Sex, lies and election campaigns

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The Independent Online
Today we are running excerpts from the oddly realistic, but anonymous, bestseller about a general election campaign, entitled Shades of Grey. The American equivalent, Primary Colors, was printed here yesterday.

With all polls suggesting a win for Labour leader Noel Commie, Prime Minister Jim Minor, his wife and their entourage are on the road. Despairing at the state of support for the ruling party, campaign chief Mitcham Anmorden is about to unveil a new, and barely credible tactic. The narrator, a young Somali communications director at Centre Office, is called to the back of the battlebus.*

"In here," boomed Anmorden, one blond lock dangling artistically over his high forehead. He was standing by the mirror in the tiny washroom. There was a tell-tale smell of chemical. Hair lacquer, I thought - we all have our own ways of coping with the pressure. He went on, "Gallup says we're losing the d***n C5s, MORI gives us nix on the vision thing, ICM's got the boss doing minuses with the blue-collar guys, 'cos they think he's a nance. Sent a Kleenex to burgle the oppo's stats. Same b***g story. If we don't rediscover testosterone, the Minor caravan will be off the rails, sans paddle. Commie will be king."

And you will be the next leader of the Conservative Party. But I didn't say it. You don't talk back to a guy like Anmorden. "We need something, Mohammed, and we need it bad. They're hurting out there and they want ingredient X. Manliness. Leadership. A guy who does it, and doesn't care. Wham, bam, thank you Jim. And what have we got? Guy who thinks Muffin the Mule's a character in a children's book!" He snorted.

"Talk to Nora, willya. Do a little time travel. There must be some episode, a second of passion he experienced between chairing the f***g Housing Committee and becoming a clerk in that m***f***g bank. You get it from her, I'll get it from you, the Slime will get it from me, back-channel. Tomorrow's paper - my long night of lust with Minor minor - and we may just be back in business".

Mohammed succeeds in discovering from the PM's wife that the young Jim Minor had once carried on a tempestuous romance with a married speech therapist who lived next door. As Anmorden predicted, the story fills the tabloids, and even creeps on to the front pages of some of the less scrupulous broadsheets. That night the woman named in the headlines, Viveca Lamont, is due to give a press conference.

There were 17 of us in the candidate's suite at The Olde Shippe. The Minors, Anmorden, Barbara Balti (the sultry MP for Derby Races), Minor's policy adviser Sally Pigg, a row of Heavy Breathers and a couple of Kleenexes from town. Millionnaire author Godfrey Arrowsole had touched down in his chopper. The air was thick with anticipation and the musty, meaty smell of the Doner kebabs brought up from the Pitta Paradise on Throgmorton's main drag.

"Hit a button," hissed Anmorden, "the show's about to begin." We focused hard on the screen. Up close Viveca Lamont was a disappointment. A little washed-up lady of 60-odd wearing a large amber brooch and round spectacles.

Flanked by her lawyer, and in a small, halting voice with the lilt of her native Essex, Mrs Lamont read from her statement: "It is true that 25 years ago, in Lubeck Gardens, Hammersmith, I lived next to the Minor family. Over time I became friendly with their oldest son, Jim." Her voice quavered. "Sometimes he used to come round to tea. Twice we had whelks together. On one occasion ..." she faltered, a blush rising from her neck, "... I did suggest that he take his coat off, but he replied that he was more comfortable with it on. Of course, I realise now that this was a foolish liaison, but I swear before God that it was completely innocent."

There was a sudden loud crack from the sofa. I looked around to see Nora standing, still clasping the copy of Inside the Royal Ballet with which she had struck her husband.

"You b***d," she shouted. "You lied to me and to the country. So much for the Casanova of Canning Town!" Anmorden groaned. "Back to the p***g drawing-board." He pointed at Minor. "Any s***r ideas how to turn this wimp into a man?" he demanded.

One of the Kleenexes fluttered briefly to life. "Er. What about a soap- box?" it asked hesitantly.

*Any similarity between characters in this story and people now living is entirely deliberate, and should help sell thousands of copies.

Miles Kington is on holiday.