office he phonedElizabeth and explainedthat he would be spending another night at the Ministryof Defense."Some women do lose their men to the strangest
  • 382. mistresses," said Elizabeth."By the way, your daughter wants to know if you willhave time to watch herplay field hockey in her intramural final on Saturday.""Whats today?"356FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Its still Thursday," she said, "and to think yourethe one in chargeof the nations defenses."Simon knew the rescue attempt would be all over one wayor the other bylunchtime the next day. Why shouldnt he watch hisdaughter play in afield hockey match?"Tell Lucy Ill be there," he said.Although nothing could be achieved between midnight andsix oclock nowthat the submarines were in place, none of the JointChiefs left theoperations room. Radio silence was not broken oncethrough the night asSimon tried to occupy himself with the bulging red boxescontaining otherpressing matters which still demanded his attention. Hetook advantageof the presence of the Joint Chiefs and had a hundredqueries answeredin minutes that would normally have taken him a month.At midnight the first editions of the morning paperswere brought to him.Simon pinned up the Telegraphs headline on theoperations board."Kerslakes in His Hammock Till the (ireat ArmadaComes." The articledemanded to know how the hero of Northern Ireland couldbe so indecisivewhile Britains sailors lay bound and gagged in foreignwaters, and endedwith the words "Captain, art thou sleeping there below?""Not a wink,"
  • 383. said Simon. "Resign" was the single-word headline of theDaily Express.Sir John looked over the Ministers shoulder and readthe openingparagraph."I shall never understand why anyone wants to be apolitician," he said,before reporting: "We have just heard fromreconnaissance in the areathat both submarines Conqueror and Courageous have movedup into place."Simon picked up the blackthorn stick from the side ofhis desk and leftthe Joint Chiefs to go over to Downing357FIRs-r AMONG EQUALSStreet. He passed the morning street cleaners on theirway to work beforeLondon woke up and started another day. They shouted"Morning, Simon" and"Have You got our ship back yet?",,Ask me in three hours time," he wanted to say butonly smiled.He found the Prime Minister sitting in the Cabinet roomin her bathrobe."Its no use, I couldnt sleep," she said. Simon wentover the final planwith her in great detail, explaining that everything wasready and wouldbe over by the time most people were having theirbreakfasts."Let me know the moment you hear anything-howevertrivial," sheconcluded, before returning to the latest gloomy studyof the economyfrom the Wynne Godley team, who were suggesting that thepound and thedollar would be of equal parity by 1990. "One day youmay have all theseproblems onyour shoulders," she said.Simon smiled and left her to walk slowly back to hisoffice on the other
  • 384. side of Whitehall. He stopped to stare at the statue ofMontgomery thatstood on the grass in front of the Ministry of Defenseand thought howmuch the Field Marshal would have relished the skirmishthat was aboutto take place. A full moon shone like an arc light aboveSaint PaulsCathedral as he hurried back to his office.At one, he joined the Joint Chiefs. None of them lookedtired, althoughthey had all shared the lonely vigil with their comradestwo thousandmiles away. They told stories of Suez and the Falklandsand there wasfrequent laughter. But it was never long before theireyes returned tothe clock.As Big Ben struck one chime, Simon thought: threeoclock in Libya. Hecould visualize the men falling backwards over the sideof the boat anddeep into the358FIRST AMONG EQUALSwater before starting the long, slow swim towardBroadsword.Simon returned to his desk for what was to be thelongest hour of his life.When the phone Yang, breaking the eerie silence like afire alarm, Simonpicked it up to hear Charles Hamptons voice."Simon," he began, "Ive finally gotten through toQaddafi and he wants tonegotiate." Simon looked at his watch; the divers couldonly be a hundredyards from Broadsword."Its too late," he said. "I cant stop them now.""Dont be such a bloody fool-order them to turn back.Dont you understandweve won a diplomatic coup?"
  • 385. "Qaddafi could negotiate for months and still end uphumiliating us. No, Iwont turn back.""We shall see how the Prime Minister reacts to yourarrogance," saidCharles and slammed down the phone.Simon sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. Hewondered if he couldget away with taking the damn thing off the hook--themodem equivalent ofNelson placing the telescope to his blind eye, heconsidered. He needed afew minutes, only a few minutes, but the phone rangagain only secondslater. He picked it up and heard her unmistakable voice."Can you stop them if I order you to, Simon?"He considered lying. "Yes, Prime Minister," he said."But you would still like to carry it through, wouldntyou?""I only need a few minutes, Prime Minister.""Do you understand the consequences if you fail, withCharles alreadyclaiming a diplomatic victory?""You would have my resignation within the hour.""I suspect mine would have to go with it," said Mrs.359FlRs~r AMONG EQUALSThatcher. "In which case Charles would undoubtedly bePrime Minister bythis time tomorrow."There was a moments pause before she continued,"Qaddafi is on the otherline, and I am going to tell him that I am willing tonegotiate." Simonfelt defeated. "Perhaps that will give you enough time,and lets hopeits Qaddafi who has to worry about resignations atbreakfast."Simon nearly cheered."Do you know the hardest thing I have had to do in thisentireoperation?"
  • 386. "No, Prime Minister.""When Qaddafi rang in the middle of the night, I had topretend to beasleep so that he didnt realize I was sitting by thephone."Simon laughed."Good luck, Simon, Ill phone and explain my decision toCharles."The clock said 2:30.On his return the admirals were variously clenchingtheir fists, tappingthe table or walking around, and Simon began to sensewhat the Israelismust have been feeling as they waited for news fromEntebbe.The phone rang again. He knew it couldnt be the PrimeMinister thistime, as she was the one woman in England who neverchanged her mind. Itwas Charles Hampton."I want it clearly understood, Simon, that I gave youthe news concerningQaddafis desire to negotiate at two-twenty. That is onthe record, sothere will be only one Minister handing in hisresignation later thismorning-""I know exactly where you stand, Charles, and I feelconfident thatwhatever happens youll come through your own mound ofmanure smellingof roses," said Simon, slamming down the phone as threeoclock struck.For no fathomable reason everyone in the room360FIRST AMONG EQUALSstood up, but as the minutes passed they sat back downagain one by one.At seven minutes past four radio silence was broken withthe five words,"Shoplifter apprehended, repeat Shoplifter apprehended."Simon watched the Joint Chiefs cheer like schoolchildren
  • 387. reacting to thewinning goal at a football game. Broadsword was on thehigh seas inneutral waters. He sat down at his desk and asked to beput through toNumber 10. The Prime Minister came on the line."Shoplifter apprehended,"he told her."Congratulations, continue as agreed," was all she said.The next move was to be sure that all the Libyanprisoners who had beentaken aboard Broadsword would be discharged at Malta andsent homeunharmed. Simon waited impatiently for radio silence tobe broken again,as agreed, at five oclock.Commander Lawrence Packard came on the fine as Big Benstruck five. Hegave Simon a full report on the operation. One Libyanguerrilla had beenkilled and eleven injured. There had been no, repeat,no, British deathsand only a few minor injuries. The thirty-seven SBS menwere back onboard the submarines Conqueror and Courageous. HMSBroads-word wassailing the high seas on her way home. God Save theQueen.Simon congratulated the commander and returned toDowning Street. As helimped up the street, journalists with no idea of thenews that was aboutto be announced were already gathering outside Number10. Once againSimon answered none of their shouted questions. When hewas shown intothe Cabinet room, he found Charles already there withthe Prime Minister.He told them both the latest news. Charlesscongratulations soundedinsincere.It was agreed that the Prime Minister would make astatement at sevenoclock. The draft was prepared and 361
  • 388. FIRST AMONG EQUALSrevised before Mrs. Thatcher stepped out onto DowningStreet to give thewaiting press the salient details of what had happenedduring the previoussix hours.Television arc lights were switched on and camerasflashed for severalminutes before Mrs. Thatcher was able to speak. As sheread herstatement, Charles Hampton stood on her right and SimonKerslake on herleft, now the undisputed contenders as her successor."I must admit that my opinion of Charles Hampton hasgone up," saidElizabeth in the car on the way to Lucys field hockeymatch."What do you mean?" asked Simon."Hes just been interviewed on television. He said he hadbacked yourjudgment all along while having to pretend to carry outpointlessnegotiations. He had a very good line to the effect thatit was the firsttime in his life that he had felt honorable aboutlying."Elizabeth didnt understand her husbands response."Smelling likeroses," he said sharply.It amused Simon to watch his daughter massacred in themud while he stoodon the sidelines in the rain only hours after he hadfeared Qaddafi mighthave done the same to him. "Its a walkover," he toldthe headmistresswhen Lucys team was down by four goals at halftime."Perhaps shell be like you and surprise us all in thesecond half,"replied the headmistress.At eight oclock on the following Saturday morning Simon
  • 389. sat in hisoffice and heard the news that Broadsword had allengines on full speedand was expected to reach Portsmouth by threeoclock--exactly one weekafter his daughter had lost her match 0-8. They hadnthad a good secondhalf. Simon had tried to console the362FIRST AMONG EQUALSdowncast Lucy, and might even have succeeded if shehadnt been thegoalie.He was smiling when his secretary interrupted histhoughts to remind himthat he was due at Portsmouth in an hour. As Simonreached the door, hisphone rang. "Explain to whoever it is Im already late,"he said.His secretary replied, "I dont think I can, sir."Simon turned around, puzzled."Who is it?" he asked."Her Majesty the Queen."Simon returned to his desk, picked up the receiver andlistened to thesovereign. When she had finished Simon thanked her andsaid he would passon her message to Commander Packard as soon as hereached Portsmouth.During the flight down, Simon looked out of thehelicopter and watcheda traffic jam that stretched from the coast to Londonwith people whowere going to welcome Broadsword home. The helicopterlanded an hourlater.The Secretary of State for Defense stood on the pier andwas able to pickout the frigate through a pair of binoculars. She wasabout an hour awaybut was already surrounded by a flotilla of small craftso that it was
  • 390. hard to identify her.Sir John told him that Commander Packard had signaled toask if theSecretary of State wished to join him on the bridge asthey sailed intoport. "No, thank you," said Simon. "Its his day, notmine.""Good thing the Foreign Secretary isnt with us," saidSir John. A squadof Tornadoes flew over, drowning Simons reply. AsBroadsword sailed intoport, the ships company were all on deck standing toattention in full-dress uniform. The ship itself shone like a Rolls-Roycethat had justcome off the production line.By the time the captain descended the gangplank a363FIRST AMONG EQUALScrowd of some five hundred thousand were cheering soloudly that Simoncould not hear himself speak. Commander Packard salutedas the Secretaryof State leaned forward and whispered the Queens messagein his ear:"Welcome home, Rear Admiral Sir Lawrence Packard."36428IT WAS JOYCE who left a clipping from the Standard forhim to read when hereturned from the Commons one night. She had scribbledacross it: "Thiscould end up on the front page of every national paper."Raymond agreed with her.Although he spent most of his time on the overallstrategy for a futureLabour government, like all politicians he had petanomalies thatparticularly upset him. His had always been war widowspensions, a
  • 391. preoccupation that dated back to his living with hisgrandmother in Leeds.He remembered the shock when he first realized, shortlyafter leaving theuniversity, that his grandmother had eked out anexistence for thirty yearson a weekly widows pension that wouldnt have coveredthe cost of a decentmeal in a London restaurant.From the back benches he had always pressed for theredeeming ofwar bondsand higher pensions for war widows. He even supportedveterans charitiesthat worked on their behalf. His weekly mail showedunequivocally j ust howmaj or a problem war widows pensions had become. Overall his years inParliament, he had worked doggedly to achieve everincreasing, though365FIRST AMONG EQUALSsmall, rises, but be vowed that were he ever to becomeSecretary of Statefor Defense he would enact something more radical.With Joyces clipping in his hand, he tried to press hisview onto areluctant Shadow Cabinet, who seemed more interested inthe planned seriesof one-day strikes by the print unions than the case ofMrs. Dora Benson.Raymond reread the story carefully and discovered thatthe case didntdiffer greatly from the many others he had looked intoover the years,except for the added ingredient of a Victoria Cross. Byany standards, Mrs.Dora Benson highlighted Raymonds cause. She was one ofthe handful ofsurviving widows of the First World War, and herhusband, Private AlbertBenson, had been killed at the Somme while leading anattack on a German
  • 392. trench. Nine Germans had been killed before AlbertBenson died, which waswhy he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. His widowhad worked as achambermaid in the Kings Head at Barking for over fiftyyears. Her onlypossessions of any value were her war bonds; with noredemption date, theywere still passing hands at only twenty-five poundseach. Mrs. Bensonscase might have gone unnoticed if in desperation she hadnot askedSothebys to auction her husbands medal.Once Raymond had armed himself with all the facts, heput down a questionto the Secretary of State for Defense asking if he wouldat last honor theGovernments long-promised pledges in such cases. Asleepy but packed Househeard Simon Kerslake reply that he was giving theprogram his considerationand hoping to present a report on his findings to theChancellor in thenear future. Simon settled back onto the green benches,satisfied that thiswould pacify Gould, but Raymonds supplementary stunnedhim and woke up theHouse."Does the Right Honorable Gentleman realize that thiseighty-three-year-oldwidow, whose husband was killed 366FIRST AMONG EQUALSin action and won the Victoria Cross, has a lower incomethan asixteen-year-old cadet on his first day in the armedforces?"Simon rose once more, determined to put a stop to theissue until he hadhad more time to study the details of this particularcase. "I was notaware of this fact, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure theRight HonorableGentleman that I shall take into consideration all the
