Elephants and morals in a sweat
THE FINAL CUT Michael Dobbs HarperCollins £14.99
Saturday 18 February 1995
The Final Cut centres on FU in crisis: just as he is about to overhaul Mrs Thatcher as the longest-serving Prime Minister of the modern era, the word is out he's finished, washed up, tired. His past, as a young national service officer in Cyprus, is catching up with him faster than a non-privatised express train, and his future, at the head of the Urquhart Institute, looks about as enticing as a spell in opposition. Around him plots are being hatched, allegiances formed, knives being sharpened by his enemies and - it's much the same thing - colleagues. But FU, as is his way, is not prepared to go without taking the lot down with him. Never has a nickname been more appropriately coined.
Michael Dobbs is, by day, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party. So it remains completely mystifying where he found the inspiration for a parade of characters who represent the most contemptible bunch of second- raters ever committed to print. For instance, he writes this about a fictitious government figure, a man of no principle, prone to talking up his past for his own social advancement: "It had stuck, like so many other imaginative fictions about his origins and achievements. You could fool some of the people some of the people all of the time and Geoffrey reckoned that was enough."
That is, incidentally, Geoffrey not Jeffrey.
But the biggest bastard of the lot, a collosus in a convocation of sods remains FU. Urquhart is a magnificent creation, who has grown through Dobbs's trilogy; thanks less, it has to be said, to his writing than to the fleshing out given by Ian Richardson in Andrew Davies's television adaptation. Such is the mental picture we carry of Richardson in the role, it seems Dobbs now writes in stage directions for his leading man: "For an endless breath Urquhart said nothing. The lips closed, grew thin, like the leathered beak of a snapper turtle, and the eyes ignited with a reptilian malevolence and a desire to do harm that Mackintosh could physically feel."
In the end the problem with this book is that FU is now so strongly realised, the lesser mortals who wilt in his political shadow cannot hold our attention as he does. Half this book is taken up with plotting Urquhart's demise: an in-fighting which cannot, by definition, include the PM himself. When he appears, the page lights up. When he is elsewhere, off camera, all goes dim. It is a case of no FU, no comment.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 2 North Korean prison officers 'cooked prisoner's baby and fed it to their dogs', more horrific accounts from UN report reveal
- 3 Antonio Martin shooting: Mayor says there should be 'no comparison' to Ferguson
- 4 Antonio Martin shooting: Police and protesters clash over teenager's death just five miles from Ferguson, Missouri
- 5 British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Secret Cinema showed The Great Dictator at protest secret screening, following Sony's The Interview cancellation
Best underrated Christmas movies: From Trading Places to While You Were Sleeping
Cruel Woman in Black prank sees cinema-goers terrified by movie poster - watch their reactions
Game of Thrones season five: First preview clip shows a beardy Tyrion, a moody Cersei and a distressed Arya
Angelina Jolie 'didn't eat much' in sympathy with actors who had to lose weight for Unbroken
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever