Boris senior takes literary dig at Cameron.
By Stanley Johnson. Published in The Sunday Times 1st November 2009
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The disguise may strike some as rather thin. Stanley Johnson, father of Boris, the London mayor, has written a novel that pokes fun at a modernising Tory leader who wins an election after parachuting a series of politically correct candidates into winnable seats.
Johnson, 69, a former Conservative MEP, has set his novel, to be called The A List, in 2010, depicted as the year of Tory victory.
The main characters include a party leader called Donald Carmichael and a crop of new MPs, some of whom are promoted straight into government. Donald happens to be one of David Cameron’s middle names.
Johnson insists that he has not written the book as revenge against Cameron’s tactics for selecting MPs — he himself was rejected last month for the safe Tory seat of Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire.
He had been the frontrunner and was thought ideal by his friend Sir William McAlpine, who was chairman of the local selection committee. But Conservative headquarters in London overruled McAlpine and came up with its own shortlist of six, which excluded Johnson.
Johnson, who has written several novels including The Commissioner, which was turned into a film starring John Hurt, denies his novel is a form of retribution.
He does make it clear, however, that he is unenthusiastic about the party’s tactic of screening all its parliamentary candidates centrally. Previously, it had drawn up a list of approved candidates, known as the A list, designed to ensure the election of more women and ethnic minority MPs and those with views acceptable outside the party.
Although this system has since been dropped, the party has angered some of its members by imposing half–male, half-female shortlists on some constituencies.
The novel, planned to come out at the same time as the election, will have some references to the expenses scandal that has led to a clear-out of older Tory MPs.
“In doing that, it means Central Office has more say over local constituencies,” said Johnson, who now has his eye on Gosport in Hampshire, the seat being vacated by Sir Peter Viggers, who tried to charge the taxpayer for a duck house.
Johnson, whose son is the only real rival to Cameron in the Tory party, will portray Carmichael as the stooge of a foreign power. “A bit like Reagan was got into office by his business pals, though of course I’m not saying Ronnie was a stooge,” said Johnson.
He refused to give away too much about the plot of the novel, but hinted that the Chinese could be involved in having nurtured Carmichael for their own ends.
“Let’s just say that the Chinese [in the novel] have already, as they actually have, got footholds in parts of east Asia and Africa and that they are looking for more influence in Europe,” he said.
It will also feature love interest involving a Tory minister for Europe and another affair between a female investigative journalist and a new MP, who was a preferred A-lister.
“The book is about putting sleepers into key positions of power,” said Johnson.
“It’s satire, but I’m also making a point.”
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