  • 393. points he hasmentioned."Simon felt confident the Speaker would now move on tothe next question.But Raymond rose again, the Opposition benches spurringhim on."Is the Right Honorable Gentleman also aware that anadmiral, on anindex-linked income, can hope to end his career with apension of over fivehundred pounds a week while Mrs. Dora Bensons weeklyincome remains fixedat forty-seven pounds thirty-two?"There was a gasp even from the Conservative benches asRaymond sat down.Simon rose again, uncomfortably aware that he wasunprepared for Gouldsattack and must stifle it as quickly as possible. "I wasnot aware of thatparticular comparison either, but once again, I canassure the RightHonorable Gentleman I will give the case my immediateconsideration."To Simons horror Raymond rose from the benches for yeta third time. Simoncould see that Labour members were enjoying the rarespectacle of watchinghim up against the ropes. "Is the Right HonorableGentleman also aware thatthe annuity for a Victoria Cross is one hundred pounds,with no extrapension benefits? We pay our second-string soccerplayers more, while keep-ing Mrs. Benson in the bottom league of the nationalincome bracket."Simon looked distinctly harassed when he in turn rosefor a fourth time andmade an uncharacteristic remark that he regretted themoment he said it.367FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I take the Right Honorable Gentlemans point," he
  • 394. began, his wordscoming out a little too quickly. "And I am fascinated byhis suddeninterest in Mrs. Benson. Would it be cynical of me tosuggest that it hasbeen prompted by the wide publicity this case hasenjoyed in the nationalpress?"Raymond made no attempt to answer him but sat motionlesswith his armsfolded and his feet up on the table in front of himwhile his ownbackbenchers screamed their abuse at Simon.The national papers the next day were covered withpictures of thearthritic Dora Benson with her bucket and mop alongsidephotos of herhandsome young husband in privates uniform. Many of thepapers went onto describe how Albert Benson had won his VC, and someof the tabloidsused considerable license. But all of them picked upRaymonds point.It was an enterprising and unusually thorough journalistfrom theGuardian who led her story on a different angle whichthe rest of thenational press had to turn to in their second editions.It became knownthat Raymond Gould had put down forty-seven questionsconcerning warwidows pension rights during his time in the House andhad spoken on thesubject in three budgets and five social-service debatesfrom the backbenches. When the journalist revealed that Raymond gavefive hundredpounds a year to the Erskine Hospital for woundedsoldiers, every memberknew that Simon Kerslake would have to retract hispersonal attack on theShadow spokesman and make an apology to the House.At three-thirty the Speaker rose from his chair and told
  • 395. a packed housethat the Secretary of State for Defense wished to make astatement.Simon Kerslake rose humbly from the front bench, andstood nervously atthe dispatch box.368FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Mr. Speaker," he began. "With your permission and thatof the House, Iwould like to make a personal statement. During aquestion put to meyesterday I impugned the integrity of the RightHonorable Gentleman, theMember for Leeds North. It has since been brought to myattention thatI did him a gross injustice and I offer the House mysincere apologiesand the Right Honorable Gentleman the assurance that Iwill not questionhis integrity a third time."While newer members were puzzled by the reference,Raymond understood itimmediately. Aware of how rare personal statements werein anyonesparliamentary career, members looked on eagerly to seehow Raymond wouldrespond.He moved slowly to the dispatch box."Mr. Speaker, I accept the gracious manner in which theHonorableGentleman has apologized and hope that he will not losesight of thegreater issue, namely that of war widows benefits, andin particular theplight of Mrs. Dora Benson."Simon looked relieved and nodded courteously.The following morning, the Times editorial declared: "Inan age ofmilitant demands from the left, Parliament and theLabour Party havefound a new Clement Attlee on their front bench. Britain
  • 396. need have nofear for human dignity or the rights of man shouldRaymond Gould everaccede to the high office which that gentleman held."Many Opposition members told Raymond he should have gonefor Simon whenhe was down. Raymond disagreed. It was enough to knowthat Simon Kerslakewas fallible.The Broadsword factor remained in the memories of theelectorate for afar shorter time than had the Falklands victory andwithin six monthsthe Conservative lead in the opinion polls had droppedto only 3 percent.369FIRST AMONG EQUALS"The truth is," noted Raymond at a Shadow Cabinetmeeting, "Mrs. Thatcherhas had nearly eight years at NumberTen, and no PrimeMinister has servedtwo full terms in succession-let alone three-since LordLiverpool at 1812."Margaret Thatcher cared nothing for Lord Liverpool orhistorical precedent:she called an election the following June-the month thathad been a winnerfor her in the past."Its time to let the nation choose who is to govern forthe next fiveyears," she declared on Panorama."Nothing to do with the fact she has regained a slightlead in the opinionpolls," said Joyce tartly."A lead that could well disappear during the next fewweeks," said Raymond.He returned to Yorkshire for only three days of thecampaign because, asone of the Partys leading spokesmen, he had to dasharound the countryaddressing meeting after meeting in marginal seats. Many
  • 397. journalists wentas far as to suggest that were Raymond leading theParty, they would be ina much stronger position to win the election.Back in Leeds, however, he enjoyed his electioneeringand felt completelyrelaxed with his constituents for the first time in hislife. He also felthis age when he discovered that the new Tory candidatefor Leeds North hadbeen born in 1964, the year he had first enteredParhament. When they met,the only insult Raymond suffered at his young rivalshands was beingcalled "sir.""Please call me by my Christian name," said Raymond."Raymond-" began the young man."No, Ray will do just fine."The final result of the election did not become clearuntil four oclock onFriday afternoon. Only a few thousand votes determinedthe outcome:370FIRST AMONG EQUALSCONSERVATIVES 317LABOUR 288LIBERAL/SDP ALLIANCE 24IRISH 17SPEAKER AND OTHERS 4Although Mrs. Thatcher did not have more seats than theother parties puttogether, she still led the largest party in the Houseand remained atNumber 10. She made very few changes to her front-benchteam, as sheclearly wished to leave an impression of unity. Charlesmoved to the HomeOffice, while Simon became Foreign Secretary. The pressdubbed it "TheCosmetic Cabinet."
  • 398. That post-election calm was to last a complete weekbefore Tony Benn roUeda thundercloud across the clear blue summer sky byannouncing he wouldcontest the leadership of the Labour Party at theOctober conference.Benn claimed that Kinnocks naive and gauche approach asLeader had beenthe single reason that the Labour Party had not beenreturned to power.There were many Labourites who agreed with thisjudgment, but they alsofelt they would have fared considerably worse underBenn.What his announcement did, however, was to makerespectable the claims ofany other candidates who wished to run. Roy Hattersleyand John Smithjoined Berm and Kinnock as nominees. Many members ofParliament,trade-union leaders and constituency activists pressedRaymond to run forthe Leadership. Joyce was the most vociferous of all."If you dont run now," she told him, "youll have nochance in thefuture.""Its the future Im thinking about," replied Raymond.371FIRST AMONG EQUALS"What do you mean?""I want to run for Deputy Leader. Its still therecognized number twospot, and it wont stop me from holding a key ShadowCabinet post. And,most important, it will secure me a power base withinthe Party, whichwould give me a better chance next time."Raymond waited another week before he launched hiscandidacy. At a packedMonday-morning press conference, he announced that theLorry Union wasnominating him. Norman Edwards made the motion.
  • 399. With four candidates in the field for the Leadership,everyone knew thatthe first ballot would be inconclusive, although mostprophets acceptedthat Benn would lead. Kinnock confided to Raymond thatif he came inlower than second he would advise his supporters to votefor whicheverof the other moderates looked able to beat Benn in thesecond ballot.The first round went exactly as predicted, with Benncoming in first. Thesecond ballot surprised everyone but Raymond. WithKinnocks supportersvoting for Benns closest rival, the Party chairman wasable to announcea few hours later that Tony Benn had been soundlybeaten. The LabourParty had a new moderate Leader.At eleven oclock that same night the chairman announcedthat by a mere3 percent Raymond Gould had defeated two othercandidates to become thenewly elected Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. Theunions had agreedto allow their members to vote individually, rather thanen bloc, butafter the vote had been announced, Raymond was pleasedto acknowledge awink from Norman Edwards.The new Leader immediately appointed Raymond ShadowChancellor of theExchequer. Among the many letters and telegrams Raymondreceived was onefrom Mrs. Kate Wilberhoff, which read: "Congratulations.372FIRST AMONG EQUALSBut have you read Standing Order No. 5(4) of the PartyConstitution?"Raymond hadnt, and replied, "Hadnt. Have now. Letshope its an omen."
  • 400. After nearly a decade of the lady from Grantham, Raymondsensed the moodwas for change. In their first twelve months, the newLabour team lookedfresh and innovative as Mrs. Thatcher began to looktired and out oftouch.During the long, cold winter of 1988 the Conservativeslost several voteson the floor of the House and many more upstairs incommittee. The PrimeMinister seemed somewhat relieved to find herselfspending Christmas atChequers.The relief did not last long, as two elderlyConservative members diedbefore the House convened in January. The press dubbedthe Government the"lame drake" administration. Both of the pendingby-elections were held inMay, and the Conservatives fared far better than mighthave been expectedin holding on to one seat and just losing the other. Fora fourth time,Mrs. Thatcher plumped for a June election.The monthly unemployment, inflation and import/exportfigures announced atregular intervals during their fourth campaign allaugured badly for theConservatives. The Prime Ministers reiterated plea thata governmentshouldnt be judged on one months figures began tosound unconvincing, andby the final week, the only point of contention waswhether the LabourParty would end up with a large enough majority togovern.Raymond collapsed into bed at four when the result wasstill unclear. Hewas in the middle of a dream when he was abruptlywakened by Joycesscreams from the kitchen.373FIRsr AMONG EQUALS
  • 401. "Weve won. Weve won."He hadnt in his dream.Raymond and Joyce toured the constituency that morningbefore joiningRaymonds parents for a late lunch. When they left thelittle butcher shopthat afternoon, awaiting Raymond on the pavement was acrowd ofwell-wishers who cheered him all the way to his car.Raymond and Joycetraveled down to London and were back in Cowley Streetin time to watch thefirst Labour Prime Minister since 1979 emerge fromBuckingham Palace withthe television cameras following him all the way backuntil he took upresidence at 10 Downing Street.This time Raymond did not have long to wait for atelephone call becausethe first appointment the new Prime Minister confirmedwas Raymonds, ashis Chancellor of the Exchequer. Raymond and Joyce movedinto Number I Ilater that afternoon, instructing real estate agents torent their CowleyStreet house on a shortterm lease. After all, the LabourParty had only wonby four seats.Leaving the Home Office came as a great blow to Charles.He informed Amandaover breakfast on the Monday after the election that hewould be returningto Hamptons Bank and that his salary would besufficient for her allowanceto remain constant-as long as she behaved herself Amandanodded and leftthe breakfast table without comment, as Harry came in.It was an important morning for Harry, as he was to betaken to his firstday of school at Hill House to begin the academic coursemapped out for himby his father. Though Charles tried to convince him that
  • 402. it would be thestart of a wonderful adventure, Harry lookedapprehensive. Once he haddeposited a tearful eight-year-old with his firstheadmaster, Charlescontinued on to the 374FIRST AMONG EQUALSCity, cheerful at the prospect of returning to the worldof banking.When he arrived at Hamptons, he was met by CliveReynoldss secretary, whoimmediately took him through to the boardroom and askedhim if he wouldlike a coffee."Thank you," said Charles, taking off his gloves,placing his umbrella inthe stand and settling himself in the chairmans seat atthe head of thetable. "And would you tell Mr. Reynolds Im in?""Certainly," said the secretary.Clive Reynolds joined him a few moments later."Good morning, Mr. Hampton. How nice to see you againafter such a longtime," said Reynolds, shaking Charles by the hand."Good morning, Clive. Its nice to see you too. First Imust congratulateyou on the manner in which you have conducted the banksaffairs in myabsence.""Its kind of you to say so, Mr. Hampton.""I was particularly impressed by the Distillerstakeover; that certainlytook the City by surprise.""Yes, quite a coup, wasnt it?" said Reynolds smiling."And theres anotherone in the pipeline.""I shall look forward to hearing the details.""Well, Im afraid it remains confidential at themoment," said Clive,taking the seat beside him."Of course; but now that I have returned I had better bebriefed fairlysoon."
