In "no-smoking Britain" the Coalition Government has stubbed out cigarettes once and for all. But it's politics as usual. So why is MP Acton Trussell being forced to resign? Who stitched him up?
Why does the Prime Minister want lipstick lesbian Lucy Loxley in Parliament?
Will the Coalition’s ‘fixer’ Compton Dundon help Clifford Chambers slither up the greasy pole?
Who planted the smoking gun?
Nigel Hastilow romps through the corridors of power and the streets of a Midland town as the Coalition Government faces a crucial by-election in the safe seat of Barset.
As old loyalties are tested and new alliances formed, is this low politics, high farce - or both?
''The Smoking Gun' is NOW AVAILABLE as a real, proper, pick-it-up, put-it-down, printed-on-real-bits-of-paper book of the old-school stick-it-on-a-shelf, drop-it-in-the-bath, printed publication genre. (Just arrived from the printer's and happily the books are wrapped in packets of 10).
It can also be purchased as an e-book from Amazon where it will cost you a modest (though slightly bizarre) £2.88. Go directly to Amazon, do not pass Go, do not collect £200.
To order 'The Smoking Gun' for a modest £9.95 a copy e-mail Nigel now.
It's tempting just to pull this quote out of an on-line article by John Duckers about “The Smoking Gun”: "A brilliant if somewhat racy style."
He actually said a bit more than that. To find out more,
For more about Nigel, try his blog or go to the Halesowen Press website.
Nigel pictured after speaking at Blackwell's bookshop in Oxford. Just before he finally gave up smoking (probably).
If you are really keen to read all about it, you could always order his last book, "Tomorrow's England" which is only available in plain old-fashioned paper and ink. More can be found at a remarkably similar website called www.tomorrowsengland.co.uk
Here is an extract from "The Smoking Gun". It will give you a good idea of who and what the book's about:
‘Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger. I’m taking the dog for a walk,’ Acton Trussell called to the empty house.
Trussell clicked his fingers and his black Labrador, Hilda, came trotting to his side as he marched out of the back door and headed up the hill. He was upset. He had received an e-mail from the Chief Whip, one of The Leader’s ‘cuties’.
The e-mail was to the point: ‘Acton, Please attend a meeting with the party chairman and myself on Tuesday at 6pm in the House. In the meantime, maintain a low profile, do not speak to the press and refer any calls to party headquarters. Please confirm that you will make this meeting. Thank you. Amelia.’
Amelia, he kept thinking, what kind of a name was that for a Chief Whip anyway? Amelia Browning. Claimed to be a descendant of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. At least that’s what the papers always said in their profiles of “The Leader’s kitchen cabinet” or “The Leader’s harem” or however the tabloids were referring to the bevy of beauties he surrounded himself with, claiming it was in the interests of giving the Party a modern, 21st century image.
Not that Mrs Browning could ever be counted among these alleged beauties.
So far nothing had appeared in the papers and even though he had taken a few phone calls from various journalists, they knew even less than he did. But there was trouble brewing, it was only a matter of time. The news was bound to filter out, if not in a newspaper then on some anonymous dickhead’s blog. That still wasn’t the same as seeing it spread over two pages in the ‘Mail on Sunday’ or the ‘Daily Mirror’ but it was where it started. He’d Googled his name and the usual rubbish came up. Nothing new. Nothing scandalous.
Even so, he realised he had to consider his future rather more seriously than he’d done since he gave up his dull career as a stockbroker to become the MP for Barset. ‘Bugger, bugger, bugger, bugger.’
The woods outside the village of Howard Michael, where Acton Trussell lived, were empty. It was a working day in the middle of May and few people were around. The woods had been treated with suspicion since three bodies had been uncovered there early on in Trussell’s parliamentary career. It was a good place to march through with the dog, swearing out loud with nobody to take offence.
Apparently from nowhere, two men appeared. They were wearing suits and ties though they were also shod in Wellington boots. One was Compton Dundon, the other was someone Trussell vaguely recognised but couldn’t place.
‘Good Lord. What the bloody hell are you doing here?’
‘Hello Acton,’ said Compton Dundon cheerfully. ‘You know Steve Thomas, don’t you?’
Thomas held out a hand to shake. ‘What? What? We’re not at Westminster, you know. You have ambushed me. Accosted me. Hilda, sit. What the bloody hell are you doing here?’
‘Acton. How nice to see you. Steve is one of our Coalition partner’s senior media managers.’
‘A bloody Liberal is he?’ Thomas smiled.
Trussell marched on, increasing his pace. Though old and overweight, he didn’t tire and enjoyed long walks with his Labrador. The others fell into step, Dundon at his side, Thomas a few paces behind.
They walked on in silence for a minute or two, following a clear path which wound slowly but inexorably up hill. Trussell stopped suddenly, flung his arms wide and declaimed: ‘OK if you’ve come to kill me, get on with it.’
