Andrew Marr turns novelist with tale of the death of a PM


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The Independent Culture

Given the amount of time he has spent duelling with senior politicians, it may be wishful thinking. Broadcaster Andrew Marr revealed on Sunday that his debut novel involves the death of a Conservative prime minister.

The former BBC political editor said the plot of his book, Head of State, will focus on a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership in September 2017 and what happens when his fictional resident of Number 10 expires shortly before the vote.

Mr Marr, who suffered a debilitating stroke in January last year, said the satirical novel was inspired by real-life events following a conversation he had with a Tory peer shortly before his illness.

Lord Chadlington, formerly Conservative public relations adviser Peter Gummer, told the broadcaster how he had been in Downing Street and saw the prime minister of the day coming down stairs “looking like death”.

Mr Marr told The Sunday Times: “Peter said he and others then wondered what they would do if the prime minister actually died. So from Peter’s idea, I decided to write this novel involving a cover-up immediately before the Euro poll when the PM dies.”

Although Mr Marr is withholding the identity of the prime minister whose pallor inspired the plot, Lord Chadlington, who founded the public relations company Shandwick, advised John Major during his premiership.

The broadcaster is also reticent about the finer details of Head of State’s storyline, though it is suggested the book’s title is deliberately ambiguous and the cover-up may involve the conjuring up of a “fake head” to keep the deceased PM alive for television audiences.

The publisher’s blurb, which bills the tome as a “darkly comic tale of deception and skulduggery in Downing Street and Whitehall”, adds: “There is a shocking secret at the very heart of government that, were it to become known, would change everything in an instant. A group of ruthlessly determined individuals will stop at nothing – including murder – to prevent that from happening.”

Although Mr Marr is the author of a number of successful non-fiction titles, including a book to accompany his acclaimed History of Modern Britain series, the satire is his first foray into fiction.

The novel, which had to be dictated because of continuing paralysis in Mr Marr’s left arm due to his stroke, required permission from Downing Street for him to visit some of the few remaining rooms he has not seen in the building as part of his research.

The broadcaster, a former editor of The Independent, said he had found the process of writing a welcome change to the strict impartiality of his role presenting his BBC show. He said: “One of the things I’ve enjoyed about this book is the freedom to write what I have not been able to say at the BBC.”

The pressures of objectivity are, nonetheless, never far away. He is reportedly in the process of writing a second satire, this time about the Labour Party.