  • 403. Tm afraid shareholders cannot be briefed until we arecertain the dealshave been concluded. We cant afford any rumors harmingour chances, canwe?""But Im not an ordinary shareholder," said Charlessharply. "I amreturning as chairman of the bank.""No, Mr. Hampton," said Reynolds quietly. "I am chairmanof this bank.""Do you realize whom you are addressing?" said Charles.375FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Yes, I think so. A former Foreign Secretary, a formerHome Secretary, aformer chairman of the bank and a two percentshareholder.""But you are fully aware that the board agreed to haveme back as chairmanwhen the Conservatives went into Opposition?" Charlesreminded him."The composition of the board has changed considerablysince those days,"said Reynolds. "Perhaps youve been too busy running therest of the worldto notice minor comings and goings in ThreadneedleStreet.""I shall call a board meeting.""You dont have the authority.""Then I shall demand an extraordinary general meeting,"said Charles."And tell the shareholders what? That you had a standingorder to return aschairman when you felt like it? That wont sound like aformer ForeignSecretary.""Ill have you out of this office in twenty-four hours,"Charles continued,his voice suddenly rising."I dont think so, Mr. Hampton. Miss Trubshaw hascompleted her five yearsand has left us on a full pension, and it wont take you
  • 404. long to discoverthat I dont possess a Swiss bank account or have awefl-compensatedmistress."Charles went red in the face. "Ill get you removed. Youdont begin tounderstand how far my influence stretches.""I hope Im not removed, for your sake," said Reynoldscalmly."Are you threatening me?""CertaiDly not, Mr. Hampton, but I would hate to have toexplain howHamptons lost over five hundred thousand pounds on theNethercote accountbecause of your personal whim to finish Simon Kerslakescareer. It mayinterest you to know that the only thing the bank gainedfrom that fiascowas good will, and we managed376FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSthat because I recommended that Morgan Grenfell pick upthe pieces.""You two-timing crook. When I make that public it willfinish you," saidCharles triumphantly."Perhaps," said Reynolds calmly. "But it will also stopyou from becomingPrime Minister."Charles turned, picked up his umbrella, put on hisgloves and walked away.As he reached the door, a secretary walked in holdingtwo cups of coffee."Ill only be needing one, Miss Bristow," said Reynolds.Charles passed her without a word and slammed the door."Dont vou know any other restaurants9""Yes, but they dont know me," replied RonnieNethercote, as the two menstrolled into the Ritz for the first time in a couple ofyears. Headsturned as people leaned forward and whispered Simons
  • 405. name to their guests."What are you up to nowadays? I cant believe Oppositionfully occupiesyou," Ronnie said as they took their seats."Not really. I might almost be described as one of thefour miHior,unemployed," replied Simon."Thats what were. here to talk about," said Ronnie,"but first Irecommend the country vegetable soup and the .. .""Beef off the trolley," intedected Simon."You remembered.""Its the one thing youve always been right about."Ronnie laughed more loudly than people normally did inthe Ritz beforesaying, "Now that you no longer have the entire armedforces at yourdisposal or ambassadors to call you Your Eminence orhowever they addressyou now, why dont you join the board of my newcompany?"377FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Its kind of you to ask, Ronnie, but the answer has tobe no."They broke off their conversation to give their orders."Theres a salary of twenty-five thousand pounds a yearthat goes with it.""I must admit it would help with Lucys clothesallowance," said Simon,laughing. "Since shes been up at Oxford, Lucy seems tohave been to moreballs than tutorials.""Then why not come in with us"" asked Ronnie."Because Im a committed politician," said Simon, "and Ino longer want toinvolve myselfin any conimercial activities.""That might stop you from becoming Prime Minister?"Simon hesitated at the bluntness ofRonnies question,then said, "Frankly,yes. Ive got a better- than -outside chance, and Id befoolish to
  • 406. lengthen the odds by becoming involved in anything elseright now.""But everyone knows that as soon as Margaret announcesshes going to packup, youll be the next Leader. Its as simple as that.""No, Ronnie, its never as simple as that.""Then tell me, who could beat you?""Charles Hampton, for one.""Hampton? Hes a toffee-nosed prig," said Ronnie."He has a lot of friends in the Party, and his patricianbackground stillcounts for something with the Tories.""Oh, come on," said Ronnie. "Youll kill Hampton withevery elected memberof the Party having a vote.""Time will tell, said Simon. "But what have you been upto?" he asked,deliberately changing the subject."Ive been working my backside off in preparation forthe new company goingpublic, which is why I wanted you on the board.""You never give up."378FIRST AMONG EQUALS"No, and I hope you havent given up your one perceritof the company.""Elizabeth has it locked away somewhere.""Then you had better find the key.""Why?" asked Simon."Because when I put out ten million shares on the marketat three quid atime, your one original share will be exchanged for onehundred thousandshares of common stock. I know you werent everChancellor, but thatsthree hundred thousand pounds of anyones money."Simon was speechless."Well, say something," said Ronnie."Frankly Id forgotten the share existed," Simon finallymanaged."Well, I think I can safely say," said Ronnie, parodyingone of Mrs.
  • 407. Thatchers favorite phrases, "thats not a badinvestment for a pound, andone you will never regret."As his first budget debate as Chancellor drew near,Raymond foundtwenty-four hours each day were not enough, even withoutsleep. He wentover the budget changes he required with the Treasurymandarins, but itbecame more obvious as each week passed that he wouldhave to makesacrifices. He was sick of being told that there wouldalways be next year,feeling he had waited far too long already.As the weeks passed, compromises were reached andcutbacks agreed on, butRaymond managed to cling to the changes about which hefelt mostpassionate. The morning before the budget, the mandarinshanded him hisspeech. It ran to one hundred and forty-three pages andthey estimated itwould keep him at the dispatch box for two and a halfhours.At ten past three the next day Raymond appeared on379FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe steps of Number 11 and held the famous batteredbudget box, first usedby Gladstone, high above his head. Dressed in a morningcoat, he lookedelegant and relaxed as photographers took the traditionalpicture beforehe was driven to the Commons.By three-fifteen, the chamber had taken on the took ofan opening nightin the West End, for what members were about toexperience was puretheater.At three twenty-five Raymond entered the chamber to begreeted by cheers
  • 408. from his own side. Every place in the Commons except hishad been filled.He looked up to see Joyce in the Strangers Gallery, andsmiled. Atthree-thirty, when the Prime Minister had finishedanswering questions,the Chairman of Ways and Means rose from his chair andcalled: "Budgetstatement, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer."Raymond rose and placed his speech in front of him. Headdressed theHouse for the first hour and a half without divulgingany of the fiscalchanges that he would be making, so abiding by thetradition that no ir-reversible decisions could be considered until the StockExchange hadclosed. Raymond took a sip from the glass of water byhis side when hehad turned page seventy-eight. He had finished with thetheory and wasnow rea~y to start on the practice."Old-age pensions will be raised to a record level, aswill allowancesfor single-parent families and disablement grants. Warwidows pensionswill go up by fifty percent and war bonds will behonored at their fullface value."Raymond paused and, taking a faded sheet from his insidepocket, readfrom the first speech he had ever delivered in public."No woman whosehusband has sacrificed his life for his country shall beallowed tosuffer because of an ungrateful nation." The cheeringafter thisstatement lasted for some considerable time, and Ray-380FIRST AMONG EQUALSmond turned over the last page of his prize-winning essaybefore returning
  • 409. to his prepared speech.Once the House had settled down again, he continued."Taxes on salaries ofmore than thirty thousand pounds a year will be raisedto eighty-fivepercent, and capital-gairis tax to fifty percent."Several Conservativeslooked glum. The Chancellor went on to announce anexpansion program in theregions to stimulate employment. He detailed his plan byregion, to cheersfrom different sections of the House.fie ended his speech by saying, "Our purpose as thefirst Labour Governmentin ten years is not to rob the rich and give to thepoor, but rather tomake those who live in comparative ease pay taxes thatwill alleviate theplight of those in genuine need. Let me tell those ofyou who sit on thebenches opposite that this is only a fifth of what weintend to achieve inthe lifetime of this Parliament, and t)y then Britaincan hope to be a moreequal and just society. We intend to create a generationin which class isas outdated as debtors prison, a generation in whichtalent, hard work andhonesty are their own reward, a democratic society thatis the envy of theEast as weli as the West. This budget., Mr. Speaker, isnothing more thanthe architects plan for that dream. I look for-ward tobeing given enoughtime to build the reality."When Rayniond resumed his seat after two hours andtwenty minute&--thelength of time it takes to run a world-classmarathon--he was greeted bycheers and the waving of agenda papers frorn the benchesbehind him.The Leader of the Opposition was faced with the almostimpossible task ofan immediate response, and she couldnt hope to do ntore
  • 410. than pick up oneor two weaknesses in the Chancellors philosophy. TheHouse did not hang onher every word.381"PART SIX.&L&PartyLeaders1988-iggo29MARGARET THATCHER was the first to realize changes wouldhave to he madein the Shadow Cabinet after the success of RaymondGoulds first budget.She moved Simon to tackle Home Affairs and Charles tocounter theformidable problems now raised by Raymond Gould at theTreasury.Charles, as Shadow Chancellor, quickly gathered aroundhim an impressiveyoung team of economists, bankers and accountants whomhe recruitedmainly from the new intake on the back benches. Raymondsoon discoveredthat his task of pushing legislation through became thatmuch harder.Raymonds success continued, however, even if it was ata slower pacethan that for which he had hoped. Labour won the firsttwo by-electionsoccasioned by member deaths. The by-election resultsonly started a freshround of rumors that Denis Thatcher was pressing hiswife to retire.The former Prime Minister sent a letter to the chairmanof the 1922Committee, letting him know that she would not seekreelection as PartyLeader. She explained that she would be over sixty-five
  • 411. at the next385FIRST AMONG EQUALSelection and had already led the party for fourteenyears, the longestperiod for any Conservative since Churchill, and that shenow felt she wasready to pass the Leadership on to new blood.The moment everyone in the Party had said the usualphrases about theretiring Leader being the greatest since Churchill, theyproceeded tolook for the new Churchill. The political journalistspredicted that onlytwo candidates had a real chance--Charles Hampton andSimon Kerslake.Charles went about his campaign in the thorough mannerin which heapproached everything, appointing lieutenants to covex-each intake ofnew members since 1964. Simon had selected Bill Traversto organize his,backup team. Travers, like any farmer, rose early eachmorning to gatherin his harvest.Both Simon and Charles were nominated within the firsttwenty-four hoursof the necessary seven days, and by the weekend none ofthe rumored thirdcandidates had appeared in the lists, which convincedthe press it wouldbe a two-horse race.Profiles of both men appeared in all the Sunday papersalong withpictures of their wives. It was unfortunate for Charlesthat the onlyphotograph the press could find of Amanda and himselftogether had beentaken in 1981, when miniskirts were briefly the fashion,making them lookeven more like father and daughter.The profiles covered Simons rise from a middle-class
  • 412. Tory background towinning a marginal seat in Coventry before being offereda junior postat the Home Office. Then came his short period away fromthe Commonsbefore returning to the House to hold the post ofMinister of State forNorthern Ireland, and subsequently Secretary olStatefor Defense, andfinally Foreign Affairs. The high points of Simonscareer that were mostemphasized were the Irish Charter, which hadsubsequently become law, hismiraculous escape and the 386FIRST AMONG EQUALStragedy ofhis sons death from an IRA bomb, and his firmstand over HMSBroadswordCharles was painted as the more traditional Tory. Theyounger twin of theEarl of Bridgewater, he had entered the House after Etonand Oxford andthree years in the ghts of his career, in the GrenadierGuards Fhe highligpresss opinion, had been his training in the Whipsoffice and his work asa Treasury Minister, followed by a steady traditionalrole at the ForeignOffice, his firm stand on Broadsword, and now hiscompetent, hardworkingfoil to Raymond Goulds budget thrusts.The Sunday Time,~ had gone one better than its rivals.Its politicaleditor, Peter Ridell, spent the whole week trying tocontact the 257 Torymembers. He succeeded in reaching 228 of them and wasable to report to hisreaders that 101 had said they would vote for SimonKerslake, 98 forCharles Hampton, while 29 had refused to give anyopinion. The articlesheadline read "Slight Lead for Kerslake" and went on topoint out that al-
  • 413. though the two men were polite about each other inpublic, no one pretendedthat they were friends."King Kerslake" ran the banner headline in the Mondayeditions of the Sun,and its political editor predicted Simon would win by130 to 127. Simonsuspected that they had done little more than divide theSunday Timess"dont-knows" down the middle. With eight days to go hewas being quoted at2-1 on with Charles 11-8 against by the veteranex-Labour MP Lord Mikardo,who had run a book on the last fourteen leadershipcontests irrespective ofparty. When Elizabeth told him the odds, Simon remainedskeptical, as heknew from bitter experience that it never paid tounderestimate the RightHonorable Member for Sussex Downs. Elizabeth agreed andthen pointed to asmall paragraph in the paper, which he had overlooked.Ronnies new companywas going public, and the shares looked certain to bewell oversubscribed."Thats one pre-387FIRST AMONG EQUALSdiction thats turned out to be accurate," said Simon,smiling.With twelve hours to go to the close of nominations, anew candidateappeared in the lists, which came as a shock to everyonebecause untilthat moment the general public had been entirely unawareof Alec Pirnkin.Some of his colleagues even expressed surprise that hehad beer, able tofind a proposer and a seconder. As it had been assumedthat Pimkinssupporters were all men who would have backed Charles,
  • 414. it was considereda blow to his cause, although most political punditsdoubted if Pimkincould scrape together more than seven or eight out ofthe two hundred andfifty-seven votes to he cast,Charles pleaded with Pimkin to withdraw, but hestubbornly refused,admitting to Fiona that he was thoroughly enjoying hisbrief moment ofglory. He held a press conference in the Commons, gaveendless interviewsto television, radio and the national press, and foundhe was receivingconsiderable political attention for the first time inhis life since theCommon Market debate. He even enjoyed the cartoon thatappeared in theDaily Telegraph of the three candidates on the startingline, which hadCharles portrayed as a string bean, Simon as a jumpingbean, and Alec asa has-been waddling in a long way behind the other two.But AlexanderDalghsh remained puzzled as to what had made Pimkinplace his name in thelists in the first place."My majority in Littlehampton has plummeted from overtwelve thousand tothree thousand two hundred since I was first elected,and frankly theSocial Democrats have been getting a little too closefor comfort.""But how many votes can you hope to pick up?" askedFiona."Many more than those drunken scribblers realize. I havenine votesalready pledged, not including my 388FIRST AMONG EQUALSown, and I could well end up with as many as fifteen.""Why so inany9" askedFiona, immediately realizing how tactless the questionmust have sounded.
