Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Plot for a Political Novel

If you were seeking corruptly to influence a government, would you bribe a junior minister? Of course not. What could you expect? Would you bribe a Prime Minister? Of course not, it would be too obvious - and dangerous.

Suppose, however, that you spent a Summer holiday with a PM at your villa. Suppose a junior minister and her lawyer husband joined you for a weekend. The PM complained that he was in dire financial straits. Britain is ridiculously puritanical with its leaders. So unlike, say, Italy. "Can you believe, mio amico, that the PM has to pay rent on his Downing Street apartment?". Few people outside Britain can believe that. To be honest, it is crazy. Surely a politician should be able to keep his house, pay his mortgage, and live free in his official residence?

Suppose the PM goes on to say that his position has interfered with his wife's successful business. They have lost money in Britain's booming property market because - to pay the rent on Number 10 - they had had to sell their London house. They could never now afford to buy something like that. It's so unfair. Suppose the PM told his host that he and and his wife were therefore facing retirement without a decent home or the wherewithal to buy one. The obvious way to make money was to write and sell political memoirs, but that had to wait until he left office - and even then his successor would not be happy. How to make money in the meantime? His wife had tried books and speeches, but she couldn't write for toffee and the press had savaged her for her "greed" in charging for the speeches.

Suppose you were that host and made the following suggestion to your guest. "Primo Ministro, let me help you. I will deposit £2.5 million in an offshore account for you with a new company. You can't have such a company or such an account, but I can. Your colleague's husband here is a lawyer, he will organise it. This company will deposit the money with an offshore bank. The bank will receive a fee, and will pay interest on the money at the same rate it charges on mortgage loans in Britain. Then you can take a mortgage loan to buy your house. That loan is "back to back" with the offshore deposit. You will be borrowing my money. The bank will earn a fee. Your colleague and her husband will get a little something for their trouble. They can pay off their own mortgage with that. Everyone wins. It's all completely fair, because your system is so ridiculous and has caused you to lose money by serving your country. And no-one can ever know. What do I want for it? Nothing. Maybe one day, and this day may never come, I will ask you for some favour. Until then accept this justice interest-free loan as my gift."

Suppose then that the go-between political husband - the rank amateur in this high-level group - made some errors of judgement and his little part in the story came out. How desperate would the PM and his advisers be to "kill" that story before further details emerged? Desperate enough to fire her; throw her to the wolves? Of course. But what kind of a reward would that be for her help? Suppose she offered instead to throw her husband to the wolves. He, after all, is a lawyer - unloved by media and people alike. Surely it can be spun that his shady dealings were nothing to do with his politically-savvy, but economically naieve, wife? What journalist will come to his defence? The story will die in seven days. Alistair Campbell always said that no story is a problem unless it lasts more than seven days, right?

Suppose the junior minister loves her husband. She doesn't want him disgraced. Still less does she want to separate. But once the story has died down, she can forgive him and take him back. That will even make some nice headlines - a feelgood story for the rabble.

What do you think? Is this a book you would like to read?


Anonymous said...

A not-so-feel-good ending that might appeal to paranoid conspiracists:

a body is found suspended from Blackfriars Bridge, pockets stuffed with housebricks and mortgage contracts.....

Tom Paine said...

That one's been done before alas.