Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Smoking Gun by Nigel Hastilow

A couple of years ago I had some passing involvement in and first hand knowledge of a selection process for a safe Tory seat where the vacancy unexpectedly arose barely six months before the last General Election. Indeed I wrote about it on Conservative Home. Two thoughts that ran through my mind at various stages were "you couldn't make this up" and "if only I'd had a chance to go behind the scenes".

Someone else wrote about this process too. He was an approved Prospective Parliamentary Candidate whom the locals knew and wanted to shortlist. The hierarchy evidently did not concur with the locals' wishes. The enforced outcome was a contest between six individuals whom none of the locals would have known from Adam (or Eve) otherwise.

I therefore had little doubt that the PPC's new political satire The Smoking Gun - for it was indeed Nigel Hastilow whom those locals wished to shortlist - was going to be a thoroughly worthy read, given its central plot of an unexpected by-election and the lengths to which the party machine would go to ensure that their preferred candidate won through. And I was not disappointed. The book is excellent. Let's just invoke two further reasons from the plot.

The first, the suggestion that a notionally right of centre government - you know, the kind who profess themselves to favour low tax and personal freedom when seeking votes - would ban a previously legal activity (smoking), drastically raise taxation on another (flying) to compensate for the lost revenue, and then propose a further shock tax on another (sorry, no spoilers) for reasons not entirely unconnected with the by-election. We can only hope that today's satire is not tomorrow's reality.

The second, the NMFT principles of the central character, Acton Trussell MP, when assessing the browbeating, bullying and betrayal that evidently left him with no alternative other than to resign his seat. Does he take it lying down? You must, of course, read the book to find out. But let's just say that he wouldn't have been out of place as a character in Hatred, Ridicule & Contempt.

The Smoking Gun. 5 out of 5 from me.

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