  • 415. "Dear, simple creaitire," Pimkin replied. "There aresome members of ouiParty who do not care to be led either by a middle-classpushy minor publicschoolboy or an aristocratic, arrogant snob. By votingfor me they canlodge their protest very clearly.""But isnt that irresponsible of you?" asked Fiona,annoyed by the "simple"quip."Irresponsible it may be, but you cant begin to imaginethe invitations Ihave been receiving during the last few days. Theyshould continue for atleast a year after the election is over,"No one had thought Tom Carson would play a major role inthe Leadershipofthe Tory Party. But when he dropped hi,. bombshell,the elements of badluck and timing came together. On the Thursday beforethe Leadershipelection the House was packed for questions to theChancellor. Raymond andCharles were having their usual verbal battles acrossthe dispatch box.Charles was coming out slightly on top and, as theTreasury wasnt hisportfolio, all Simon could do was sit with his legs upon the table andlisten while Charles scored points.Tom Carson seemed to be extremely anxious to get in asupplementary onalmost any financial question that was down on the orderpaper. Betweentwo-thirty and five past three he had leaped up from hisplace no less thana dozen times. The digital clock above the Speakerschair had reached 3:12when, out of exasperation, the Speaker called him on aseemingly innocuousquestion on windfall profits.With Prime Ministers questions just about to begin,Carson faced a packed
  • 416. House and a full press gallery. He paused for a momentbefore phrasing hisquestion. 389FIRST AMONG EQUALS"What would be my Right Honorable friends attitude to aman who investsone pound in a company and, five years later, receives acheck for threehundred thousand pounds, despite not being on the boardor appearing tobe involved in any way with that company?"Raymond was puzzled; he had no idea what Carson wastalking about. He didnot notice that Simon Kerslake had turned white.Raymond rose to the dispatch box. "I would remind myHonorable friendthat I put capital-gains tax up to fifty percent, whichmight dampen hisardor a little," he said. It was about the only attemptat humor Raymondhad made at the dispatch box that year, which may havebeen the reasonso few members laughed, As Carson rose a second time,Simon slipped anote across to Raymond, -,xhich he hurriedly skimmed."But (toes the Chancellor consider that such a personwould be fit to bePrime Minister, or even Leader of the Opposition?"Members started talking among themselves, trying to workout at whom thequestion was directed, while the Speaker stirredrestlessly in his seat,anxious to bring a halt to such disorderlysupplementaries. Raymond re-turned to the dispatch box and told Carson that thequestion was notworthy of an answer. There the matter might have rested,had Charles notrisen to the dispatch box."Mr. Speaker, is the Chancellor aware that this personalattack is aimedat my Right Honorable friend, the member forPucklebridge, and is a
  • 417. disgraceful slur on his character and reputation. TheHonorable Memberfor Liverpool Dockside should withdraw his allegationimmediately."The Conservatives cheered their colleagues magnanimity,while Simonremained silent, knowing that Charles had successfullyput the story onthe front page of every national paper. Tom Carson, armsfolded, sat390FIRST AMONG EQUALSback looking, satisfied with himself. The Speaker quicklymoved on to PrimeMinisters Questions.Charles sat back, pleased with the effect he had caused.He didnt look atSimon, who was visibly trembling.Simon read the papers over breakfast on Friday morning.He had riotoverestimated the effect of Charless bogussupplementary question. Thedetails of his transaction with Ronnie Nethercote werechronicled in thefullest extent, and it did not read well that he hadreceived three hundrcdthousand pounds from a "property speculator" for aone-pound, investment.Some of the papers felt "bound to ask" what Nethercotehoped to gain out ofthe transaction. No one seemed to realize that Simon hadbeen on theprevious companys board for five years, had investedsixty thousand poundsof his own money in that company, and had only recentlyfinished paying offthe overdraft, ending up with a small loss.By Sunday Simon had made a full press statement to setthe record straight,and most of the papers had given him a fair hearing.However, the editor of
  • 418. the Sunda~, Express didnt help matters with a commentin his widely read"PM" column on the center page,I would not suggest for one moment that Simon Kerslakehas done anythingthat might be described as dishonest, but with thespotlight turned sofiercely on him, there may be some members of Parliamentwhojeel thej,cannot risk going into a General Election withanaccident-prone leader. Mr.Hampton, on the other hand, has made hispositionabundantly clear. He didnot seek to return to hisfamily bank in Opposition whilehe wa v stillhoping to hold public of,fice.The Monday papers were reassessing the outcome of theballot to take placethe next day and were predicting391FIRST AMONG EQUALSthat Hampton now had the edge. Some journalists went sofar as to suggestthat Alec Pimkin might profit from the incident asmembers waited to see ifthere would be a second chance to give their finalverdict.Simon had received several letters of sympathy duringthe week, includingone from Raymond Gouid. Raymond assured Simon that hehad not been preparedfor the Carson supplementary and apologized for anyembarrassment his firstanswer might have caused."It never crossed my mind that he had," said Simon, ashe passed Raymondsletter over to Elizabeth."The Times was right," she said a few moments later. "Heis a very fair
  • 419. man."A moment later Simon passed his wife another letter.15 Mav 1989 Hamptons Bank 202 Cheapside LondonECIDear Mr. Kerslake,I write to correct one statement to which the presshas continually referred. Charles Hampton, thefor-mer chairman qj this bank, did seek to return toHamptons after the Conservatives went into Opposi-tion. He hoped to continue as chairman on a salary ofL40,000 a year.The board of Hamptons did not fall In with hiswishes.Yours sincerely,CLIVE REYNOLDS"Will you use it?" asked Elizabeth, when she hadfinished reading theletter through."No. It will only draw more attention to the issue."Elizabeth looked at her husband as he continued to readthe letters andremembered the file that she still possessed on AmandaWallace. She wouldnever reveal392FIRST AMONG EQUALSits contents to Simon; but perhaps the time had come tomake CharlesHampton sweat a little.On Monday evening Simon sat on the front bench hsteningto the FinancialSecretary moving those clauses of the short Finance Billwhich were beingtaken in Committee on the floor of the House. Charlesnever let any oneof Raymond Goulds team get away with a phrase, or evena comma, if he
  • 420. could see a weakness in his case, and the Oppositionwere enjoying everymoment. Simon sat and watched the votes slipping away,knowing he coulddo nothing to stop the process.Of the three candidates, only Pimkin slept well thenight before theelection.Voting began promptly at nine oclock the next day inthe Grand Committeeroom of the House of Commons, the party whips acting astellers. Itbecame apparent that Mrs. Thatcher had decided to remainneutral, and bythree-ten all but one of those entitled to vote had doneso. The ChiefWhip stood guard over the large black tin box until BigBen struck four.At four oclock the box was removed to the Chief Whipsoffice, and thelittle slips were tipped out and checked twice in lessthan fifteenminutes. As the Chief Whip left his office he wasfollowed, PiedPiperlike, by lobby correspondents hoping to learn theresult, but he hadno intention of divulging anything before he reached the1922 Committee,who were keenly awaiting him.Comm-ittee room 14 was filled to overflowing with some250 of the 257Conservative members of Parliament present. The chairmanof the 1922Committee rose, faced the Conunittee, unfolded the pieceof paper theChief Whip had handed him and pushed up his glasses. Hehesitated as hetook in the figures."The result of the ballot carried out to select theleader of theParliamentary Party is as follows:393FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 421. CHARLES HAMPTON 121SIMON KERSLAKE 119ALEC PIMKIN 16There was a gasp, followed by prolonged chatter whichlasted until membersnoticed that the chairman remained standing as he waitedfor some semblanceof order to return among his colleagues."There being no outright winner," he continued, "asecond ballot will takeplace next Tuesday without Mr. Pimkin."The national press surrounded Pimkin as he left theCommons that afternoon,wanting to know whom he would advise his supporters tovote for in thesecond ballot. Pivikin, obviously relishing everymoment, declared a littlepompously that he intended to interview both candidatesin the near futureand ask them one or two apposite questions. He was atonce dubbed "King-maker" by the press, and the phones at his home andoffice never stoppedfinging. Whatever their private thoughts, both Simon andCharles agreed tosee Pimkin before he told his supporters how he intendedto cast his vote.Elizabeth checked the faded file that she had not lookedat for so manyyears. She sat alone at her desk willing herself to gothrough with it. Shesipped the brandy by her side that she had removed fromthe medicinecabinet earlier that day. All her years of training anda total belief inthe Hippocratic oath went against what she felt she mustnow do. WhileSimon slept soundly she had lain awake considering theconsequences. Shehad made her final decision. Simons career canie first.She picked up the
  • 422. phone, dialed the number and waited. Elizabeth nearlyreplaced the phonewhen she heard his voice."9712. Charles Hampton speaking."394FIRST AMONG EQUALSShe felt a shudder run through her body."Its Elizabeth Kerslake," she said, trying to soundconfident. There wasa long silence in which neither of them spoke.Once Elizabeth had taken another sip of brandy, sheadded, "Dont hangup, Mr. Hampton, because I feel confident youll beinterested in whatI have to say."Charles still didnt speak."Having watched you from a distance over the years, I amsure that yourreaction to Carsons question in the Common- last weekwas notspontaneous."Charles cleared his throat but still didnt speak."And if anything else happens this week that could causemy husband tolose the election, be assured I shall not sit by andwatch."Charles still didnt speak."I have in front of me a file marked Miss AmandaWallace, and if you wishall its contents to remain confidential, I would adviseyou to avoid anyrepetition of your antics, because its packed withnames Private Eyewould wallow in for months."Charles still didnt speak.Elizabeths confidence was growing. "You neednt botherto inform me thatsuch an action would get me struck off the medicalregister. That wouldbe a small penalty for being allowed to watch you sufferthe way myhusband has this past week." She paused. "Good day, Mr.
