How To Get Ahead In Politics by Stella Feehily
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN POLITICS
by Stella Feehily
Stella Feehily’s short play was included in A View From Islington North – five short political satires which played at the Arts Theatre, West End, from 18 May to 2 July 2016.
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN POLITICS
by Stella Feehily
The Chief Whip’s office.
The Chief Whip is at his desk. He’s talking to his assistant, Giles.
CW There is a relatively small window in which to rise through the party ranks. Miss it, Giles, and you’re fucked. You’ve got to make your mark or face a backbench career where your only power lies in rebellion. That is where I come in – the black arts of whipping – B,B,B and LTP
Giles What’s that, sir?
CW Bullying, blackmail, bribery and leaks to the press.
Giles Enoch Powell said that a Parliament without Whips would be like a city without a sewer.
CW So he did. Well, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to enjoy it.
Giles Mr. Corbyn voted more than five hundred times against the Labour whip since 1997.
CW That doesn’t make him powerful, Giles, it simply makes him a rebellious crypto- communist.
A knock at the door. Giles goes to check.
Giles The Right Honourable member for Bury St Edmunds has arrived.
CW Right. Let’s start the day on a low.
Bring me Miss Khan’s dossier.
Giles exits and the MP enters.
CW becomes preoccupied with his computer and starts typing. The MP stands waiting.
CW Take a seat. I won’t keep you.
MP Ok, your starter for ten – who said that we should shoot public sector strikers in front of their families?
CW Iain Duncan Smith?
MP Who said the BBC Corporation Executives were fucking bastards?
CW That could be any number of people. David Cameron?
MP What was the fastest growing petition in the last decade?
CW Jeremy Clarkson. All answers are Jeremy Clarkson.
The MP throws down a copy of The Daily Telegraph.
MP A quiz in today’s Telegraph. Didn’t you see it?
CW I was more interested in the North Norfolk By-Election analysis. Didn’t you see it?
MP Yes, I did.
Giles re-enters with the file.
CW Thank you Giles.
The MP watches Giles exit. CW stops working on his computer.
CW One day to go and we’re ahead in the polls.
MP And we know how accurate polls are.
CW Yes, yes, but your man, Frank Miller is still doing remarkably well. We were particularly impressed when he publicly challenged Corbyn on Trident last week. Devastatingly persuasive.
MP The first Ashcroft Poll and the second Survation Poll put us ahead but the second Ashcroft and the first Survation Poll puts the Lib Dems ahead.
CW Yes, and the Gypsy’s tealeaves put UKIP ahead.
MP A straight averaging of the five polls give the Lib Dems a one-point lead. And it’s been a Lib Dem safe seat since 2000whatever
CW There is no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat anymore. You do look awfully tired, Alwyn.
MP Sometimes I wish I were Philip Hammond. Don’t you? He’s so implacable- like a – a
CW An Undertaker? (The CW assumes a blank face for all impersonations.) Philip Hammond happy, Philip Hammond sad, Philip Hammond hysterical. No. I don’t wish I were Philip Hammond.
MP Is that a bottle of Glenfiddich?
CW Have some coffee?
MP Look. I’ve a car waiting to take me to the station. Meeting the great and good of the Constituency Association and I mustn’t be late. It’s mainly a large group of frightening women.
CW Well, that’s Bury St Edmunds for you.
MP We’re travelling by coach to Frank’s final meeting in Cromer tonight.
CW We’re aware of that. The PM asked me to have a word.
MP Hm? Has Frank been shooting his mouth off about cuts to the military again? Well, I can’t say I disagree with him.
CW You’ve been quite clear about that from the backbench.
MP It’s the rebel heart in me.
CW You’re one of Frank’s oldest friends. You pushed his candidacy. We’re cautiously hopeful that he’ll take North Norfolk.
MP Yes, well, the public do love a decorated former army officer.
CW It’s not just that. Mr Miller is already a significant figure in local government- the public seem to trust him and believe that he cares about their problems.
MP They believe he has the cojones to do something about them.
CW Quite. However-
CW A young woman is threatening to go to the aforementioned Telegraph.
CW With a story about him.
MP Sorry, what’s this to do with me?
CW There are rumours about Frank.