Dundon was embarrassed, Thomas grim-faced, as if there might be some merit in the suggestion.
‘We haven’t come to kill you Acton. My God, what do you think we are? Anyway, you’ve made a pretty good job of burying your political career already.’
‘We’re just the undertakers,’ Thomas chipped in.
Dundon tried not to chuckle. ‘We need to cut a deal, Acton. Today, before you see the whips tomorrow. So we can agree an exit strategy.’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Your departure from the House of Commons.’
‘What are you talking about Dundon, you bloody poof? What departure from the House of Commons?’
‘Come on now, Acton, we both know you can’t carry on. Not now.’
‘What on earth do you mean?’
‘Your little faux pas. Your inadvertent slip. Your support for criminal activity. Your failure to back a major plank of the Government’s legislative programme.’
‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’ Trussell turned and stomped off. The others chased after him.
‘Of course you do. You have been checking the internet almost hourly. You were even checking the BBC web-site while you were sitting with your grieving wife at your dying mother-in-law’s bedside.’
‘How do you know that?’ Trussell stopped, turned, came close and menacing towards his tormentor. Dundon was a small, round man with wet, clammy hands and a flamboyant handkerchief at his breast pocket but he was not intimidated. ‘Oh what’s the use? There’s nothing damaging anyway. Hasn’t been for days, months, years even.’
‘No, Acton, but there will be. Won’t there, Steve?’
Thomas, tall, thin, young and with very greasy skin, smiled again in his gruesome way. ‘Well, let’s be honest, there isn’t at the moment. And there might not be. But there could be. There would be. If…’
‘If you don’t agree to our proposal, Acton.’
‘Bugger off.’ Trussell stomped on again, increasing his pace even further. The dog trotted along at his side. Dundon and Thomas waited a moment before following him. Dundon was texting someone.
The path reached a plateau with a view over the surrounding countryside. Away to the left were the pylons and power stations of Barset. To the right, the river. Ahead, rolling fields full of filthy sheep. The trio marched on in crocodile for some time. The two men in suits struggled to keep up but, because they were much younger, they assumed their quarry would tire first.
He didn’t. Trussell’s only thought was how to shake them off – out-run them, or out-walk them anyway. Or at least lead them deep into the heart of the woods and lose them. Or get them lost so they couldn’t find their way out.
They walked this way for three-quarters of an hour. Dundon and Thomas passed landmarks they thought they had seen before. They called out to Trussell on two occasions to stop and talk. He ignored them.
Eventually, they reached a clearing where a fallen tree had obviously been used as a bench by years of walkers. Cigarette ends littered the area. There wasn’t even a bin though there were a few used condoms in the gorse. Trussell sat, gave the dog a biscuit and extracted a packet of Marlboro Lights from an inside pocket of his Barbour. The younger men stood before him, trying to catch their breath.
‘This isn’t doing you any good,’ says Dundon. ‘This isn’t helping. You know very well what we’re talking about and you know very well the game’s up. Now if you want to go quietly, with some honour and dignity, we can arrange it. Plus the K you were promised nine months ago. But if you don’t, things will get nasty. Very nasty indeed.’
‘Nasty,’ Thomas added.
‘You look as if you should be wearing Gestapo uniform, you little shit.’
‘Will you come quietly?’
Trussell drew deeply on his cigarette. He paused, exhaled. He drew on his cigarette. He paused. He drew on his cigarette again. He took out his mobile phone, which had been turned off. He turned it on. He listened to a message. He fumblingly replied to a text. He drew deeply on his Marlboro Light. He looked up at his inquisitors. They were still awaiting his reply.
Trussell shrugged. Stood up. Stubbed out his cigarette. Said, in a tone of reasonableness, ‘OK look, just let me call Clarissa and I’ll come back. I suppose I have to announce I am too unwell to continue. Something unmentionable, is that it?’
They nodded assent.
‘Hang on a minute while I call Clarissa.’
Trussell took up his mobile and made a show of checking for his wife’s number. He made a show of hitting the green button, waiting for the call to be answered. He started to speak, ‘Cliss, Cliss, it’s me… Yes, I know… How’s your mother? Oh. Oh. I am sorry. Now listen, Cliss, there’s something I have to tell you…’
Trussell wandered away from the clearing, into the thickets, closely followed by Hilda. He kept talking. After a minute he turned to check if he could see his persecutors any more. He couldn’t. He put the phone in his pocket and broke into a trot, thinking how extraordinary it was to be capable of jogging at his age and wondering if his heart could stand the strain.
It was only a couple of minutes before Compton Dundon and Steve Thomas realised Acton Trussell wasn’t coming back to finish their discussion.
At much the same moment, it started to rain.
This domain name has been registered by 123-reg.