  • 423. Hampton."Elizabeth put the phone down and swallowed the remainderof the brandyby her side. She prayed that she had sounded convincing,because she knewshe could never carry out such a threat.Charles took Pimkin to dinner at Whites-where Alec hadalways wanted tobe a member-and was escorted to a private room on thefirst floor.Charles didnt wait long to ask, "Why are you going395FIRST AMONG EQUALSthrough with this charade? Dont you reaLize I would havewon .0i thatfirst round if you hadnt stood?" Pirakin bridled. "Ihavent had somuch fun in years." "But who the hell got you your seatin the firstplace?"0"I well remember," said Pimkin. "And I remember theprice you exacted forit. But now its my turn to call the tune, and this timeI requiresomething quite different.""What are you hoping for? Chancellor of the Exchequer inmy firstadministration, no doubt?" said Charles, barely able tokeep the sarcasmfrom his voice."No, no," said Pimkin, "I know my worth, for I am not acomplete fool.""So what do you want? Membership at Whites? Perhaps Icouid fix tha!.""Nothing so mundane. In return for putting you intoDowning Street Iexpect to be translated to the House of Lords."Charles hesitated. He could always give Pimkin his word;and who otherthan Pimkin would notice if he didnt carty it through?
  • 424. "If you and your fifteen men vote for me next ruesdayIH put you in theLords," said Charles. "You have my word on it.""Good," said Pinikin. *But one small thing, old chum "he added as heslowly folded his napkin."Christ -what do you want now?" asked Charles,exasperated."Like vou, I want the agreement in writing,"Charles hesitated again. but this time he knew he wasbeaten. "I agree,"he said."Good, then its a deal," said Pimkin. Looking aroundfor a waiter, headded, "I rather think champagne is called for "When Pim.kiii put forth the same proposition to Simontwo days later,Simon Kerslake took some time396FIRST AMONG EQUALSbefore he answered. Then he said, "Thats a question Iwould have toconsider on its merits at the time, if and when I becomePrime Minister.""So bourgeois," said Pimkin as he left Simons office."I offer him thekeyi to Number Ten and he treats me like a locksmith."Charles left the Commons that night having spent histime going aroundto a large cross section of his supporters, and he wasreassured todiscover they were standing firm. Wherever he went inthe long Gothiccorridors, members singly or in groups came up to pledgetheir support.It was true that Kerslakes windfall of three hundredthousand pounds wasfast becoming yesterdays news, but Charles felt enoughblood had beenlet from that wound to insure his final victory, eventhough he still
  • 425. cursed Pimkin for holding up the result. One anonymousnote, with all thenecessary details, sent to the right Labour member, hadcertainly provedmost effective. Charles cursed again as he realizedElizabeth Kerslakehad successfully stopped any further covert attacks onhis rival.When he arrived home, he was appalled to find Amandawaiting for him inthe drawing room. She was the last person he was in themood to see atthe moment."I thought I told you to stay away until the middle ofnext week?""I changed my mind, Charlie," said Amanda."Why?" be asked suspiciously."I think Ive earned a little reward for being such agood wife.""What do you have in mind?" he asked as he stood by themantelpiece."Fair exchange.""For what?""For the world rights to my life story."397FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Your what?" said Charles in disbelief. "Who is going tobe the slightestbit interested in you?""Its not me theyre interested in, Charlie, its you.News o the Worldhas offered me one hundred thousand pounds for theunexpurgated story oflife with Charles Hampton." She added dramatically, "Orwhat its like tolive with the second son of an earl who will go to anylengths to becomePrime Minister.""You cant be serious," said Charles."Deadly serious. Ive made quite a few notes over theyears. How you gotrid of Derek Spencer but failed to pull the same trick
  • 426. on Clive Reynolds.The extremes you went to, trying to keep Simon Kerslakeout of the House.flow your first wife swapped the famous Holbein pictureof the first Earlof Bridgewater. But the story that will cause the moitinterest is the onein which the real father of young Harry Hampton isrevealed, because hisdads fife story was serialized in People a couple ofyears ago, and thatseems to be one episode they missed out.""You bitch, you know Harry is my son," said Charles,advancing toward her.But Amanda stood her ground."And perhaps I should include a chapter on how youassault vour wife behindthe closed doors of your pe~ceful Eat6n Square mansion."Charles came to a halt. "Whats the deal?""I keep quiet for the rest of my life and you present mewitb fiftythousand pounds now and a further fifty thousand whenyou become Leader.""Youve gone mad.""Not me, Charlie, Ive always been sane. You see, Idont have a paranoiato work out on dear, harmless brother Rupert. News ofthe World will lovethat part, now that hes the fifteenth earl. I can justsee the picture ofhim wearing his coronet and decked out in his erminerobes.""They wouldnt print it.""They would when they realize he is as queer as a398FIRST AMONG EQUALSthree dollar note, and therefore our only son willcollect the earldomwhen he is not entitled to it.""No one would believe it, and by the time they print thestory it willbe too late to hurt me," said Charles.
  • 427. "Not a bit," said Ainanda. "I am assured by my agentthat the true reasonbehind the resignation of the Leader of the ConservativeParty would hean even bigger scoop than that of a one-tiniecontestant."Charles sank down into the nearest armchair."Twenty-five thousand," he said."Fifty," replied his wife. "Its only fair. After all,its a doubledeal: no story to the press and you become Leader of theConservativeParty.""All right," whispered Charles, rising to leave theroom."Wait a moment, Charlie. Dont forget Ive dealt withyou in the past.""What else are you hoping for?" said Charles, swingingaround."Just the autograph of the next Tory Leader," shereplied, producing acheck."Where the hell did you get hold of that?" askedCharles, pointing to theslip of paper."From your checkbook," said Amanda innocently."Dont play games with me.""From the top drawer of your desk."Charles snatched it from her and nearly changed hismind. Then he thoughtof his brother in the House of Lords, his only son notinheriting thetitle, and he himself having to give up the Leadership.He took out hispen and scribbled his name on the check before leavinghis wife in thedrawing room holding fifty thousand pounds. She waschecking the date andthe signature carefully.Simon had received a tip from a friendly journalist thatPimkin wouldcome out in support of his old school 399FIRST AMONG EQUALS
  • 428. chum. He took Elizabeth down to the country for a quietweekend while thephotographers pitched camp in Eaton Square."A brilliant move," said Elizabeth over breakfast thenext morning, lookingat the picture on the front page of the Observer."An ot her photo of Hampton telling us what he will dowhen hes PrimeMinister?" said Simon not looking up from the SundayTimes."No," said Elizabeth and passed her paper across thetable. Simon stared atthe Holbein portrait of the first Earl of Bridgewaterunder the headline:"A Gift to the Nation.""Good God," said Simon. "Are there no depths he willsink to to win thiselection?""My dear, by any standards you have delivered the coupde grace," saiaPimkin to Fiona over lunch that Sunday."I thought you would appreciate it," said Fiona pouringhim another glassof his own wine."I certainly did, and I particularly enjoyed thedirector of the NationalGallerys comments-That Charless gesture of presentingthe pricelesspainting to the National was the act of a selfless man.""Of course-once the story had been leaked to the press,Charles was leftwith no choice," said Alexander Dalglish."I redlize that," said Pimkin, leaning back, "and Iwould have given adozen bottles of my finest claret to have seen Charlessface the moment herealized the first Earl of Bridgewater had escaped hisclutches forever. Ifhe had denied giving the earl to the nation, thepublicity that would have
  • 429. followed would have certainly insured defeat in theelection on Tuesday."400FIRST AMONG EQUALS"Win or lose next week," said Alexander, "he darentthen suggest it wasdone without his approval.""I love it, I love it," said Pimkin. "I am told thatPrincess Diana willbe unveiling the portrait on behalf of the National atthe officialceremony, and rest assured I shall be there to bearwitness.""Ah, but will Charles?" asked Fiona.On Monday morning Charless brother phoned from Somersetto ask why hehad not been consulted about donating the Holbein to thenation."It was my picture to dispose of as I pleased," Charlesreminded himandslammed down the phone.By nine oclock on Tuesday morning, when the voting tookplace for thelast time, the two contestants had spoken to nearlyevery member twice.Charles joined his colleagues in the members diningroom for lunch whileSimon took Elizabeth to Lockets in Marsham Street. Sheshowed him somecolored brochures of a holiday on the Orient Express,which would be themost perfect way to see Venice. She hoped that theywouldnt have timeto go on the trip. Simon hardly mentioned the vote thatwassimultaneously taking place in the Commons but it neverwas far fromeither of their minds,The voting ended at three-fifty but once again the ChiefWhip did not
  • 430. remove the black box until four oclock. By four-fifteenhe knew thewinner but did not reveal his riame until the 1922Committee had assem-bled at five oclock. lie informed their chairman at oneminute to five.Once again, the chairman of the 1922 Committee stood onthe small raisedplatform in committee room 14 to declare the result.There was no needto ask if the people at the back could hear."Ladies and gentlemen," he said, his words echoing401FIRST AMONG EQUALSaround the room, "the result of the second ballot for theLeadership ofthe Tory Party is as follows:CHARLEs HAMPTON 119SIMON KFRSLAKE 137Just over half the members present rose and cheeredwhile Bib Travers ranall the way to Simons office to be the first to reportthe news. Whenhe arrived, Simon swung round and faced the open door."You look and sound as though youd run a marathon.""Like Pheidippides, I bring great news of victory.""I hope that doesnt mean youre going to drop downdead," said Simon,grinning.The new Leader of the Conservative Party said nothingmore for a fewmoments. It was obvious that Pimkin had come out infavor of him. Laterthat night one or two other members also admitted thatthey had changedtheir minds during the second week because they hadntliked the blatantopportunism of Charless presenting a priceless portraitto the nationonly a few days before the final vote.
  • 431. The following morning Fiona phoned Pinikin to ask himwhy he had actedas he did. "My dear Fiona," he replied, "like SydneyCarton, I supposeI thought it would be good to go to my grave knowing Ihad done onehonorable thing in my life."40230ITTOOK ONLY A WEEK for Simons little house on BeaufortStreet to betransformed. The usually quaint and shelteredneighborhood became clutteredwith ferries of cars bearijig photographers, journalistsand televisioncrews. Some neighbors wondered how Elizabeth fixed such agracious smile onher face each morning as she made her way through thehopeful interviewerswho seemed permanently camped on her doorstep. Simon,they noted, handledthe problem as if it had always been part of his dailyroutine. He had spenthis first two weeks selecting the Shadow Cabinet hewanted to take into thenext General Election. He was able to announce thecomposition of his newteam to the press fourteen days after his election asLeader of theConservative Party. He made one sentimental appointment:that of BillTravers as Shadow Minister of Agriculture.When asked at a press conference why his defeated rivalwould not beserving on the team, Simon explained that he had offeredCharles Hamptonthe Deputy Leadership and any portfolio of his choice,but Charles hadturned the offer down, saying he preferred to return tothe back benchesfor the present.