MP Can I help myself?
CW Of course.
MP (He pours a drink) Since when have you listened to rumours? Rumour has it that the palace of Westminster is heaving with paedophiles and the criminally insane.
CW Frank Miller. He is your friend.
MP I have many friends. And in Westminster I have friends on both sides of the House. Frank is one of many friends.
CW His attitude towards women – could be called-
MP Old fashioned? Macho?
CW Antediluvian. Bullying. (He picks up a medium sized file and draws out a document. And this is a list of memorably offensive quotes from Frank Miller. (Reading from a document) Look at the knockers on that. Great arse. Look at those Pork Chops-
MP Pork Chops?
CW Use your imagination, Alwyn. I have. (Continuing to read) I can see your creamy medallions.
MP Sounds like a private conversation to me.
CW Bit of screamer, are you?
MP His language can be quite robust at times.
CW My cock feels full at the thought of you.
CW His Christmas card to Miss Khan. Did you ever warn him about talking like that?
MP He’s got an MC. He’s served in Iraq. Afghanistan.
CW Do you recall Miss Khan, Mr Miller’s former campaign assistant?
MP I don’t think so.
CW She says she knows you.
MP Perhaps I do remember her, yes. Has laughing at a joke become an offence?
CW What joke?
MP I may have heard Frank pass remarking on Miss Khan’s –
CW ‘Creamy medallions’
MP She is part Asian.
CW Jesus, God. Alwyn.
MP Are we talking about a sense of humour bypass? Yes, it’s very male world and of course there’s aggression- but the days of institutionalised sexism are long gone. I have personally championed women in the house. Crikey these girls will never get ahead in politics if they play the victim.
CW What kind of message would this send to our female voters? This at a time when we are supposed to be reaching out to the BME community.
MP But what has it to do with me?
CW I’m getting to that. Did you ever see Mr. Miller touch Miss Khan?
CW Grope or goose her?
CW Grapple or grip her?
CW Chase her around a drinks table at the party conference?
MP Which Party Conference?
CW (Reading from the file) Tuesday, 6th of October. 2015. Tory Reform Group. The Midland Hotel. Petersfield Suite. President’s Midnight Reception with Ken Clarke. Ringing any bells? (He refers to a letter.)
MP It was months ago.
CW It was about 3 am. The room had cleared but for you, Miss Khan, Mr Miller and the Right Honourable member for Bedfordshire North East who was dead drunk asleep in a corner. Miss Khan wore a long black skirt, which got torn in the course of the evening.
MP Perhaps he trotted.
CW What in fucks name do you mean?
MP There was drink taken. You know as well as anyone that politics is about power and sex and add alcohol and the atmosphere can become heady.
CW Wasn’t she trying to escape him?
MP Not that I can recall.
CW Miss Khan is an attractive, physically slight, twenty-eight year old. Are you suggesting that she encouraged the fifty-year old war veteran to ‘trot’ after her around the drinks table?
MP They were certainly fooling about.
CW Did you see Mr Miller thrust his hand up Miss Khan’s skirt? Did you hear him saying, “let’s see if you’re as wet as you look?”
MP No. No, I didn’t.
CW She said, she screamed. You were there, Alwyn. You must have heard her screaming?
MP No. No.
– He gets up and pours another drink.
MP I might have heard a squeal.
CW Not a scream?
MP Please. I know the difference. To be honest I barely remember Birmingham.
CW Scotland Yard are still sniffing around a number of sleaze and bullying allegations. If she goes public you will have to co-operate. There will be no escape.
CW Tell me what you remember?
MP I have nothing much further to add.
CW Miss Khan asked you to report the incident over eight months year ago. Why did you fail to do so? Were you just pissed out of your mind for the entirety of the conference or were you protecting Frank?
MP We were in the Coldstreams together.
CW I know you were in the fucking Coldstreams together. Protecting a friend is a noble act, Alwyn but exposing the party is unforgivable. How about adding that you hid Mr. Miller’s history from us? Five reports of sexual harassment in the army?
MP Uncorroborated. Uncorroborated
CW Corroborated, uncorroborated. The press won’t give a flying fuck about that – and then there are separate complaints of bullying and intimidation? For God’s sake-there are photographs of the PM hugging this fucker only last week. I can just see the headlines in the Mirror- Sex Pest Tory and the PM.
