Monday, 21 March 2016

The perils of Westminster fact and fiction

You'd think I'd be at least a bit excited when real life imitates fiction. As a writer of fictional political shenanigans, the potential for real and imagined cross-over comes with the territory, and back in January (three months is a hell of a long time in politics!) I was thanking Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for providing me with some inspiration for the third book in my trilogy, End Game.

While some of my not-so-nice characters are loosely based on real people (who are now thankfully long dead, but that’s for another post), the danger of writing a Westminster thriller is that stuff can come true. And although a very small part of me is self-congratulatory for accidentally dabbling in a bit of political prediction, for the most part I begin to panic. Is such-a-character actually a bit like real-life X, when I didn’t intend that? Actually no, they’re possibly more like real-life Y, but with a bit of X thrown in….

In the end I end up going a bit mad trying to work it out, so I give up and just carry on writing them how I have seen them for the past few months, possibly years, depending on whether they have been with me through the first two books.

I’m only up to chapter seven of End Game and already I’m pondering a disclaimer. Without giving too much of the game away, it’s the third in my trilogy (Party Games and Power Play being books 1 and 2 respectively). Civil war is ravaging a broken Conservative Party in Opposition (with all the navel-gazing that entails), and at its head is a despotic leader who sees himself as untouchable, bullying and threatening those he should be courting. He tightens his grip as a growing rebellion threatens to break him, surrounding himself with sycophants and narcissists, while treachery is closer than he thinks.

The prologue sees two senior conspirators, both of whom are in the shadow cabinet, and one of whom is the Leader’s closest confidante, meeting to announce their secret plot to a group of rebel backbenchers. I wrote that last year, not long after the general election, so it was far more pie in the sky back then, all those many political months ago. Perhaps, having been around to see a number of Tory leaders come and go (some more quickly than others!) I shouldn’t have been quite so na├»ve, particularly as my first book, Party Games, took some inspiration from the (original) resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.

There will be plenty of events in End Game which I would eat not just my hat but my entire wardrobe if they actually happened (while seriously laughing my arse off), although reality can certainly be stranger than any fiction I can think up.

@Snoozeinbrief wasn’t wrong (with perhaps Blair and Brown being an exception) when he tweeted ‘The Tories are so much better at infighting than Labour. They really put their heart into it’, which is why, of course, they are such fun to write about. But there is a fine line between drawing inspiration and copying the current climate, unless of course you make it clear from the start this is what you are doing. End Game won’t be out until 2017, so of course plenty will happen between now and then, but I’ll have that disclaimer at the ready just in case.

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