  • 432. 403FIRST AMONG EQUALSCharles had left for Scotland the same morning for a fewdays rest by theRiver Spey, taking his son with him. Although he spentrnuch of their shortholiday feeling depressed about the Dual outcome of theLeadershipstruggle, Harrys original efforts at fishing helped himdeaden some of thepain. Harry even ended up with the biggest fish.Amanda, on the other hand, realizing how slim herchances were of catchingany more fish, reopened negotiations over her life storywith News of theWorld.When the features editor read through Amandas notes hedecided on twothings. She would require a ghostwriter, and the paperwould have to halvetheir original ofler."Why?" demanded Amanda."Because we darent print the better half of yourstory.""Why not?""No one would believe it.""But every word is true," she insisted."Im not doubting the veracity of the facts," said theeditor. "Ouly ourreaders ability to swallow them.""They accepted that a man climbed the walls ofBuckingham Palace and foundhis way into the Queens bedroom.""Agreed," replied the editor, "but only after the Queenhad confirmed thestory. Im not so sure that Charles Hampton will bequite as cooperative."Amanda remained silent long enough for her agent toclose the deal.The watered-down version of "My Life with CharlesHampton" appeared a fewmonths later to coincide with Charless much-publicizeddivorce, but it
  • 433. made no more than a faint ripple in political circles.Now that Charles hadno hope of leading his party, it was very muchyesterdays news.404FIRST AMONG EQUALSAmanda came out of the divorce settlement with anotherfifty t1tousandpounds but lost custody of Harry, which was all Charlesreally caredabout. Charles prayed that her irresponsible remarksreported in thepaper concerning the boys claim to the title had beenquickly forgotten.Then Rupert phoned from Somerset and asked to see himprivately.As Raymond entered his second year as Chancellor, theopinion pollsshowed the two main parties were once again neck andneck. A surge inTory popularity came as no surprise after a change inTory leadership,but Simons first year had shown a dynamism and energythat amazed evenhis closest supporters. Raymond was daily made moreconscious of theinroads Simon was making on the Government program. Itonly made him workeven harder to iasure that his policies became law.No one needed to tell Simon he had a good first year asOppositionLeader. His partys percentage in the polls was nowrunning neck and neckwith the Governments.But in the House lie often found himself beingfrustrated. Politicalcorreipondents reported that it was the most balancedcontest in years.For as long as Labour held the majority, Simon often wonthe argument
  • 434. while losing the vote.They sat facing each other in Charless drawing room atEaton Square."I am sorrv to broach such an embarrassing subject,"said Rupert, "butfell it was my duty to do so.""Duty, poppycock," said Charles, stubbing out hiscigarette. "I tell youHarry is my son, and as such will inherit the title.Hes the spittingimage of Great-grandfather and that ought to be enoughproof for anyone.""In normal circumstances I would agree with you, but405FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe recent publicity in News of the World has beenbrought to my noticeand I feel . ..""That sensationalist rag," said Charles sarcastically,his voice rising."Surely you dont take their word before niine?""Certainly not," said Rupert, "but if Amanda is to bebelieved, Harry isnot your son.""How am I meant to prove he is?" asked Charles, tryingto control histemper. "I didnt keep a diary of the dates when I sleptwith my wife.""I have taken legal advice on the matter," continuedRupert, ignoring thecomment, "and am informed that a blood test is all thatwill provenecessary to verify Harrys claim to the title. We bothshare a rareblood group, as did our fattier and grandfather, andifflarry is of thatgroup I shall never mention the subject again. If not,then the titlewill eventually be inherited by our second cousin inAustralia.""And if I dont agree to put my son through this
  • 435. ridiculous test?""Then the matter must be placed in the hands of ourfamily solicitors,"said Rupert sounding unusually in control, "and theyinust take whatevercourse they consider fit.""That must never happen," said Charles weakly."It will happen," said Rupert.When the Prime lVinister went into the hospital for aminor operation,the press immediately started to speculate on hisresignation. Ten dayslater, when he walked out looking, better than ever, therumors ceasedimmediately. In the Prime Ministers absence, Raymond,as Deputy Leader,chaired Cabinet meetings and stood in for him duringquestions in theCommons. This gave the lobby correspondents a chance toproclaim, likeCaesarian soothsayers plucking at entrails, that Raymondwas ~rhnusinter pares. "406FIRs,r AMONG EQUALSRaymond enjoyed presiding over the Cabinet and inparticular the challengeof Prime Ministers Questions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.lie enjoyed the sensation of acting as Prime Ministerbut realized he couldnot afford to get used to it. Indeed, when the PrimeMinister returned toDowning Street, he assured Raymond that the operationhad been a successand the likelihood ofany recurrence of the trouble was,in the surgeonsopinion, minimal. He admitted to Raymond that lie hopedo lead the Party toa second victory at the polls, by which time he would bewithin a few yearsof his seventieth birthday and ready to bow out quietly.
  • 436. He told Raymondquite bluntly that he hoped he would be his successor."Daddy. Daddy, open my school report."Charles left the morning mail unopened as he huggedHarry. He knew nothingcould ever part them now, but he dreaded Harrys findingout that he mightnot be his real father"Please open it," pleaded Harry, wriggling free. Theschool doctor had beenasked to take a sample of Harrys blood along with sixother boys from hisyear so that he would not consider the request unusual.Even the doctorhadnt been told the full significance of the action.Harry extracted the envelope from the pile by Charlessside-the one withthe school crest in the top left-hand comer---and heldit out for hisfather to open. He looked excited and seemed hardly ableto containhimself. Charles had promised lie would phone hisbrother as soon as theresult of the blood test was confirmed. He had wanted tophone the doctora handred times during the past week but had alwaysstopped himself,knowing it would only add to the mans curiosity."Come on, Dad, read the report, and youll see itstrrie."407FIRST AMONG EQUALSCharles tore open the letter and removed the little bookwhich wouldreveal the result of all Harrys efforts during theterm. lie flickedthrough the pages: Latin, English, History, Geography,Art, Divinity,Games, Headmaster. He read the last page, a small yellowsheet headed"Term Medical Report." It began: "Harry Hampton, Age
  • 437. ten, Height 49",weight 5 stone, 4 lbs." He glanced up at Harry wholooked as if he wasabout to burst."It is true, Dad, isnt it?"Charles read on without answering the boys question. Atthe foot of thepage was a typewritten note signed by the school doctor.Charles read ittwice before he understood its fall significance, andthen a third time:"As requested, I took a sample of Harrys blood andanalyzed it. Theresults show that Harry shares a rare blood group. ...""Is it true, Dad?" asked Harry yet again."Yes, my son, its true.""I told you, Dad, I knew Id be top in the class. Thatmeans Ili be headof the next school term. Just likeYOU.""Just like me," said his father as he picked up thephone by his side andbegan to dial his brothers home number.40831AT THE LABOUR PARTY conference in October, Raymond delivered a keynote speech on the state of the nations finances. He pressed the unions to continuesupporting their Government by keeping the twin evilsof inflation and unemployment at acceptable levels."Let us not pass on three years of achievement to besquandered by a Conservative Government," he told thecheering delegates. "Brothers, I look for-ward to presenting five more Labour budgets that will make it impossible for the Tories to imagine a future victory at thepolls.11Raymond received one of the rare standing ovations to begiven to anyCabinet Minister at a Labour Party conference. Thedelegates had neverdoubted his ability, and over the years they had grown
  • 438. to respect hissincerity as well as his judgment.Seven more days passed before Simon addressed the Toryfaithful at theConservative Party conference. By tradition, the Leaderalways receivesa four- to six-minute standing ovation after hecompletes his speech on409FIRST AMONG EQUALSthe final dAy. "Hed still get four minutes," said Pimkinto a colleag tie,"if he read them Das Kapital. "Simon had spent weeks preparing for the occasion sincehe was convincedthis would be the last conference before the election.lie was pleasantlysurprised to find Charles Harnpton coming forward withnew ideas on taxreform which he said he hoped might be considered forinclusion in theLeaders speech to the conference.Charles had recently been making useful contributions inthe House duringfinance debates, and Simon hoped that it would not belong before he wouldbe willing to return to the front bench. Simon did notagree with most ofhis colleagues, who felt that his old rival had mellowedconsiderablyduring his time on the back benches. He was too wary toaccept that Charleshad totally lost his ambition for high office. Butwhatever his privatemisgivings, he desperately needed someone of Charlesability to counterRaymond Gould at the Treasury. Simon included Charlesssuggestions in thefinal draft of his speech and dropped him a handwrittennote of thanks. Hereceived no reply.
  • 439. On that Friday morning in Brighton, in front of twothousand delegates, andmillions more watching on television, Simon presented acomplete anddetailed plan of what he hoped to achieve when theConservatives werereturned to Government.After the peroration, the delegates duly rose for agenuine six-minuteovation. When the noise had died down, Pimkin was heardto remark, "I thinkI made the right decision."Sadness overcame the House in its first week back whenthe aging Mr.Speaker Weatherill suffered a heart attack and retiredto the Lords. TheGovernments overall majority was only two at the time,and the LabourParty ChietWhip feared that if they supplied the newSpeaker from theirown ranks and the Conservatives410FIRST AMONG EQUALSwere to retain the old Speakers safe seat the Governmentmajority wouldcease to exist. Simon reluctantly agreed that the Speakershould come fromthe Conservatives own benches.Charles Hampton asked to be granted a private interviewwith the ChiefWhip, who agreed to see him without hesitation. LikeSimon, he was hopingthat Charles would now be willing to rejoin the frontbench and was merelyapproaching him as an intermediary. Everyone in theParty was pleased thatCharles had begun to regain his stature in the Housesince his chairmanshipof Standing Committees, and he seemed more popular nowthan he had ever
  • 440. been.Charles arrived at the Chief Whips office the followingmorning and wasquickly ushered through to his private room. Charlessonce Odyssean lockshad turned white, and the deeper lines in his face gavehim a more gentleappearance. The Chief Whip couldnt help noticing that aslight stoop hadreplaced his ramrod bearing.Charles*s request came as a shock. The Chief Whip hadgone over manyreasons why Charles might want to see him, but SimonKerslakes great rivalwas the last man he would have considered for this post,because it wouldforever deny him the chance of becoming Leader."But its no secret that Simon wants you to return tothe front bench andbe the next Chancellor," said the Chief Whip. "You mustknow he would bedelighted to have you back on the team.""Thats c.onsiderate of him," said Charles drily. "But Iwould prefer themore restful life of being an arbitrator rather thar anantagonist. I fearour differences could never be fully reconciled. In anycase, Ive lostthat desire always to be on the attack. For over twentyyears Simon has hadthe advantage of a wife and a family to keep his feet onthe ground. Itsonly in the last three or four that Harry has done thesame for me."411FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe Chief Whip let out a long sigh, unable to hide hisdisappointment."I wffl convey your request to the Party Leader," wasall he said. TheChief Whip wondered if Simon would be as disappointed ashe was, or if
  • 441. in fact he might riot be relieved to see his oldantagonist relegated tothe sidelines.All men are thought to have one great moment in theircareers in the Ilouse, and for Alec Pimkin it was to be that day.The election of a Speaker in the Commons is a quaintaffair. By ancienttradition, no one must appear to want the honor, and itis rare for morethan one person to be proposed for the post. DuringHenry VIs reignthree Speakers were beheaded within a year, although inmodem times ithas been the heavy burden of duties that has often ledto an early grave.This tradition of reluctance has carried on through theages.Alec Pinik-in rose from his seat on the back benches tomove "that theRight Honorable Charles Hampton does take the chair ofthis House asSpeaker." Dressed in a dark blue Suit, sporting a redcarnation and hisfavorite pink-spotted bow tie, Alec Pimkin rose toaddress the House. Hisspeech was serious yet witty, informed yet personal.Pimkin held theHouse in his grasp for nine minutes and never once letit go. "Hes donehis old friend proud," one member muttered to anotheracross the gangwaywhen Pimkin sat down, and indeed the look on Charlessface left no doubtthat he felt the same way, whatever had taken place inthe past.After Charles had been seconded, the tradition ofdragging theSpeaker-elect to the chair was observed. This normallyhumorous affair,usually greeted with hoots of laughter and cheering,became even more ofa farce at the sight of the small, portly Pimkin and his
  • 442. Labour seconderdragging the six-foot-four former Guards412FIRST AMONG EQUALSofficer from the third row of the back benches all theway to the chair.Charles began by expressing his grateful thanks for thehigh honor theHouse had bestowed on him. He then surveyed the Commonsfrom his newvantage point. When he rose and stood his full height,every member knewthev had selected the right man for the job. Thesharpnes~ of his tonguemight have gone, but it had been replaced with anequally firm deliverythat left none of his colleagues, however unruly, in anydoubt that Mr.Speaker Hampton intended to keep "order" for many yearsto come.Raymond was distressed when the Conservatives increasedtheir majorityin the Speakers old seat and captured a marginalconstituency on thesame day. He didnt need the press to point out thatwere Conservativesand the Social Democratic Party to join forces,Government and Oppositionwould be equal in number, insuring a premature GeneralElection. Raymondwas determined that the Government hold on for at leastanother fourweeks, so that he could deliver his third April budgetand give the Partya strong platform on which to light the election.Simon knew that if Raymond Gould had the chance todeliver his thirdbudget speech in April, the Labour Party might be savedat the polls.There was only one solution: to win a "no confidence"
  • 443. motion before theend of March. Simon picked up the phone to call theSocial DemocraticParty headquarters. Their Leader was all too happy tomeet thatafternoon.Raymond had accepted an invitation to address a largeLabour rally inCardiff the weekend before the vote of "no confidence."He boarded thetrain at Pad-413FIRST AMONG EQUALSdington, settled into his compartment and began to checkover his speech.As the train pulled into Swindon, a railway officialstepped on board and,having discovered where the Chancellor of the Exchequerwas seated, askedif he could speak to him privately for a few minutes.Raymond listenedcarefully to what the man had to say, replaced the speechin hisbriefcase, got off the train, crossed the platform andreturned by thefirst available train to London.On the journey back he tried to work out all theconsequences of the newshe had just been told.As soon as he arrived at Paddington, he made his waythrough the waitingphotographers and journalists, answering no questions. Acar took himstraight to Westminster Hospital. Raymond was shown intoa private roomto find the Prime Minister sitting upright in bed."Now dont panic," said the Prime Minister beforeRaymond could speak."Im in fine shape considering Im over sixty, and withall the pressureweve been under this last year,"
  • 444. "Whats wrong with you?" asked Raymond, taking a chairnext to thehospital bed."Recurrence of the old trouble, only this time they sayit will takemajor surgery. Ill be out of this place in a month, sixweeks at themost, and then Ill live as long as Harold Macmillan,they tell me. Now,to more important matters. As Deputy Leader of theParty, I want you totake over again, which will mean you will have to speakin my placeduring the no confidence debate on Wednesday. If welose the vote, Isha,11 resign as Party Leader."Raymond tried to protest. From the moment he had beentold the PrimeMinister was ill again, he had known the implications.The Prime Ministerheld up his hand to still Raymonds words and continued,"No party canfight an election with its Leader laid up in bed414FIRST AMONG EQUALSfor six weeks, however well he might be when they releasehim. The votershave the right to know who is going to lead the Party inParliament." Asthe Prime Minister spoke, Raymond remembered Katestelegram on the dayof his election as Deputy Leader. "And of course, if weare forced intoan election before the Party conference in October, underStanding OrderNumber 5 (4), the national executive and the ShadowCabinet would meet andautomatically select you to take over as Party Leader."Raymond raised his head. "Yes, the importance of thatparticular standingorder had already been pointed out to me," he saidwithout guile.