MP Can’t we give Miss Khan a sweetener?
CW She wants to be an MP.
MP You’re joking.
MP You’ve spoken to her? Made a deal? I’m not getting involved in this.
CW You are involved in this.
MP Tokenism is insulting to women- and men.
CW Miss Khan got a double first in economics and politics at Cambridge. First generation University Student. A leading light in the Cambridge University Conservative Society. We are going to groom her –
MP Unfortunate turn of phrase-
CW And then she will be put forward for constituency selection.
MP Excellent. What constituency?
CW Well, we can hardly unseat the war hero, can we?
MP He hasn’t been elected yet.
CW The public believe that he understands their problems and has the cajones to do something about them but if he’s not elected – that is one problem solved.
MP But she’s Asian. It’s Bury St Edmunds.
CW She doesn’t look or sound too different. She’s the right kind of Tory
MP You have the civil machine at your fingertips. You could stop this story.
CW Yes-like I stopped your drink driving charge. The thing is, Alwyn, you’re a liability in a safe seat. You lobbied hard for the selection of Frank Miller- a man we now have to watch day and night to make sure he is not putting his cock in the hands of the electorate. Your interventions from the backbench are beyond tedious- so no, we’re screwing your arse to the ground on this one. The buck stops right here- with you.
MP I’ve given the party twenty-five years of my life.
CW We trusted your word, Alwyn. Institutions collapse when trust shatters. You’ll step down after a year in office. Announce your resignation because you have a ‘health problem’.
MP Please, don’t do this. The party is everything to me.
CW I’m just the clean up man, Alwyn.
MP But what am I going to do? I can’t do anything else. What will my role be?
CW The Prime Minister is keen that you should have the best possible medical care to help you with your addiction. Whatever you need.
The MP picks up the bottle of Glenfiddich.
MP So-I am to be pushed from my stool. God, I remember when I was first elected to Bury St Edmunds – was it 1992- Seems so-
CW (Interrupting.) Good luck with the Constituency association. (Shaking hands)
MP Good luck to us all.
CW And for God’s sake keep the women of Bury St Edmunds at a safe distance from Mr. Miller.
The MP makes to leave with the bottle.
CW Could you put the Glenfiddich back?
MP Could you fuck off!
The MP exits. Giles re-enters.
Giles How did it go?
CW He has a total inability to feel shame – a trait both reprehensible and useful in a political career. I’m afraid that while politics attracts those with ideas, passion, honesty and integrity- it also has a magnetic pull for the inept, the sexually deviant, the corrupt and the venal. I do hope this doesn’t put you off?
Giles Not at all, Sir. Absolutely not.
CW Take a letter.
Giles takes dictation.
Dear Miss Khan, I am writing to assure you that your complaint has been forwarded to the very highest level and will be dealt with scrupulously – scrub that- will be examined thoroughly. The Conservative party takes allegations of this nature extremely seriously. (CW dumps the dossier.) Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in dealing with this issue. On a completely unrelated matter I forwarded your name to the Parliamentary assessment board and am pleased to confirm that you have been selected for the approved list. The Conservative Party takes the under representation of women in Parliament very seriously and we are keen to support your admirable ambition. I believe we can work together to demonstrate our belief in equality of opportunity, our commitment to social justice and to affirm that we can be warriors for the dispossessed. Etc, etc and let me see it before you send it.
Giles Of course, sir, and on behalf of the team, may I just say, we’re all feeling jolly optimistic about the By-Election. We’re sort of unstoppable, aren’t we?
CW Thank you, Giles. I think you’re sort of right. I do hope you are free for dinner this evening
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN POLITICS © 2015 by Stella Feehily.
How to Get Ahead in Politics was commissioned by Ardent Theatre Company and first performed on Friday 8th May 2015.
All rights whatsoever in this play are strictly reserved and application for performance etc. must be made to Casarotto Ramsay & Associates Limited, 7-12 Noel Street, London W1F 8GQ (firstname.lastname@example.org). No performance of the play may be given unless a licence has been obtained prior to rehearsal.
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