By Tom Black
Welcome to the latest in our series of first chapters showcasing our books. Today, we have
Boristopia, by Tom Black
In Boristopia, Tom Black begins the story with the thwarting of Boris’ Mayoral ambitions. But rather than being a permanent blow, Boris soon finds that remaining in Parliament has its own advantages. His career path thus altered, he finds himself in cabinet during the Coalition, trading blows with Lib Dems and, eventually, squaring up to David Cameron himself. What follows is a rip-roaring ride on the back of power, the media, and uncontrollable blonde hair. As Boris faces off against Euroscepticism, Scottish nationalism, and parliamentary democracy itself, readers will wonder quite how far Britain will let its PMs go if they can crack a good joke.
Also features an ‘alternate ending’, for fans of the absurd.
This is a work of fiction. While a sense of realism has been sought, all characterisations were developed with the primary aim of telling a compelling story.
2 May 2008
“No single candidate received more than half of the total first preference votes cast in the election.”
Anthony Mayer had a rather appropriate surname, thought Boris Johnson as he stood patiently on the platform in City Hall. The returning officer continued.
“…therefore, the two candidates who received the highest number of such votes remain in the contest. They are Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. I will now announce the total number of eligible second preference votes…”
Boris, along with everyone else on the platform, knew what was coming. Of course he did. They’d all been quietly informed a few minutes ago in a small meeting room down the corridor. Most people had looked surprised - Paddick especially - but only that oaf McKenzie had seen fit to look visibly angry that he’d lost. Boris had smiled, composed himself after what felt like a donkey-punch to the stomach, and shaken a grinning Ken by the hand.
“…Boris Johnson: sixty-eight thousand, five hundred and fifty two.”
There was a flutter of gasps among the press pack. Boris understood why. He’d known it was over when he heard that figure, even before his brain had actually done the maths.
“…a total of one million, seventy-three thousand, nine hundred and eighty-one votes.”
1,005,429 in the first round was bloody good going, Boris told himself. He’d become the first British politician to win over a million personal votes. The only one, if you only counted first preferences, as Ken had only got nine hundred and thirty thousand or so in the first round. But throughout the campaign, his people had been warning him he wasn’t doing enough to win second preferences. Some of the Sloane Rangers whose dads had got them jobs at the top of Back Boris expected his cycling would guarantee at least half of the Green vote, but even his attempts to actually gain such support had been damp squibs. He refused to tack to the right on immigration or Europe, so UKIP and the BNP - the latter of whom had done disconcertingly well - were more closed to him than he expected. Now, staring down the barrel of a pathetic number of second preferences, he had to admit that his rudeness to Paddick in the Newsnight debate had been an error.
“…Ken Livingstone: two hundred and three thousand, six hundred and forty-one.”
Boris furrowed his brow ever so slightly. How had the red bastard done it? It had all looked too good to be true back in 2007. ‘Bottler Brown’, ‘the election that wasn’t’, the hoohah with Northern Rock at the beginning of this year… Boris sighed. It was probably that u-turn on dropping the 10p tax that did it. When the Labour Party had threatened to tear itself apart - not just Frank Field and (of course) Ken, but cabinet members like Purnell started openly warning against the move - the measure, introduced in the ‘07 budget, was quietly axed, taking with it a major Tory ace.
“…a total of one million, one hundred and thirty-five thousand, eight hundred and fifty votes.”
And there we had it. The last remaining hopeful Tories must by now have buried their faces in their sofas. Boris gave a dutiful nod towards Ken and tried not to think back to those barnstorming debates and Ken’s repeated use of that godawful ‘fighting for London’ phrase. Credit to the man, he’d never once cited his admirable performance after 7/7 as political capital, but his supporters hadn’t shied away from it, especially not on the breakfast programmes in the week leading up to the election. Boris HQ had been up in arms when Irritable Jowell Syndrome came out and made that shameless assault on his character, asking if Britons “could really picture Mr Johnson pulling London together after an event like the seventh of July”. Paul Merton being asked on the street outside the Comedy Store if he’d vote for him had backfired – “you might as well ask if I’d vote for Brian Blessed” became a catchphrase for every one of the Labour Trots now determined to use his ‘classic Boris’ image against him. And now, it seemed, it had worked.
“I therefore declare that Ken Livingstone is re-elected as Mayor of London.”
As the cheers (and jeers) erupted, Boris threw the crowd his broadest grin and waved to his visibly distressed team in the upper gallery. As the newt-lover walked to the microphone with tears in his eyes, he stopped and held out his hand to Boris.
“Too bad,” came the raspy consolation, “but you’re young. We haven’t seen the last of you.”
As the triumphant vision in creased cream turned his back and began a victory speech that sounded simultaneously pathetic and hectoring, Boris allowed his eyes to narrow infinitesimally. Livingstone was right. Britain had not seen the last of Boris Johnson.
12 June 2008
The silence in Millbank was broken by the sound of David Cameron’s clamshell phone snapping shut. Steve Hilton winced and made another mental note to ask him to seriously consider getting a smartphone.
“No way of stopping it?” he ventured. Cameron sighed.
“No. He’s announcing in an hour. Besides, the newsdesks all got it last night.”
“What’s the damage?”
“We come out of it okay. He’s aiming it squarely at Brown and the government on a civil liberties platform.”
Hilton scratched the back of his head.
“Okay. Potentially solves more problems than it causes. Davis has been uncomfortable in the shadcab for months.”
Cameron raised an eyebrow.
“You mean he won’t still...?” he stopped himself as he caught Hilton’s bewildered gaze, “no. Of course not.”