  • 445. The Prime Minister smiled. "Joyce, no doubt.""No, her name was Kate, actually."The Prime Minister briefly looked puzzled, and thencontinued. "I thinkyou must face the fact that you may well be running forPrime Ministerin three weeks time. Of course, if we win the noconfidence vote onWednesday, then its a different matter altogether,because Ill be backand guiding the ship long before the Easter recess isover. That willgive us enough time to call the election after youvedelivered yourthird budget.""Im unable to express how much we will miss yourLeadership," saidRaymond simply."As every member of the House will know which lobbytheyll be voting inlong before the debate begins, my Leadership may turnout to be lessimportant than my single vote. Just be certain yourspeech is the finestyou ever deliver to the House. And dont forget it willbe the firstoccasion on which theyve allowed television into theCommons, so makesure Joyce picks out one of those smart shirts yousometimes wear."Raymond spent the final few days before the "noconfidence" votepreparing his speech. He canceled all the engagements inhis diary exceptfor the Speakers 415FIRST AMONG EQUALSdinner to celebrate the Queens sixty-fifth birthday, atwhich he wouldbe standing in for the Prime Minister.The Government and Opposition Whips spent Monday andTuesday checkingthat every member would be present in the House by ten
  • 446. oclock onWednesday night. The political journalists pointed outthat if the votewere it tie, Mr. Speaker Hampton had already made itclear that he wouldabide by the ancient tradition of casting his vote forthe Government ofthe day.The following day, members began arriving hours beforethe debate was dueto begin. The Strangers Gallery had been booked days inadvance, withmany senior ambassadors and even some privy councillorsunable to beguaranteed seats. The Press Gallery was filled andeditors were sittingat the feet of their political journalists desks, whilethe House wastaken up with lighting equipment that had been checked adozen times thatmorning.Between two-thirty and three-thirty, Mr. Speaker Hamptonhad been unableto stop members from chattering during questions to Mr.Meacher,Secretary of State for Education, but at three-thirty heduly shouted fororder and did not have to wait long for silence beforecalling, "TheLeader of the Opposition."Simon rose from his place on the front bench to begreeted with cheers from his own side. He was momentardy surprised by the brightness of the arc lights,whichhe had been assured he would hardly notice, but soon hewas into his stride. Without a note in front of him headdressed the House for fifty minutes, tearing into theGovernment one moment, then switching to the policieshe would implement the next. He ended his perorationby describing the Labour Party as "the party of wastedopportunity," then added-jabbing his finger at Raymond- ---- ~but you will be replaced by a party of ideasand ideals."
  • 447. 416FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe applause continued for some time before Charlescould bring the Houseback to order.When it came to Raymonds turn to wind up on behalf ofthe Government,members wondered how he would make himself heard abovethe noise thatgreeted him. He rose to the dispatch box and, lookinggrave, with headbowed, almost whispered his first few words, "Mr.Speaker, I know the wholeHouse would wish me to open my speech by saying how sadwe all are that thePrime Minister is unable to be present himself I am sureall HonorableMembers will want to join me in sending him, his wifeand family our bestwishes as he prepares for his operation."Suddenly the House was silent, and, having caught itsmood, Raymond raisedhis head and delivered for the eleventh time the speechhe had prepared soassiduously. When he had seen Simon deliver hisapparently impromptuspeech, Raymond had torn up his notes. He spelled outthe achievements ofthe Government during the past two and a half years andassured the Housethat he was only halfway through his time as Chancellor.When he reachedthe end of his speech, he found, like the speakersbefore him, that he wascovered with sweat from the heat sent out by thepowerful arc lights. "We,Mr. Speaker, will see the return of a Labour Governmentfor another fullParliament." Raymond sat down as the clock reached10:00.The Speaker rose, and his first words were lost as heput the motion: "ThisHouse has no confidence in Her Majestys Government.
  • 448. "As many as are ofthat opinion say Aye-, to thecontrary, No. I think theAyes have it.""No," hollered back the voices from the Governmentbenches."Clear the lobbies," called the Speaker above the cheersfor Raymond Gould.Members departed to the417FIRST AMONG EQUALSAyes or Nos lobbies to cast their votes. It was fourteenminutes beforethe tellers returned to a noisy chamber to give theresult of the divisionto the clerk at the table, who then entered the figureson a divisionpaper. The four tellers lined up and advanced toward thetable from thebar of the House. They came to a halt and bowed. One ofthe Oppositionwhips read out: "Ayes to the right three hundredtwenty-three, Nos to theleft three hundred twenty-two," and passed the piece ofpaper to theSpeaker, who tried to repeat it above the bedlam. Fewmembers heard himsay, "The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it."Raymond sat on the front bench watching the delightedTories, who wereacting as if they had already won the election. Ilereflected that if thePrime Minister had been present to register his vote,the Governmentwould have saved the day.41832HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN visited her Prime Minister in thehospital twenty-fourhours after his successful operation. He advised themonarch to dissolve
  • 449. Parliament in a weeks time and asked that the GeneralElection be set forMay 9. lie explained to the Queen that he intended toresign as Leader ofhis Party immediately but would remain Prime Ministeruntil the result ofthe General Election was known.When the Prime Minister thought the audience was overthe Queen took him bysurprise. She sought his advice on a personal matterwhich she realizedcould affect the outcome of the General Election. ThePrime Minister feltthat once the Labour Party had confirmed Raymond Gouldas their new Leader,he should be the one to offer Her Majesty advice on sucha crucial matter.The National Executive board of the Labour Party metbehind closed doors.Three hours and twenty minutes passed before thecommittee issued aone-line press release. "Mr. Raymond Gould has beeninvited to lead theParty at the forthcoming General Election."The press was met by a unified voice once the meeting419FIRST AMONG EQUALSwas over. As the editor of the Sunday Express wrote inthe center page ofthe paper, "The Labour Party, in selecting their Leader,resembled nothingless than the old-fashloned magic circle of the ToryParty in their de-termination to prove unity." The only leak he had managedto gather fromthe meeting was that "Raymond Goulds acceptance speechhad impressedeveryone present."But the editor went on to point out that if the LabourParty should losethe General Election, Raymond Gould could be the
  • 450. shortest-serving Leaderin its history, as tinder Standing Order 5(4) of theConstitution hisappointment must be confirmed by the delegates at thenext Partyconterence in October.It had been two hours before Raymond was able to leavethe committee roomand escape the press. When he eventually got away hewent straight toWestminster Hospital to visit the Prime Minister. Theoperation hadvisibly aged him. He was in good spirits, but headmitted that he wasglad not to be facing a grueling election campaigii.After he hadcongratulated Raymond on his new appoffltment he went onto say, "Youredining with the Queen tonight?""Yes, to celebrate her sixty-fifth birthday," saidRaymond."You must be prepared for more than that," said thePrime Ministergravely, and he then revealed the private conversationthat he had hadwith the monarch the previous day."And will her decision depend or., the three people inthat room?""I suspect it win."And where do you stand?""Thats no longer relevant. Its more important what youconsider is bestfor the country."420FIRST AMONG EQUALSFor the first time Raymond felt like the Leader of theParty.Elizabeth straightened Simons white tie and took a paceback to look athim.
  • 451. "Well, at least you took like a Prime Minister," shesaid, smiling.Her husband checked his watch. Still a few minutes tospare before heneeded to be at the Speakers private apartments---notthat he waswilling to risk being late for this particular birthdaycelebration.Elizabeth helped him on with his overcoat and after asearch realized hehad lost another pair of gloves."I do hope you can take care of the nations belongingsa little betterthan you do your own," she sighed."Im sure Ill find it harder to lose a whole country,"said Simon."Do remember that Raymond Gould will be trying to assistyou," ,aidElizabeth."Yes, thats true. I only wish I was fighting thepresent PrimeMinister.""Why?" she said,"Because Gould was born into the wrong party," saidSimon as he kissedhis wife and walked toward the front door, "and a lot ofvoters arecoming to the same conclusion."The policeman at the gates of New Palace Yard saluted asSimon was driveninto the courtyard and dropped at the members entrance.He glanced athis watch again as he strode through the swinging doors:ten minutes tospare. The Commons had the feel of a funeral parlor,with most of themembers already back in their constituencies preparingfor the GeneralElection.Simon peeked into the smoking room. A few members werescattered around,mainly from safe seats that they felt did not neednursing. Pimkin,surrounded by his
  • 452. 421FIRST AMONG EQUALSusual cronies, hailed his Leader. His face lit up when hesaw Simonformally dressed. "I say, waiter, mines a double gin andtonic." Hiscompanions duly laughed. Simon responded by asking thebarman to give Mr.Pimkin a large gin and tonic and to charge it to hisaccount.Simon spent a few minutes moving from group to group,chatting to membersabout how the election might go in their constituencies.Pimkin assuredSimon that the Tories would win easily. "I wish everyonewas as confidentas you are," Simon told him before leaving for theSpeakers privateapartments as Pimkin ordered another gin.Simon strolled along the library corridor, lined fromfloor to ceilingwith venerable old journals of the House, until hereached the Speakersprivate rooms. When he came to the grand stairwaydominated by SpeakerAddingtons portrait, he was met by the Speakers trainbearer clad inwhite tie and black tails."Good evening, Mr. Kerslake," he said and led Simon downthe corridorinto the artecharnber where a relaxed Charles Hamptonstood ready toreceive his guests. Charles shook Simors hand formally.Simon thoughthow well ~is colleague looked compared with the way helooked ir, thosedays following the Leadership battle. Both men werestill ill at easewith each other."Gould did himself proud today," said Charles. Simonshifteduncomfortably from foot to foot. "Wouldnt make a bad
  • 453. Prime Minister,"Charles added. His face ,vas unreadable. Simon couldntdecide if thestatement had been made matter-of-factly or if his oldrival simply stillharbored a desire to see his downfa Ll.He wa-, about to test him when the train bearerannounced, "The RightHonorable Raymond Gould."Charles went over to greet his guest. "Many congrat-422FIRST AMONG EQUALSulations on your election as Leader," were his firstwords. "With all youvebeen through this week, you must be exhausted.""Exhilarated, to be honest," replied Raymond. Ravmondmoved toward Simon,who, in turn, offered ~is congratulations. The two menshook hands, and fora moment they looked like medieval knights who hadlowered their visorsbefore the final joust. The unnatural silence thatfollowed was broken byCharles."Well I hope its going to be a good, clean fight," hesaid, as if he werethe referee. Both men laughed.The train bearer came to the Speakers side to informhim that Her Majestyhad left Buckingham Palace and was expected in a few~ninutes. Charlesexcused himself, while the two Leaders continued theirconversation."Have you been told the real reason why we are biddenthis eveDing?" askedRayrnond."Isnt the Queens iixty-fifth birthday enough?"inquired Simon."No, thats just an excuse for us to meet withoutsuspicion. I think itmight be helpful for you to know that Her Majesty has ahighly iensitiveproposition to put to us both."