“Looks like we need a new Shadow Home Secretary.”
Several floors down, a bus braked loudly enough to catch the two men’s attention. On its side, left over from an election now more than a month in the past, there stood a slightly tattered blue poster. At its centre, a face stared out.
Without looking up to see Hilton’s outstretched hand of warning, David Cameron snapped open his phone.
7 May 2010
“...I’d like to thank everybody who has signed the petition on Facebook to let me go to bed,” David Dimbleby said through bleary eyes, “but as the time approaches nine a.m., we’re joined by the Shadow Home Secretary, Boris Johnson, someone I have no interest in sleeping through.”
“I think you’d find it impossible to do so,” Boris quipped.
“Indeed,” said Dimbleby with some genuine feeling - he’d never admit it, but he’d thoroughly enjoyed presiding over the ratings success that was BBC1’s ‘Home Office Question Time’.
“Mr Johnson, congratulations on being re-elected in Henley.”
“Thank you, David, it is a privilege that I am extremely-”
“But the Conservative Party has failed to win a majority.”
Boris shot Dimbleby a look and his cheeks creased into a broad, toothless smile.
“Well, the thing is, David, this election was always going to be tough. The country is certain it has had enough of Gordon Brown, and it was certain that it wanted a Conservative government-”
“I’m not sure you can say that, can you?”
Time to turn on the bluster, thought Boris. 14 appearances on Question Time had honed him since he entered the Shadow Cabinet (and was responsible for his unusually high amount of fanmail for a frontbench politician).
“Well, it was, er - it was definitely sure it wanted us more than any of the others. Certainly more than Labour,” he added after a beat.
“But not enough, Mr Johnson. With almost all seats declared, the Conservatives have 314 seats - you may well have 315 by the end of the month. That leaves you unable to form a majority government.”
Boris began to answer, but Dimbleby spoke over him.
“Why do you think David Cameron has failed to convince the country he’s ready to be Prime Minister?”
By God, Boris thought, Dimbles has been awake for 26 hours, but he still knows how to stick the knife in. Time to raise one’s game.
“I don’t think he’s failed to do that at all, David, and, if I may, I think you’re going to look rather silly when he walks into Downing Street this afternoon.”
“So no Coalition, then?”
“Ah, well, David, that’s not what I said -”
“You think Mr Cameron will straightaway try to form a minority government on his own?”
“Not necessarily -”
“And if he does, will he have your support?”
“David Cameron is leader of my party and a man I respect and, in fact, am proud to call a friend. Of course I would support any decision he takes-”
“But you suggested a minority government should be his first priority -”
“No, David, I said -”
“You said he will enter Downing Street this afternoon. That leaves no time for coalition negotiations. Do you think David Cameron should form a minority government?”
Boris closed his mouth and stared. He felt no alarm. Only a heightened sense of things. He weighed up his options, then spoke slowly and clearly.
“David, I think that it would be difficult for a coalition with the Liberal Democrats - which is the only other option, surely - to provide the change that this country has clearly asked for.”
Dimbleby’s eyebrows rose above his glasses. He knew exactly what Boris was doing.
“So a minority Conservative government is the way to go?”
Boris slammed his hands onto the table.
As the Floor Manager yelled into everybody’s earpiece that Barking and Dagenham was ready to declare, Boris wondered how Dimbleby actually voted.
12 May 2010
David Cameron had got used to dodging questions. This one seemed worth tackling head-on.
“Look, all this talk of a minority government was never going to get us anywhere. Sure, it would have got Conservatives into government for the first time in thirteen years, and yes, it would have put me in there,” he gestured over his shoulder towards the house, “but it wouldn’t have been a stable and lasting solution for the country.”
“But,” said Nick Robinson, pausing briefly to swat at a bumblebee, “your Home Secretary seemed to think it could work.”
David gritted his teeth but kept his eyes smiling. Boris had really fucked them with that Dimbleby interview. The 26 seconds of him saying a minority government was “the way to go” had clocked more than a million views on YouTube already. He glanced over at Nick, who just looked awkward. The Downing Street Rose Garden had seemed a picturesque choice for the announcement of the Coalition, but in the bright sunshine David couldn’t help but feel everything now looked a bit cheap.
“Boris Johnson,” he began, “is a very capable man, but he does sometimes let his mouth run away from him, as we all know.”
Clegg nodded slightly, a fake smile on his face. David continued.
“He was expressing concerns shared by a number of people in the Conservative Party when he said what he said, but I can tell you I’ve spoken with him since and I know he will play an important part of the team we’ll be forming to get this country back on track.”
Robinson half raised his hand, then cut in.
“As Home Secretary?”
Cameron’s eyes flickered ever so slightly as he took a snap decision.
Various pens around the garden started scratching furiously in notebooks. Clegg decided to step in and pointed into the press pack.
“Why don’t we - yes, there. Andy.”
“Thank you. Andy Bell, Five News. Firstly, congratulations to you both. But, Prime Minister, do you now regret that when asked what your favourite political joke is, you replied ‘Nick Clegg’?”
David feigned embarassment.
“Did you really say that?” Nick turned to him.
“I’m afraid I did.”
“Well,” said Nick with a chuckle, “it’s alright, because my favourite political joke is apparently going to be Home Secretary!”
After about four or five seconds, David and Nick realised they were the only ones laughing.
Tom Black is the author of Meet The New Boss, For Want Of A Paragraph, Boristopia, and, with Jack Tindale, of Shuffling The Deck, President Ashdown Is Retiring, and Agent Lavender. He is also the owner and proprietor of Sea Lion Press.