  • 454. Simon listened as Raymond revealed the substance of hisdiscussion with thePrime Minister."It was considerate of you to brief me," was all Simonsaid after he hadtaken in the effect such a decision might have on theGeneral Election."I feel sure its no more than you would have done in myposition," saidRaymond.Charles waited in the entrance of the courtyard of theSpeakers house towclcome the Queen. It was only a few minutes before hespotted twomotorcycle escorts entering the gates of New PalaceYard, followed by thefamiliar maroon Rolls-Royce which displayed no li-423FIRST AMONG EQUALScense plate. The tiny white fight in the center of itsroof blinked in theevening dusk. As soon as the car had come to a halt, afootman leaped downand opened the door.The Queen stepped out, to be greeted by the commonerwhom history hadjudged to be the monarchs man. She was dressed in asimple aqua cocktaildress. The only jewelry she wore was a string of pearlsand a small diamondbrooch. Charles bowed before shaking hands and takinghis guest up thecarpeted staircase to his private apartments. Her twoParty Leaders stoodwaiting to greet her. She shook hands first with her newLabour Leader, theRight Honorable Raymond Gould, congratulated him on hisnew appointmentthat afternoon and inquired how the Prime Minister wasfaring. When she hadlistened intently to Raymonds reply, she shook hands
  • 455. with her Leader ofthe Opposition, the Right Honorable Simon Kerslake, andasked how his wifewas coping at Pucklebridge General Hospital. Simon wasalways amazed by howmuch the Queen could recall from tier pastconversations, most of whichnever lasted for more than a few moments.She took the gin and tonic proffered her on a silvertray and began to lookaround the magnificent room. "My husband and I are greatadmirers of theGothic revival in architecture, though, being infrequentvisitors toWestminster, alas, we are usually forced to view thebetter examples frominside railway stations or outside cathedrals."The three men smiled, and after a few minutes of lightconversation Charlessuggested they adjourn to the state dining roorn, wherefour places wereset out at a table covered with silver that glittered inthe candlelight.They all waited until the Queen was seated at the headof the table.Charles had placed Raymond on the Queens right424FIRST AMONG EQUALSand Simon on her left, while he took the seat directlyopposite her.When the champagne was served, Charles and hiscolleagues rose andtoasted the Queens health. She reminded them that herbirthday was notfor another two weeks and remarked that she hadtwenty-four officialbirthday engagements during the month, which didntinclude the privatefamily celebrations. "I would happily weaken, but theQueen Motherattended more functions for her ninetieth birthday lastyear than I have
  • 456. planned for my sixty-fifth. I cant imagine where shegets the energy.""Perhaps she would like to take my place in the electioncampaign," saidRaymond."Dont suggest it," the Queen replied. "She would leapat the offerwithout a second thought."The chef had prepared a simple dinner of smoked salmonfollowed by lambin red wine and aspic. His only flamboyant gesture was abirthday cakein the shape of a crown resting on a portcullis ofsponge. No candieswere evident.After the meal had been cleared away and the cognacserved, the servantsleft them alone. The three men remained in a warm spirituntil the Queenstopped proceedings abruptly with a question thatsurprised only Charles.She waited for an answer.No one spoke."Perhaps I should ask you first," said the Queen,turning to Raymond, "asyou are standing in for the Prime Minister."Raymond didnt hesitate. "I am in favor, maam," he saidquietly, "andI have no doubt it will meet the approval of thenation.""Thank you," said the Queen. She next turned to Simon.425FIRST AMONG EQUALS"I would also support such a decision, Your Majesty," hereplied. "At heartI am a traditionalist, but I confess that on thissubject I would supportwhat I think is described as the modern approach.""Thank you," she repeated, her eyes finally resting onCharles Hampton."Against, maam," he said without hesitation, "but thenI have never been
  • 457. a modern man.""That is no bad thing in Mr. Speaker," she said, andpaused before adding,"but as I seem to have a consensus from my PartyLeaders, I intend to gothrough with it. Some years ago I asked a former LordChancellor to drawtip the necessary papers. He assured me then that ifnone of myparliamentary Leaders was against the principle, thelegislation could becarried through while Parliament was still in session.""That is correct, maam," said Charles. "It wouldrequire two or three daysat most if all the preparations have already beencompleted. Its only amatter of proclamation to both Houses of Parliament;your decision requiresno vote.""Excellera, Mr. Speaker. Then the matter is settled."426PART SEVENPrimeMinisterkI, - -V-%I -off f R1199133HER MAJESTYS PROCLAMATION was passed through the Lordsand the Commons.When the initial shock had been absorbed by the nation,the electioncarapaign once again took over the front pages.The first polls gave the Tories a two-point lead. Thepress attributed thisto the publics relative unfamiliarity with the newLabour Leader, but by
  • 458. the end of the first week the Tories had slipped apoint, while the presshad decided that Raymond Gould had begun his stewardshipwell."A week is a long time in politics," he quoted. "Andthere are still two togo."The pundits put forward the theory that Raymond hadincreased hispopularity during the first week because of the extracoverage he hadreceived as the new Leader of the Labour Party. Hewarned the press de-partment at Labour Party headquarters that it might wellbe the shortesthoneymoon on record, and they certairdy couldnt expecthim to be treatedlike a bridegroom for the entire three weeks. The firstsigns of a brokenmarriage came when the Department of Ern-429FIRST AMONG EQUALSployment announced that inflation had taken an upturn forthe first timein nine months."And who has been Chancellor for the last three years?"demanded Simonin that nights speech in Manchester.Raymond tried to dismiss the figures as a one-timemonthly hiccough, butthe next day Simon was insistent that there was more badnews just aroundthe comer. When the Department of Trade announced theworst deficit inthe balance of payments for fourteen months, Simon tookon the mantle ofa prophet and the Tories edged back into a healthy lead."Honeymoon, broken marriage and divorce, all in a periodoi fourteendays," said Raymond wryly. "What can happen in the lastseven?""Reconciliation, perhaps?" suggested Joyce.
  • 459. For some time the Social Democratic Party had consideredAlec Pirnkinsseat in Littlehampton vulnerable. They had selected anable youngcandidate who had nursed the constituency assiduouslyover the past threeyears and couldnt wait to take on Pimkin this time,Alec Pinikin eventually made an appearance inLittlehampton ---only afterthe local chairman had tracked him down to his Londonflat to say theywere becoming desperate. The SDP yellow lines werealmost as abundant onthe canvas returns as the Conservative blue ones, hewarned."Dont you realize that I have had graveresponsibilities in theCommons?" Pimkin declared. "No one could haveanticipated that memberswould have been called back for a special declaration.""Everyone knows about that," said the chairman. "But thebill commandedby the Queen went through all its three readings lastweek without adivision."Pimkin inwardly cursed the day they had allowed430FIRST AMONG EQUALStelevision into the House. "Dont fuss," he soothed."Come the hour,cometh the man, and surely the voters will remember thatI have had along and distinguished parliamentary career. Damn it, oldthing, have youforgotten that I was a candidate for the Leadership ofthe Tory party?"No-and how many votes did you receive on that occasion?the chairmanwanted to say, but instead he took a deep breath andrepeated his urgentrequest that the member visit the constituency as soon
  • 460. as possible.Pimkin arrived seven days before the election and, as inpast campaigns,settled himself in the private bar of the Swan Arms--theonly decent pubin the town, he assured those people who took thetrouble to come overand seek his opinion."But the SDP candidate has visited every pub in thedivision," wailed thechairman."More fool he. We can say that hes looking for anyexcuse for a pubcrawl," said PimIcin, roaring with laughter.Any temporary misgivings Pimkin might have had wereallayed when be notedin the evening paper that the national polls showed thatLabour andConservative were neck and neck at 42 percent, while theSDP had only 12percent.Raymond spent the last week traveling from Liverpool toGlasgow and thenback to Manchester before he returned to Leeds on theeve of theelection. He was met at the station by the Mayor anddriven to the TownHall to deliver his last appeal to the electorate beforean audience oftwo thousand.Introducing him, the Mayor said, "Ray has come home."The zoorri lens of the TV cameras showed clearly thefatigue of a man whohad only caught a few hours sleep431FIRST AMONG EQUALSduring the past month. But it also captured the energyand drive that hadkept him going to deliver this, his final speech.When he came to the end, he waved to his supporters whocheered themselves
  • 461. hoarse. Suddenly he felt his legs beginning to give way.Joyce and FredPadgett took the exhausted candidate home. He fellasleep in the car on theway back, so the two of them helped him upstairs,undressed him and let himsleep on until six the next morning.Simon returned to Pucklebridge on the eve of theelection to deliver hisfinal speech in the local village hall. Four hundred andeighteen voterssat inside to hear him; four thousand others stoodoutside in the cootnight air listening to his words relayed on aloudspeaker; and fourteenmillion more viewed it on "News at Ten." Simonspowerful speech ended witha rallying call to the electorate: "Be sure you go tothe polls tomorrow.Every vote will be vital."He did not realize how accurate that prophecy would turnout to be.On Election Day both Leaders were up by six. Afterinterviews on the twobreakfast television channels, both stood for theobligatory photo of thecandidate arriving at a polling hall with his wife tocast his vote. Simonenjoyed being back in Pucklebridge, where for a changehe had the chance toshake the hands of his own constituents. Neither Leaderever sat down thatday other than in a car as they moved from place toplace. At 10 P.m. whenthe polls closed, they collapsed, exhausted, and allowedthe computers totake over.Raymond and Joyce stayed in Leeds to follow the resultson television whileSimon and Elizabeth returned to London to witness theoutcome at theConservative central office.
  • 462. 432FIRST AMONG EQUALSThe first result came from Guilford at eleven twentyone,and showed a 2percent swing to the Conservatives."Not enough," said Simon in the Party chairmans studyat central office."It may not be enough," said Raymond when the next twoseats deliveredtheir verdict, and the swing switched back to Labour.It was going to be a long night.When the first hundred seats had been declared, theanalysts were certainof only one thing: that they were uncertain of the finaloutcome.Opinions, expert and amateur, were still fluid at oneoclock thatmorning, by which time two hundred results were in, andremained so attwo oclock when over three hundred constituencies hadbeen reported.Raymond went to bed with a lead of 236-191 over Simon,knowing it mightnot be enough to offset the country shires the next day.Neither Raymondnor Simon slept. The next morning pundits were back onradio andtelevision by six oclock, all agreeing with the DailyMails headline,"Stalemate." Raymond and Joyce returned to London on theearly afternoontrain after they learned Raymond had retained LeedsNorth with a recordmajority. Simon traveled back down to Pucklebridge wherehe, too,acknowledged a record majority.By three forty-seven, when Raymond had reached Number II Downing Street,the Labour lead had fallen to 287-276. At four, theSocial Democratsnotched up a victory in Brighton East by a mere 72votes. It was more
  • 463. than the loss of the seat that saddened Simon. "TheHouse wont be quitethe same without Alec Pimkin," he told Elizabeth.At four twenty-three that Friday afternoon, both themajor parties hadthree hundred and three seats, with only twenty seatsstill to be heardfrom. Simon won two and smiled. Raymond won the next twoand stopped433FIRST AMONG EQUALSfrowning. With six results still to come in, even thecomputer had stoppedpredicting the results.At five the BBCs veteran commentator announced thefinal vote of the1991 election:CONSERVATIVE 313LABOUR 313SDP 18IRISH 19SPEAKER IHe pointed out that there had never before been a tie inBritishpolitical history. He went on to say, "There simply isno precedent tofall back on as we await word from Buckingham Palace."He closed with the observation, "This only makes HerMajestys recentdecision even more fateful than we could haveanticipated."In the audience room of Buckingham Palace, the LordChancellor wasadvising the monarch on the legal position that theelection results hadcreated. He pointed out that although in the past thesovereignsratification had merely served as a symbol to confirmthe peoples
  • 464. wishes, on this occasion the choice itself had to comedirect from thepalace.There was, however, one man whose advice he suggestedmight proveinvaluable. Whatever his past party loyalty or personalprejudices, theSpeaker of the House could always be relied upon tooffer an unbiasedjudgment as to which candidate would be most able tocommand the supportof the House.The monarch nodded thoughtfully and later that eveningcalled for CharlesHampton. Mr. Speaker spent forty minutes alone with thesovereign. Justas the Lord Chancellor had predicted, Hampton gave afair and accurateassessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the 434FIRsr AMONG EQUALStwo leaders. However, Mr. Speaker left the monarch in nodoubt as to whichof the two men he believed would make the most able PrimeMinister. Headded that the man in question enjoyed his utmostpersonal respect.After Charles Hampton had left, the sovereign requestedthat the privatesecretary contact both Simon Kerslake and Raymond Gouldand explain thathis decision would be made by the following morning.When Raymond learned that Charles Hampton had beenconsulted, he couldnthelp worrying that despite the Speakers traditionallyneutral role,Hamptons Tory background would cloud his finaljudgment.When Simon watched Charles being driven from the Palaceon "News at ren"that night, he switched off the television and, turningto Elizabeth,said, "And I really believed that man had harmed me forthe last time."
  • 465. 43534-KfNG CHARLES III MADE the final decision. He requestedhis privatesecretary to call upon the Right Honorable Raymond Gouldand invite himto attend His Majesty at the Palace.As Big Ben struck ten oclock on that Saturday moming,Raymond steppedout of the Labour Party headquarters on the comer ofSmith Square andinto the clear monfing sunlight to be greeted by crowdsof wellwishers,television cameras and journalists. Raymond only smiledand waved,knowing it was not yet the occasion to make a statement.He slippedquickly through the police cordon and into the back seatof the blackDaimler. Motorcycle escorts guided the chauffeur-drivencar through thedense crowds slowly past Conservative Partyheadquarters. Raymondwondered what was going through Simon Kerslakes mind atthat moment.The chauffeur drove on to MWba